The Independent - Winter 2023

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THE INDEPENDENT

WINTER 2023
INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE: ‘GREEN’ FUNERALS INVITATION TO INNOVATION + REDUCING ENERGY COSTS + 2023-25 BOARD NOMINEES + ®

2023 REGIONAL MEETING: INNOVATION

What would change if you could see the cremation process through your customers’ eyes? Attend this facilitated problem-solving event.

INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE

OGR’s International Members weigh in on “green” funeral trends and how they are playing out in their countries.

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SPOTLIGHT

Andi Schmidtgall is a 34-year-old funeral director and embalmer at Crawford-Osthus Funeral Chapel in Watertown, South Dakota.

10 07
CONTENTS 24
THE INDEPENDENT® 3502 Woodview Trace, Ste. 300, Indianapolis, IN 46268, 512.334.5504, OGR.org EDITOR & ART DIRECTOR Evan Hoffmeyer EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Wendy King, CAE MEMBER RESOURCES DIRECTOR Nancy Weil EDUCATION & EVENTS DIRECTOR Emilie Perkins, CAE, CMP, CMM, PMP, CED MEETINGS & EVENTS COORDINATOR Anna Delph MEMBER SERVICES COORDINATOR Gena Hayes FAMILY CONTACT PROGRAM COORDINATOR Hannah Fetterhoff The Independent® is a benefit of membership in the International Order of the Golden Rule (OGR), a not-for-profit organization tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code, Federal ID No. 43-1828432. Published quarterly, The Independent® is mailed the first month of each new quarter. Advertising is accepted at the discretion of the publisher. The advertisement of any product or service in The Independent® does not represent an endorsement of such product or service by OGR. Call the Communications Department to reserve space or to request a rate card and mechanical specifications. OGR does not accept ads that discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national origin, age, gender, disability or any other federally protected class.
Volume 28 | Issue 1 Winter 2023

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

PRESIDENT

Paul A. Hummel III

Hummel Funeral Homes, Inc.

Akron, Ohio

PRESIDENT-ELECT

Christopher B. Miller

Thomas Miller Mortuary & Crematory

Corona, California

SECRETARY/TREASURER

Jamie L. Wieting

Wieting Family Funeral Home

Chilton, Wisconsin

PAST PRESIDENT

Evan J. Strong

Evan J. Strong Funeral Services

Calgary, Alberta

DIRECTORS

Kim R. Hunter

Humphrey Funeral Home

Toronto, Ontario

S. Chase Lewis

Lewis Funeral Homes, Inc.

Milton, Florida

Geri Oliverie

Oliverie Funeral Home

Manchester, New Jersey

Peter Urban Jr.

Anton B. Urban Funeral Home

CONNECT 04 05 08 30 31 42 47 MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT BOARD OF DIRECTORS NOMINEES MEMBER SURVEY RESULTS 2023 ANNUAL CONFERENCE 2022 FOUNDATION DONOR WALL IN MEMORIAM MILESTONE ANNIVERSARIES GROW 26 35 36 40 44 51 LIVE STREAMING FOR FUNERAL SERVICES SUPPLIER NEWS MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: GEORGE IRVIN GREEN MEMBER NEWS ABOVE & BEYOND NEW AND IMPROVED FAMILY CONTACT PROGRAM LEARN 14 16 19 22 33 2023 EDUCATION FOCUS OGR STUDY GROUPS SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION 10 TIPS FOR REDUCING ENERGY COSTS INSURANCE-RELATED TAX DEDUCTIONS
Ambler, Pennsylvania ©2023 International Order of the Golden Rule. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Editorial material and letters of opinion are invited. Published articles reflect the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Association. OGR reserves the right to edit all submitted materials and does not assume responsibility for unsolicited materials. For author guidelines, contact the editor at 800.637.8030, or visit OGR.org.

Professional Development as Self-Care

A message from OGR’s president

It feels like forever that we have been heads down, mired in the day-to-day tasks of running our business. We are all exhausted. We hear a lot about self-care, but who has the luxury to do that? And what does that mean anyway? Yoga, meditation, sleeping in? You’re probably thinking, “I don’t have time for that. I have a business to run.”

I do want to talk to you about self-care, but not that kind. Think self-care for your mind and your business. You probably don’t think of professional development and networking with colleagues as self-care. But it can be just as restorative as the other activities mentioned.

Feeding our minds is good for the soul. I never feel more exhilarated than when I exchange ideas with someone else in the profession. A few months ago I attended an OGR Study Group with a dozen or so other funeral home owners. I left feeling excited to go back to work and implement strategies shared during our discussions.

Taking one hour out of the day to attend a webinar from OGR or another source is also a worthwhile way to take time for yourself. We can’t be our best selves unless we are striving to be better for the families we serve. It may seem insignificant to attend, but a nugget you take away could be the spark that inspires you and your staff to even greater things.

