WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- For more than a century, orphans laid to rest in a cemetery in Luzerne County have gone unrecognized.
Over the last few months, the Children's Service Center in Wilkes-Barre has collected donations for a special monument to be placed inside the Hollenback Cemetery. The monument will honor 19 orphans who previously went unrecognized.
Numbered markers on a hill at the Hollenback Cemetery in Wilkes-Barre represent 19 orphans buried there. A monument now stands in front of them putting a name and age to what was just a number.
"The individuals were buried here, but there wasn't any marker to identify who was here. So, we thought it would be great to actually give them a proper burial," said Mike Hopkins of Children's Service Center.
The 19 children on the monument died while living at the Home for Friendless Children between 1866 and 1909. Many died from diseases children here rarely suffer from today, like cholera or tuberculosis.
"You have to wonder what kind of life they had back then in the 1860s and 1870s and a lot that we take for granted today. They had nothing," Hopkins said.
"They would have been forgotten and yet they were part of this community and we need to keep their memories alive," said Rabbi Larry Kaplan, Temple Israel.
A dedication ceremony was held in the Hollenback Cemetery to honor the orphans. Prayers were said for the children and attendees took part in a Jewish tradition.
"Anytime you go to the cemetery to visit a loved one or anyone else, you put the stone on it. It shows that you were there and just like a stone lasts forever, the memory of the individual lasts forever, too," Rabbi Kaplan explained.
Rabbi Kaplan says the effort behind the monument speaks to Children's Service Center's dedication to the community.
"Truly, I think they're doing God's work and this is what we're meant to do -- to watch out for our kids, to watch out for the kids of the future, and to never forget the kids that came in the past."