DAR celebrates 125 years by volunteering
In celebration of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)’s 125th anniversary, members of the Drum Hill chapter will participate in a nationwide day of service on Sunday, Oct. 11.
“The Daughters of the American Revolution are asking all the women in the DAR to donate a million hours of service on that day,” said Mary Bendix, regent of the Drum Hill chapter and a DAR member for 14 years.
“It can be through a specific project that the chapter itself does or individuals within a chapter can donate volunteer hours on that day.”
The Drum Hill chapter was organized in 1957 and currently has 79 members, ranging in age from 18 to about 85, from Wilton, Ridgefield, Redding, and Weston.
Bendix said most of the chapter’s Wilton members will volunteer at the Minks to Sinks Fall Sale on Oct. 11, while other members will either work on individual service projects or help with the chapter’s Comstock Cemetery restoration project.
The Drum Hill chapter has taken on the task of restoring the headstones at Comstock Cemetery on Ridgefield Road — a project Bendix said will take “several years.”
Comstock Cemetery opened in 1782, making it the third oldest burial yard in Wilton, where seven Revolutionary War soldiers and more than 60 of the town’s forefathers are buried.
“Most of the headstones have been broken — they are in horrible disrepair and a lot of them are buried,” she said.
“It takes a tremendous amount of work to restore gravestones. You have to handle them very carefully because when you clean them, you can destroy them.”
Bendix said the goal is to “restore the burial ground to its original state, or as close to its original state” as possible.
Drum Hill Vice Regent Sara Champion is spearheading the restoration project and has been working with the Connecticut Gravestone Network to make sure the headstones are handled properly.
Champion has also worked with local Eagle Scouts to clean up and clear out a lot of the brush in the area, said Bendix.
“There are a number of cemeteries around town that are quite significant, but this cemetery in particular has fallen into disrepair,” said Bendix. “It’s quite a project that we’re undertaking.”
Drum Hill DAR is involved in a number of activities each year, said Bendix, including raising money for scholarships, giving out awards and supporting veterans.
“One thing our chapter happens to be very involved in is raising money for scholarships for local kids, and also for schools for disadvantaged children,” said Bendix.
Each year, the chapter honors students from Wilton High School, Ridgefield High School, Weston High School, and Joel Barlow with DAR Good Citizen Awards.
According to the Drum Hill DAR website, the award is given to students who demonstrate “an outstanding degree of dependability, service, leadership and patriotism at home, in school and in the community.”
The chapter also gives out $1,000 Scholar Awards to graduating seniors who demonstrate “outstanding community service, academic achievement, and a commitment to the ideals of patriotism, historic preservation and education,” according to its website.
“We actually just got recognized by the state for being the outstanding chapter in the state and we have been nominated for a national award for our efforts in awarding scholarships,” said Bendix.
“We have worked very, very hard to give out scholarships to local high school students, and that’s been a 50-year tradition in the Drum Hill DAR.”
Bendix said the chapter does a lot for the veterans at the Rocky Hill and New Haven veterans hospitals.
“We get together with the Children of the American Revolution to build things and do projects that we take up to the veterans at the hospitals,” she said.
“It’s very gratifying when you can take something up to them and they really appreciate the things that you do and make for them.”
Bendix said the DAR is open to all women who are at least 18 years of age and have an American patriot ancestor. Girls under 18 may join the Children of the American Revolution.
“Most people think you have to descend from a man — not true,” said Bendix.
“A female relative may have helped in the Revolution and may qualify as a patriot for the lineal descent.”
She said another misconception has to do with the role an ancestor played in the Revolution.
“A lot of people get confused and think that they have to be a descendant of someone who fought in the Revolutionary War, but they don’t have to have actually fought,” said Bendix.
“It can be somebody who provided material service in the Revolution. For instance, if you housed somebody during the war, you provided material aid and you were part of the American Revolution.”
Bendix said Connecticut was “a very significant area” during the Revolution and “there are a number of people who are eligible to join DAR but don’t realize that they are.”
Bendix said she loves being a member of the DAR because it connects her to the nation’s history.
“My sixth great-grandfather happened to have been at the Battle of Cowpens, and I just find it fascinating to think about what he did and what he fought for,” she said. (The Battle of Cowpens was fought Jan. 17, 1781, in Cherokee County, S.C., and was a victory for the Continental Army.)
“You appreciate everything that people [who fought in wars] have done for you, and it really makes you think hard and long about all the sacrifices that these people have made for us.”
Click here to learn more about Drum Hill DAR.