Taking time for yourself also means carving out the time needed to implement the things you learn. Sometimes this is the hardest part of professional development. We walk away from a conference or webinar with all the best intentions, then as soon as we get back to work, the notebook goes in the drawer and all the

inspiration goes with it. Find a way to give yourself white space to reflect on what you learned. Then commit to implementing three things over the next week or next month. They don’t have to be big things – just take the first step.

Two years ago OGR developed a three-year strategic plan to ensure that the association continued on a path of providing our members the resources and support they needed to succeed in business. The strategic plan includes three pillars: Members, Brand Identity and Programming Excellence. We are committed to the development of relevant engagement opportunities and educational programming that is applicable to independent funeral home professionals. We have Professional Development and Membership committees comprised of funeral home owners and operators who meet regularly to address the goals set out in our three-year strategic plan and bring you new opportunities to connect, learn and grow.

In the coming year, I encourage you to develop your own personal strategic plan that includes a self-care pillar. Take time to expand your mind, be open to new ideas and strategies, and share and receive your business experiences with others in the profession.

I hope to see you – virtually or in-person – at one or more of the many growth opportunities that OGR has to offer in 2023.

Wishing you happiness and prosperity in 2023!

4 The Independent® | Winter 2023 CONNECT
Paul Hummel III OGR President, 2022-23 Paul Hummel III OGR President, 2022-23
OGR LEARNING LIBRARY Professional development w on-demand to fit your schedul OGR.org/Librar y ofes on-d ebin . org ment o fit OGR. s hedul /L i br
Hummel Funeral Homes Akron, Ohio

Meet Your Nominees for the 2023-25 OGR Board of Directors

OGR will have three vacancies on its Board of Directors to fill this year. Voting will open in January with the winners inducted as part of the Golden Circle Celebration Dinner at the Annual Conference in Indianapolis this May. Below are the three employees of OGR-member funeral homes who have been nominated to fill those vacancies.

S. CHASE LEWIS,

LFD

Lewis Funeral Homes, Inc. | Milton, Florida

I pledge to be a hardworking, organized, detail-oriented and resourceful board member.

I am a 2014 graduate of mortuary science from St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg, Florida. I am a fourth-generation funeral director and embalmer for Lewis Funeral Homes. I am a Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer as well as a Certified Crematory Operator, working in the funeral profession the past 25 years.

I currently serve on OGR’s Young Professionals Council and am finishing a partial term on the Board of Directors. I am also on the Elizabeth Chapel Community Cemetery Board in Chumuckla, Florida, and on the security team for the First Pentecostal Church of Pensacola, Florida.

Chase has been married to his wife Rhonda for eight years, with whom he has two furry children, Layla and Millie. Chase was elected last year to serve out the remainder of another director’s term. He is now on the ballot for his first full term.

LARNIQUE MICKENS, MBA, CFSP, CCSP

Heritage Mortuary, Inc. | Las Vegas, Nevada

I bring my passion for caring for families and the commitment to improve the deathcare profession. My passion has become the building block for Heritage’s objective to ensure those who have experienced the loss of a loved one know the importance of celebrating life. As a result I have created a

celebration of life culture at Heritage in lieu of having a traditional funeral service.

I will be committed to OGR, and I don’t believe in the word impossible because I feel there’s always a solution to all problems. My convictions are strong and loyal. Whatever adversity you face, you just show up to work and address the issue. With the passion and commitment that I bring to the OGR board, I will also bring my open-minded skills. My open-mindedness reminds me to stay humble and rely on others for strength in the areas where I am weak as well as the areas where I still need to learn.

My leadership skills are diversified, derived from my military background of 24 years in operations, logistics, HR, customer service, finance and executive assistance; ownership experience at Heritage; education; nonprofit volunteer experience; and my upbringing. Throughout my careers, I have served in numerous leadership positions using my skills in team-building, diversity, creativity, organization and attention to detail, which have established fresh perspectives and increased value to the bottom line of all the organizations that I oversaw.

I have applied these values to my own company, overseeing all financial aspects and doubling Heritage Mortuary’s revenue in three years. Even though I am a new board candidate for OGR, I am not new to leadership, teamwork or dedication. To serve on the OGR board would be a wonderful opportunity for me to contribute, “give back” and support the work of this phenomenal professional organization.

Larnique has been married to her husband Tyrone for 21 years, and has four children: Chris, Donavan, Asia & Skylor.

PETER URBAN JR., LFD Anton B. Urban Funeral Home | Ambler, Pennsylvania

My talents, skills and ideas will continue to help OGR evolve and support growth in all areas of the funeral profession. With this growth, we can continue to provide our families with the best support and care, and better attend to their needs.

