Tribute Fund Yields $11k for Hurricane Relief

November 2017 – It’s too early to tell exactly how much damage Hurricane Harvey did to the funeral profession in southeast Texas, but funeral directors 1,700 miles away can rest assured they pitched in to help.

New York funeral professionals contributed $4,000 to a relief fund set up by the New York State Tribute Foundation – the charitable arm of the New York State Funeral Directors Association.

The foundation itself added another $7,000 to the effort – putting a total of $11,000 towards the goal of helping funeral professionals recover from the disaster.

“We’ve always felt it is our obligation as a foundation to assist fellow funeral directors,” said John L. Kelly, Chairman of the NYS Tribute Foundation’s Board of Directors.

The historic storm – one of several catastrophes that befell the U.S. in 2017 – knocked a half-dozen funeral homes out of commission when it struck the southeastern coast of Texas on August 25.

In addition to record-setting wind, the storm dropped as many as five feet of rain on parts of the Lone Star State.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency received more than 300,000 applications for help by mid-October.

By that time, FEMA had already OK’d more than $1 billion in assistance for people and another $328 million for local governments – money that helps rebuild infrastructure like roads and bridges.

The storm’s damage forced six funeral homes to request permission to operate out of temporary sites, according to the commission that regulates funeral homes in Texas.

Funeral homes operate on a site-specific basis and need government permission to conduct business elsewhere, according to Janice McCoy, executive director of the Texas Funeral Service Commission.

Application Process Established

The Texas Funeral Directors Association put a Hurricane Relief Task Force Committee together to coordinate the donation distribution, according to Susi Tyler, CMP, Director of Finance and Communications at the Texas association.

“We know these funds will go a very long way for those who ask for help,” Tyler said in an e-mail.

The NYS Tribute Foundation’s collection will add to money collected by the Hurricane Harvey Funeral Directors Relief Fund.

That fund, created by FUNERAL Nation, C&J Financial and Treasured Memories Community Funding, collected $10,499 to help Texas funeral professionals.

Funding from both the NYS Tribute Foundation collection and the Funeral Director’s Relief Fund will be pooled together and distributed through an application process, said funeral director D. Michael Land, owner of the Forest Ridge Funeral Home in Texas.

Land, who chairs the Texas Funeral Directors Association’s Hurricane Relief Task Force Committee, said many structures in the affected area endured roof damage and water damage followed.

He said as many as five funeral homes were rendered inoperative and will likely have to be rebuilt.

The personal household impact to individuals who work in Texas funeral homes, however is yet to be determined, Land said.

“Most of your funeral establishments are very well protected by insurance policies. We are really looking more at trying to give the relief to the individual funeral directors whose homes were destroyed,” Land said.

The application process will continue through the end of 2017, at which point the committee will work to distribute help for things like paying deductibles and replacing furniture and other household items.

The application itself is being placed into the Texas Funeral Directors Association’s newsletter magazine.

Typically a members-only publication, the magazine will be sent out to every funeral home in Texas to make sure all are aware of the availability of assistance, Land said.

He said from what he can see, many in the Texas funeral profession are taking the storm in stride.

“Their spirits are good. Of course, being along the Texas Gulf Coast, they are all well-versed in hurricane preparedness,” he said.

The disaster revealed a camaraderie among the state’s funeral professionals, Land said, with many taking “the competitive block off their shoulders.”

Those with power and facilities, he said, are helping those without.

It’s heartening, Land said, to see colleagues from other states reach out to help.

“I’m pleased with the fact that there are other states that saw the need to assist the profession,” Land said.

“I definitely would hope that our membership and funeral directors in our state, given a disaster like this in other states, will step up to the plate and do the same thing,” Land said.

The Foundation created a disaster relief fund after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, collecting nearly $35,000 for relief efforts directed towards the funeral profession in the Gulf Coast.

“The issue is always what can we do, what do they need and how can we meet that need,” Kelly said.

New York State Tribute Foundation is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Individual contributions are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
All contributors will be recognized as part of the Tribute Foundation’s donor recognition program.

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