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Creating home funerals community groups

2010 August 14
by admin

I’m interested in setting up an organization for assisting those who wish to care for their own in my area. What advice can you give on this?

August 14, 2001 – I was introduced to home funerals through viewing the film, “A Family Undertaking” at a community presentation at the Waldorf School in Austin, Texas. After viewing the film many of the people said they wanted to create a circle of helping friends to offer each other support in doing home funerals and green burials.  The film is available through and is a great way to demonstrate the many aspects of family-directed funerals.

For me personally, the film was the catalyst for my advocacy work in death midwifery, green burials and home funerals. The woman who helped to bring the film to Austin through the Waldorf School was Sandy Booth. She and I continue to work together to offer presentations and workshops at libraries, churches, hospices, hospitals,  other community groups, and people’s homes. We are very flexible and offer 30-minute, 1-hour or 3-hour presentations.

Sandy and I are both volunteers with a local hospice, and we are both members of the local chapter of the Funeral Consumer Alliance (FCA) called AMBIS. When we first started working with AMBIS we had to educate many of the volunteers about home funerals. We did this by holding workshops and presenting at their annual meeting. We have even done a fundraiser workshop for AMBIS where we charge for people to attend the workshop and donate the money to AMBIS.

Home funerals and green burials are definitely in alignment with what the FCA and their chapters support.  It is part of the task of the FCA affiliate to keep up with the consumer funeral laws in their respective states. They can be an excellent resource for state laws pertaining to home funerals. Of course, some affiliates are more active and knowledgeable than others, but the national office is always available and very helpful.

We have offered fundraiser workshops for AMBIS as a way to work further with them. And whenever we do a workshop in the community we have information available and talk about the advantages of joining FCA.

As a way of gaining more exposure for home funerals, we offer library presentations which are usually about an hour in length. We reserve a room at the library (this is free) and announce the presentation in a local entertainment publication with free event listings. We usually hold these on Tuesday evenings. The library talks are strictly an educational event, and we have put together a slide show to give people an idea of what is involved with green burials and home funerals.

We also offer 3-hour workshops where we show people how to provide after-death care for a body and do an in-home vigil. We usually hold these on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. We do a mock in-home vigil to really let people experience the process of caring for a loved one at home. We have held these workshops in art galleries, people’s homes, hospices, etc. We ask for a small donation for these workshops ($10-$15).

I would suggest working with a buddy if possible. It is strengthening to have someone to talk with about different ideas and to help publicize the talks and workshops.

I know the feeling of being alone out there in the wilderness in pioneering these ideas, but there is a growing support system across the US of other home funeral guides. One of the things that has helped me is to keep track of the articles about home funerals published in national publications. I keep a list of these and make it available to people to demonstrate that this is a growing US trend.

Helping people with in-home vigils and home funerals is a beautiful and rewarding way to be of service.

~ Donna

Tips for starting a group within your own local area
(Collected from different sources on the internet)

  • Talk and get support from others.
  • Form a “core” group of individuals who can help you, even if it is just one or two other like-minded people.
  • Find a location to host your meetings. Examples of free locations in your community may be — library, community hall/center, churches, recreation centers, senior citizens centers, Eagles Club, Red Cross, American Legion, etc. (Remember, you want to find a location that will allow you to meet there for FREE.) Choose a consistent meeting date and time. Try to accommodate as many people as possible, but remember that no date and time will work for everyone.
  • Advertise in your local paper. Many newspapers have free calendar listings. Place additional notices up on all free community bulletin boards. Place notices in many of the local church weekly bulletins or monthly newsletters.
  • Check online for free event calendars where you can list your event.
  • Ask your local friends if they have friends who might be interested. Send an e-mail to friends and ask them to pass it along to anyone who might be interested.
  • If you’re into social networking, post a notice on your MySpace or Facebook page or tweet about it on Twitter.
  • Organize the schedule of future meetings, speakers (if you want), teaching sessions, locations.
  • Research how your group can serve your local community. Talk to community leaders, volunteer organizations, charities, church organizations (for example: Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services etc.), hospitals, nursing homes, hospice organizations, etc.. Search the web and do research on national projects you can team up with or become a part of.
  • Track the number of people you have reached with presentations or trainings. People love to know they are making a difference and keeping a total is a great way to accomplish this.
  • Be a cheerleader for your organization. Your job is to be a motivator. Be upbeat the cheerful.
  • Spread out the work. Once you’ve got the group going, people who do all the work will start to resent doing all the work in about 2-3 years. Even the most selfless people will resent doing all the work. Develop a broad base (after the core group has established the chorus) as soon as you can.
  • Donna notes: Although these next tips apply to a choral group, they are great guidelines for leading meetings and presentations! Get a good director (leader). One who has a sense of humor. (Part of the audition should be; can he/she tell a joke?) If your director yells a lot she/he is not a good director. Amateurs who have worked all day don’t need to be yelled at during a volunteer time. Good directors insist on quality without having to browbeat or yell. Cajoling and cheerleading are good. High expectations are good. Letting singers come in late or allowing sloppy singing habits is not good. Directors who can admit mistakes are probably good directors. Directors who make lots of mistakes or are unprepared are bad directors. Allowing singers to opine during rehearsal is not good. Good directors will understand their singer’s comfort level and react accordingly. Good directors will push your chorus some by choosing a little music just out of the chorus’ reach. Listening to singers opine before or after rehearsal, one on one, is good. Directors who realize that somebody might be offended while another person has just had the most positive experience in their life understands the incredible diversity of personalities. This is good. Good directors know that they can’t please everyone all the time. This is called respect. INVIOLABLE RULE – START ON TIME/END ON TIME. DO NOT WASTE PEOPLE’S TIME AND DON’T REWARD THE LATE COMERS! Have pot luck dinners – get to know each other. Provide a time during rehearsals for people to get to know each other.

Tips for hosting meetings
(Collected from different sources on the internet)

1. Welcome all who attend. People are more likely to stick around if they know youíve noticed them and are happy they are there. Sometimes asking how they found out about the meeting is useful because that indicates which of your promotions are most effective.

2. Be inclusive. Try to involve all of your guests in the conversation. A simple, “What do you think, Susan?” will go a long way towards getting a silent guest talking. Remember: guests that participate are more likely to return and to recommend you to others. Of course, if a guest indicates they’d prefer to just listen, you should respect that.

3. Keep the conversation flowing. Try to smooth over any lulls in the conversations by asking questions or introducing new thoughts or topics. Keeping a list of good questions, thoughts, topics and ideas handy will make it easy to fill in any needed holes.

4. Keep things on-topic. When a room is crowded, it’s not unusual to see several conversations going on at the same time. This is great in casual but can wreak havoc on a topical discussion. Keep trying to lead things back to the topic, especially when new people arrive. If something is really off topic, suggest people talk about it after the meeting.

5. Don’t force a topic. If people aren’t interested in the topic you set don’t impose yourself on people to make them talk about it. If there is no real interest in the topic, move on to something else. Consider even changing the topic to reflect people’s interests (if appropriate).

6. Get Feedback. Give your guests and regulars the opportunity to suggest topics and tips. If youíre responsive, theyíll be responsive.

One of the things to keep in mind with the above is that you need to be removed from discussions a little bit more than the participants. Although you need to participate, you can’t get so into things that you ignore other duties, like welcoming people. This also means not being too obsessed with defending a position.

It is also important to stay as neutral as possible when it comes to topics you don’t like or are passionate about. It’s fine to state your position and even defend it, but always keep in mind that you’re a moderator. You have to be above personal disputes.

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