(continued on page 20)

CONNECT The Independent® | Winter 2023 5
830 N. Belcher Road • Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 524-9202 VeteransFuneralCare.com For Veterans and their families Serving Veterans and Non-Veterans Since 2001 Contact Nancy Weil to learn how. NWeil@OGR.org Join the Veterans Funeral Care Provider Network ©adfinity ® Go-to Funeral Home FOR VETERANS BECOME THE

Invitation to Innovation

Seeing cremation through your customers’ eyes

What would change if you could see the cremation process through your customer’s eyes? What if you had an unlimited budget and plenty of staff? What would your cremation offerings look like if you had no limits to what you could do? Find out by attending this facilitated problem-solving event based on the IDEO Human Centered Design Thinking approach.

Steve Jobs said, “The doers are the major thinkers. The people who really create the things that change the industry are both the thinker and the doer in one person.” Join a day centered around both the thought and the deed.

REGIONAL WORKSHOP

WHEN: Thursday, March 2, 8:30 - 4:30 CST

HOST: Andrew Loos, Heartland Cremation & Burial Society and Cremation Consulting

FEE: $99 for OGR Members; $149 for non-members; registration includes lunch and snacks but does not include transportation or lodging

REGISTER: OGR.org/Regional23

By the end of the day, you will:

• have usable ideas to take back to your funeral home;

• form new relationships with innovative funeral directors;

• discover answers to other challenges you are facing;

• and spend the day in the latest design concept for the “funeral home of the future.”

STAY AND PLAY IN KANSAS CITY

Harry S. Truman Library & House

National WWI Museum & Memorial

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

American Jazz Museum

This year's regional workshops will be hosted by Andrew Loos of the Heartland Cremation and Burial Society in the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri.

These artist renderings show his new location, where the workshop will take place, and the non-traditional approach he took with the design. It reflects the "funeral home of the future" he advocates for in both his funeral practice and his second business, Cremation Consulting, an OGR supply partner.

CONNECT The Independent® | Winter 2023 7

State of the Association

Results from OGR’s 2022 Membership Survey

Our membership community helps shape who we are and how we support independently owned funeral homes. To gain insight into how we can continue to improve service to our members, OGR commissioned Whorton Marketing & Research to conduct a survey of members and non-members in 2022. The survey had a 28% response rate with 104 participating out of 368 who were sent an invitation. This is a typical response rate percentage for associations across the board.

MEMBERSHIP STATUS

Participation by current members was highest, but also relatively high among both former and never-members, who had almost identical response rates.

ROLE AND FIRM

Most respondents (78%) identify as the owner within their funeral home(s) and most of the remainder are senior management (18%), with only 4% in non-management roles.

ANNUAL CASE COUNT

8 The Independent® | Winter 2023 CONNECT
Current Members 71% NeverMembers 17% Former Members 12% GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION 42% 7% 28% 20% 3% ESTIMATED
GENDER
78%
Wendy King, CAE Executive Director, OGR WKing@OGR.org
22%

BUSINESS PLANS

Tentative business plans over the next 5-10 years are generally to continue owning/ operating their funeral home(s), but 39% intend to sell and retire in this timeframe. If they do sell, almost half have specific expectations — most often another independently owned home, with fewer expecting to sell to a family member and fewer still to one or more of their staff.

ENGAGEMENT WITH OGR IN THE PAST 3 YEARS

From a list of 18 options, survey participants identified the top five ways in which they engage with OGR.

The Independent® magazine InSights digital newsletter Conferences & Events Family Contact Program Survey Supplier Network

REASONS TO REMAIN A MEMBER AND VALUABLE BENEFITS TO NON-MEMBERS

There are many reasons why current members want to remain a member if they are current, or want to join if they are not current members. Respondents checked an average of at least six reasons, regardless of current member status.

Access to OGR resources Distinguishing from Competitors Networking Discounts from OGR Suppliers Annual Conference CE Credits Family Contact Survey Program Attending Live Education Events

OGR Products & Services Discounts on Education Music Licensing Discount Attending Virtual Education Events Price Shopping Program Leadership Opportunities Study Groups

We would like to thank everyone who took the time to complete the survey. Your honest feedback helps us to continue to develop opportunities that enable our members to connect, learn and grow. An executive summary of the survey is available to OGR members by contacting me at WKing@OGR.org.

CONNECT The Independent® | Winter 2023 9 Sta Member 9% Family Member 14% Another Independent Funeral Home 23% Uncer tain At This Time 55%

INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE

C.P.J. Field & Co. Limited, West Sussex, England, United Kingdom

Palau Funeral Home & Chapel, Koror, Palau

Nelson Bros. Funeral Services, Melbourne, Australia

OGR international members share how the “green” funeral trend is presenting itself in their countries

Each year, we pose a question to OGR’s international members, asking them about how a trend in funeral service is playing out in their countries to offer our North American members a more global perspective on the profession. This year, we asked about “green”/environmentally conscious funerals. Several such practices are still banned in many U.S. municipalities - are they allowed in other countries? If so, how common are they? If not, do they see that changing anytime soon?

C.P.J. FIELD & CO. LIMITED West Sussex, England, United Kingdom

Following Cop26 in Glasgow, Scotland, in the latter part of 2021, there was a huge amount of interest in responsible and environmentally sustainable business. As inflation has taken hold in the U.K. and consumers feel the impact on their cost of living, that interest has softened to a certain extent. After all, it’s easier to make decisions on environmental impact that might have cost implications when you feel like you have more money in your pocket.

To make comparisons to the way things are in the USA, you need to think about what funerals look like in the U.K. Nearly 80% of deaths in the U.K. result in a cremation. This does vary by region as well as between urban and rural areas (cremation is higher in England than Scotland and in inner cities than in the countryside). Most funeral directors, with notable exceptions, do not own their own crematories. Instead we buy cremations on a case-by-case basis from a mixture of privately owned and municipal facilities. The majority of the remaining deaths that result in a burial take the form of earth burial, typically in coffins made from wood. Vault liners are not in widespread use. Aboveground burial chambers are available, but are somewhat unusual. A relatively small proportion of burials have a metal casket of the style that would be recognised by our colleagues in the USA.

Therefore the opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of the funerals we provide are limited. The type and construction of coffins, where coffins are made, reducing

the amount of single-use plastics (cremation handles & fittings, etc.), fuel for funeral vehicles, the use of energy in our funeral homes and so on, are more principles of how we provide our service rather than discernibly “green” choices our client families can take to reduce the impact of their funeral.

Worryingly most of the cremators in the U.K. use natural gas to fuel cremation, though electric cremators are being installed in newer facilities. Resommation is not currently permitted under U.K. law. This is being tested at the moment, which raises the prospect of non-carbon fuel-based disposal options for client families in the future.

Greener funeral options that are in the control of funeral directors and client families include using alternative fuel vehicles (some hybrid and electric funeral vehicles are available), vehicle sharing among mourners, keeping funerals local by using a nearby crematory, keeping the time from death to funeral as short as possible to reduce pressure on refrigerated storage, using locally manufactured coffins made of sustainably and relatively locally grown materials, and the like. Overall these are small things that can reduce the impact of a funeral but wouldn’t amount to a “green” alternative.

It is, perhaps, more important that as funeral companies we carry out carbon lifecycle assessments to help us understand the implications of the way we go about our business and what decisions we can make to reduce that impact and being “greener” about the way we provide our service to the

LEARN The Independent® | Winter 2023 11

“When we decided to take the next step for our business, there was only one company we considered to help us, Johnson Consulting . Their team was excellent at keeping everything on track through closing and we greatly appreciate their expertise throughout.

Choosing to sell may be the biggest decision you’ll make as a business owner. Choosing who will help you do it is a close second. You can count on the experts at JCG to make sure all of your goals are achieved when it’s time to sell, and at any other stage of your business lifecycle.

JohnsonConsulting.com Created for Partnership. Designed for Business Success.
info@johnsonconsulting.com 480-556-8500
RANDY, MIKE, AND KEVIN SCHOEDINGER Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Services

public. Balancing this with a mantra of always being customer led in the services we provide presents an ongoing challenge for U.K. funeral directors. Resisting the temptation to “greenwash” our products and services with limited - or sometimes worse - environmental credentials than a typical funeral arrangement for the purposes of marketing is the really hard part.

It seems that the “green” options are often about the appearance of doing the right thing – having a coffin or casket that looks natural, scattering ashes in nature or having a funeral service at a venue that provides a connection to the environment. All these elements are gaining in popularity. They don’t have a true environmental impact, but they do make people feel better about themselves.

Field, OBE NELSON BROTHERS FUNERAL SERVICES Melbourne, Australia

In Melbourne, a city with a population over 5 million, green trends are gaining popularity in all areas of life. Recent state and federal government elections saw an increase in the election of candidates with “green” and “sustainable” policies. Solar panels increasingly cover roofs of homes and businesses, more electric cars are on our roads and our state government is shutting down all our coal-fired power plants in favor of renewables.

Where funerals are concerned, the same families who adopt solar panels, electric cars and organic groceries in their lives, are also interested in green solutions for their funerals. True green options exist, including rental caskets, natural burial grounds and the Living Urn bio and tree burial system for cremated ashes. Curiously, the interest in green solutions does not always translate into the adoption of them when all other aspects of the funeral are taken into account. There is a perception that green is “simple” and therefore “cheaper,” but the reality can be different, just as the organic grocer is usually more expensive than a traditional supermarket. In our experience, when presented with the options, families considering “green” end up choosing a less expensive, traditional option instead, often including cremation.

Our natural burial grounds at cemeteries feature some beautiful, sustainable and biodiverse places of burial, but these grounds are typically far out of town and not convenient for all families to visit. Just last month, I arranged a funeral for a family considering this option, but they instead decided on a cremation and scattered the ashes at their family farm.

PALAU FUNERAL HOME & CHAPEL Koror, Palau

This is actually our first time to hear about green funerals and as we dig into the idea, it sounds very interesting as it is not only sustainable but also environmentally friendly. We have encountered a few clients who requested us to fix a biodegradable casket as the deceased has lived his/her life caring for the environment. Here in Palau, we usually make wooden caskets since wood is easily available on the island compared to metal. Embalming is also not common here as we only do the procedure when repatriating remains off-island. Traditionally, human remains are kept inside the freezer until the family decides to hold a funeral for the deceased.

Our building is designed to have big windows to maximize the use of daylight. Therefore even during the funeral, we don’t have to turn on all our lights and are able to save power. We are also lessening the use of paper programs by just projecting it on our screen or by printing a single large program to be put in a frame. Since drinks are necessary at every funeral, our cleaning staffs are taking their time to collect plastic bottles and soda cans after the event to recycle them.

Now that we found out about this, we would love to learn more about green funerals and offer them to our clients.

If you have a question you would like to see featured in a future installment of International Perspective, you can submit it anytime to Communications@OGR.org.

LEARN The Independent® | Winter 2023 13

2023 Synergize

OGR is proud to offer numerous, flexible ways to learn, connect and grow in 2023. Plus many of our in-person events and webinars (both live and on-demand) will offer continuing education credits.

Webinar Educational Series

This WebEd Series goes beyond running a successful business. It includes sustainability, global foresight and swift adaptability, all while honoring the original values, traditions and history of the funeral profession. Available live and ondemand.

• Jan. 24: Future Focus: Connecting and Cultivating the Next Generation

• Feb. 28: Fabulous Food for Funerals: Catering the Funeral Experience

• March 28: Responding to a Major Disaster

• April 18: The Transformative Power of Hospitality

• Sept 26: Strategic Planning

• Nov. 14: The Most Important Part of Marketing – the Message

• Dec. 12: Future Forecast 2024 - What to Keep, Toss and/or Watch

OGR Study Groups

Study groups meet in-person to explore ways to fulfill increasingly diverse requests for services, achieve profit goals, and attract new customers. You will exchange information and learn successful strategies from colleagues that can help advance your funeral home to the next level. Study Groups will be held at various locations across the country throughout the year.

Invitation to Innovation Workshop

Kansas City, MO - March 2

What would change if you could see the cremation process through your customer’s eyes,

if you had an unlimited budget and plenty of staff? What would your cremation offerings look like if you had no limits to what you could do? Find out by attending this facilitated problem-solving event based on the IDEO Human Centered Design Thinking approach.

For more information and links to register visit: OGR.org/2023-schedule or scan below.

Schedule

Annual Conference

Indianapolis, IN - May 2-4

OGR’s Conference is an investment in your company’s future gaining you access to thought leaders, allowing you to collaborate on best practices, energize, and develop leadership innovations. Conference will feature a full schedule of professional speakers who will address common issues and challenges facing today’s funeral professional. Plus celebrate this year’s successes at the Golden Circle Celebration Dinner.

Veterans Funeral Care Think Tank

Clearwater, FL - June 24-25

The Veterans Funeral Care Think Tank is an annual gathering for members of the Veterans Funeral Care Providers Network. Contact Nancy Weil at NWeil@OGR.org for information on how to join the network.Open only to Licensed VFC Provider Network members.

Virtual Roundtables

June 28 & August 9

These member-led discussions generally start with a brief 5-10 minute presentation by the host, then spend the rest of the hour as an open forum for members to discuss their experiences, ask questions and get suggestions on significant issues currently affecting the funeral service profession. Free to attend.

YP Summit

Location TBD - August

OGR will bring together members who are not yet in primary decision-making roles at their funeral homes, regardless of age for a day and a half of professional development and connection.

Pheasant Hunt

Gregory, SD - November 2-4

Members are invited to attend this time-honored tradition organized by Kevin Opsahl, OpsahlKostel Funeral Home Enjoy premium hunting by day and relaxing camaraderie with your fellow OGR members in the evenings.

OGR Podcast Series

January-February

Podcasts are more popular than ever because they offer the ability to learn and be entertained on-demand. Our guest speakers will discuss current news and trends, as well as the future of the funeral service profession.

Learning Library

We know your time is valuable and you can’t always participate live for educational programs. The Learning Library allows you to access top-rated content from the Annual Conference and past webinars.

NEW for 2023: CE credits for APFSP and select states will be available for both live AND on-demand courses. This allows you to obtain CEs even if you can’t attend a live webinar.

Continuing education credits, including APFSP, are available on select webinars. Scan below to view or visit OGR.org/CEs

CE Check

LASTING IMPACT

OGR Study Groups are welcoming new members

OGR Study Groups are one of our most valuable member benefit programs. As COVID travel restrictions eased, two of our groups met in the fall of 2022. The East Coast Study Group met at Hummel Funeral Home in Akron, Ohio, and the West Coast Study Group met at Thomas Miller Mortuary & Crematory in Corona, California.

Participants shared best practices, found answers to their questions, received honest feedback and advice, and went home filled with new approaches to old problems. They shared their successes and failures without the fear of being judged. The bonds that were formed will last long into the future. Study Group participants have someone to call when new challenges arise and leave feeling like they have formed a new family where they are always welcomed.

“OGR Study Groups perfectly embody the qualities I always knew OGR stood for and strives for,” said Justin Zabor of Zabor Funeral Home in Cleveland, Ohio.

Here are some of the key takeaways attendees learned from one another:

• How to use route marketing with the U.S.

Postal Service to place your funeral home’s message into the hands of prospective customers.

• Using Domani ringless voicemails to connect with client families.

• The importance of having a business valuation done on your funeral home. David Nixon with Johnson Consulting, an OGR supply partner, is their recommended consultant to use.

• Goodwill Industries and Veteran Connect can be a great place to look for new non-licensed staff members. So can hiring local EMTs, retired teachers, clergy and fire personnel.

• Structure your succession plan by splitting the land and the business deal.

• Regular comparisons of your policy and procedures manual.

• The importance of having a written cellphone and WiFi policy in the office.

• Ways to incentivize staff with paid dinners, sponsored tickets to sporting events, paid family vacations and early time off.

• Leadership should communicate regularly

16 The Independent® | Winter 2023 LEARN

with employees, asking about their day, likes and ideas to forward the company.

• Update Standard Rules of Operations regularly. This ensures all tasks are completed the same way.

• Reward employees for outstanding monthly accomplishments or even on-the-spot rewards, like a gift card.

• Establish a feedback system that is open, two-way and recorded.

• Adopt the motto of the U.S. Army: “Mission First –People (Family) Always.”

OGR Study Groups are accepting new members, so why not give it a try? One new attendee said, “As a newbie I thought it may be hard to break into this group. They immediately made me feel welcome as one of them. They respected and honored my opinions. I’m looking forward to the next one!”

Ready to get started? Go to OGR.org/Study-Groups to register. Participation is free as a benefit of membership.

(ABOVE) OGR’s West Coast Study Group met at President-elect Chris Miller’s Thomas Miller Mortuary & Crematory in Corona, Calif., Oct. 2-4, 2022.

(BELOW) OGR's North America Study Group met at OGR President Paul Hummel III's Hummel Funeral Homes in Akron, Ohio, facilitated by George Darte of OGR member funeral home George Darte Funeral Chapel in Ontario, Canada, Aug. 21-23, 2022.

2023 STUDY GROUPS

May 4 - Indianapolis: All Study Group participants and those curious to check them out will come together for a three-hour event following OGR’s Annual Conference.

Other dates and locations will be added for each Study Group based on that group’s participants’ availability.

LEARN The Independent® | Winter 2023 17

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Search Engine Optimization

How many calls are you missing out on by ranking one spot lower than your competitor on Google?

You get one chance to capture the attention of someone looking for funeral services in your community. So, how can you be in that top spot so you’re front and center with your next family?

There are many different approaches to your marketing that you can take. Stop and think about the different areas you can focus on with your initiatives, whether you’re doing everything you can to get out in front of your audience and whether it’s time to ask for help.

funeral home owners believe a website is all that is needed to grow their business, but what is a website? Is it a professional-looking design with some words on it? Sure. But it’s so much more than that.

It’s ensuring your funeral home is utilizing proper keywords that have been correctly set up. It’s being that authoritative figure in your community by providing the answer to every single question you get asked. It’s introducing your team so prospects can put a face to the name.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to put pricing on your website. It creates trust with your audience and creates transparency so you can weed out the bargain shoppers and avoid the uncomfortable budget question. If you believe in your pricing because you’ve been honest with your audience about what makes up that cost, then don’t be afraid to show your information. With all that being said, ask yourself, ‘Is our website working to generate leads, or is it costing us money?’ If it’s costing you money, it’s not set up for success.

Are

you trying to rank in Google but your content is marked as duplicate?

Most funeral homes don’t realize that when you use a marketing company that has many funeral home websites, each website is built off a clone. What does that mean? Each of those funeral homes has the exact same content and it’s left up to you to update it on your site. When you have the same content as multiple funeral homes, Google will punish your website. We’re not talking a couple duplicate sentences, but an entire page.

Mike@AliadoMarketing

ABOUT FUNERALCLICKS

FuneralClicks is an OGR Supply Partner providing social media, search engine optimization, pay-perclick advertising, review management, content writing and branding services. OGR members get a 25% discount on their Digital Marketing Package.

Is your funeral home ready to respond?

The question isn’t “Do you have a website?” Rather, what marketing initiatives are you taking to get families to your website? Too many

And hey, we get it. They have so many websites to manage that it makes sense but know it’s always a good idea to make your content unique and ensure it’s working to gain the traction you need. Great content will make Google happy, and therefore help get you in front of your target audience.

Get an audit done on your website to see how your content is affecting where you rank in the

LEARN The Independent® | Winter 2023 19
63% OF ALL INQUIRIES BEGIN ONLINE, EVEN IF THE PURCHASE ITSELF HAPPENS IN YOUR FUNERAL HOME.
“”

search engines. No two funeral homes are the same. Each funeral home has its own offerings in its own community. Let’s start getting your content working for you!

You know people are searching for your services, but are you ranking high enough to beat your competition? Your website needs to properly utilize search engine optimization. This is done through keyword research, competitor analysis and ensuring your on-page and off-page optimization is properly set up. By doing so, you can outrank your competition and gain more calls to your funeral home.

Advertising on Google increases brand awareness by 80%!

Running an effective online advertising campaign will guarantee you’re in the top results of the search engines. On average, 41% of the clicks go to the top three paid ads on search engine results pages. So where do you fall in the results when searching for a service you offer? Use this cost-effective return on investment to get you ranked above your competition.

89% of consumers refer to online reviews before making a purchase decision.

You heard us right - 89%. That’s huge! Are you making online reviews a priority with your marketing? If not, you’re missing out on a ton of opportunities. Having positive online customer reviews helps gain trust with people looking for your services. So what are you waiting for? Start including online reviews in your strategy by connecting with your ex-

isting families to help gain the positive feedback you deserve.

51% of funeral homes will get more than 1,000 views of searches per month with Google Business Profile.

There are still many funeral homes today that haven’t claimed their business listing on Google, which creates a huge loss in opportunity. Sixty percent of interactions on Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) lead to a website click, which is a win for your funeral home. Google Business Profile is a great source of information for your target audience. You can update it with your contact information, images, blog posts, events and more.

“My funeral home does well and everything is working for me.”

That is only true if there is no room to grow. We have a hard time believing you have hit the maximum number of families you can take care of. So, what’s your next big move? What marketing initiative are you missing out on or feel you can get more aggressive with? When you realize there is more opportunity for you out there, get creative with a marketing strategy so you can dominate your local community.

Board Nominees

continued from page 5

I have been working at Anton B. Urban Funeral Home since 2001. In 2009, I received my bachelor’s degree in mortuary science from Gannon University and associates degree in funeral service education from Northampton Community College. In 2011, I completed all requirements to become a licensed funeral director in Pennsylvania.

I work well both individually and on a team, and enjoy bringing ideas to the table when brainstorming. There is a time for leading discussions, but I understand when to sit back and listen to the ideas of other members of the team. While focusing on details, I can see how it will affect the big picture in the long term.

I am an active member of the OGR Young Professionals Council and served as its chairman for five years. Since October 2019, I have served on the Board of Directors, when the board was expanded to include YP Chair as a specific board seat.

Peter is married to Kelly, with whom he has two children, Meredith and Peter III, and a cat named Bubbles. He has served on OGR’s board since 2019, first in his capacity as chair of the YP Council and then as a duly elected Director. He is now on the ballot for his second term as a Director.

20 The Independent® | Winter 2023 LEARN We understand the current transaction environment and can advise you on a plan tailored to your business. —
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10 Tips for Reducing Energy Costs

Winter is officially here, and with the winter season comes the inevitable roller coaster of weather forecasts, winter storms and energy costs.

lar maintenance of your furnace, heat pump or boiler will yield unwelcome costs for repair in the future.

5.

REDUCE PEAK DEMAND

ABOUT APPI ENERGY

APPI Energy is an OGR Supply Partner that provides data-driven, holistic energy management services and custom solutions tailored to your funeral home’s specific needs and goals.

As part of your membership benefit, APPI Energy can analyze your energy usage, evaluate your energy bill, deliver a green-apples-togreen-apples comparison of supplier prices and contracts, and negotiate a supply solution tailored to your budgetary needs and sustainability goals.

Learn more by contacting Carrie Shepard at CShepard@APPIEnergy.com or 800.520.6685.

For businesses, heating your buildings and facilities could be one of your largest expenses and operating costs, and with market volatility settling in for the foreseeable future, many areas of the country will likely continue to experience higher costs for natural gas and electricity.

Below are a few ways to lower your funeral home’s energy usage:

1. PROGRAM YOUR THERMOSTATS

Keeping your thermostats as little as 1 or 2 degrees lower in the winter can reduce energy usage and yield cost savings. Go one step further by opting for programmable thermostats, keeping it cooler at night and warming up in the morning before employees start arriving.

2. MAKE USE OF THE RIGHT LIGHTING

LEDs can yield savings of up to 78% in electricity lighting costs. Another easy option is to install occupancy sensors, as well as maximize your use of natural lighting by opening blinds to let the sun naturally warm your space by a few - free - degrees.

3. TURN OFF EQUIPMENT WHEN NOT IN USE

From computer monitors to appliances, turn off AND unplug equipment and appliance to conserve energy usage. This could include everything from office equipment to small kitchen appliances.

4. MAINTAIN OR UPGRADE YOUR HEATING SYSTEM

Regularly change filters, schedule routine maintenance so it doesn’t fall to the wayside, properly seal heating ducts and/or upgrade to energy efficient equipment. Dirty filters require your system to work harder, plus avoiding regu-

Reduce your usage – when possible – during peak demand times, which are typically in the 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. range. Try staggering work hours or running heavy, energy-intensive equipment during the evening or early morning hours.

6. PARTICIPATE IN A DEMAND RESPONSE PROGRAM

Demand response is a financially rewarding energy solution that reduces your organization’s energy usage during periods of high stress to the electric grid.

7. CONDUCT AN ENERGY AUDIT

Have a professional perform a full assessment of your facilities, from lighting to air leaks, to set a baseline for energy reduction.

8. ADJUST YOUR WATER HEATER THERMOSTAT

Keeping your water heater at the ‘warm’ setting can contribute to reduced usage and improved energy savings.

(continued on page 34)

22 The Independent® | Winter 2023 LEARN
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Andi Schmidtgall

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in 2017 and was licensed in 2018.

WHY DID YOU BEGIN WORKING IN FUNERAL SERVICE?

HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED IN FUNERAL SERVICE?

I began my schooling in 2015, started working full-time at the funeral home

It has always been a passion of mine since a young age. I attended a funeral when I was a child and knew from that moment on that I wanted to be like the guys in the suits.

24 The Independent® | Winter 2023 yp spotlight
Andi Schmidtgall is a 34-year-old funeral director and embalmer at Crawford-Osthus Funeral Chapel in Watertown, South Dakota.

WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR OCCUPATION?

Being able to assist families through all the processes of laying their loved one to rest, and being able to provide a lasting image in their heads of their better days before death.

WHAT ARE YOUR PROFESSIONAL GOALS?

To continue to better my reputation in the funeral industry and maybe someday down the road step into a management position.

WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF THAT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED SO FAR DURING YOUR CAREER IN FUNERAL SERVICE?

I believe I have gained a good reputation as far as the appearances of the deceased are concerned. I believe that I have gained a valuable knowledge of cosmetic practices and tools to continue to help me make the deceased look the best way possible for their loved ones to remember them by.

WHAT ARE SOME IMPORTANT/NOTABLE TRENDS THAT YOU HAVE NOTICED IN FUNERAL SERVICE?

Personalized services. It is important to make the service about the deceased, not just a cut and dry service. Families will remember them and the work that went into them. This puts them more at ease than when you don’t go above and beyond to honor their loved one’s life.

Also, livestreaming. I do, however, feel this has drastically lowered attendance at funerals because it is more convenient to sit at home or at work and watch vs. actually going, but I also believe it is beneficial to those who are unable to make it for other personal reasons.

HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR TIME OUTSIDE OF WORK? IS THERE ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR THAT YOU ENJOY DOING?

I enjoy spending time with my husband and my friends. In the summer I love to play softball and go kayaking. I also enjoy watching and supporting my friends in dirt track racing. In less than two months, my husband and I will welcome our daughter into the world so she will be taking up a lot of my time outside of work.

WHAT ARE THREE OF YOUR PERSONAL GOALS?

Always be learning new things, be the best version of myself that I can be and always try to be kind to others.

WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

My grandma. She has experienced many things in her 90 years of life, but has always continued to persevere. We nearly lost her a couple months ago, but she came back to us after we said our goodbyes and is thriving even though she had to move to a new home in a new town. She is a fighter!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PHONE APP?

Caribou Coffee. My coworkers wouldn’t want to be around me without it…

WHAT IS ONE THING YOUR PEERS WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I don’t actually remove people’s organs.

WHAT IS ONE THING THAT YOU THINK IS JUST “GOLDEN,” WONDERFUL OR EXCITING?

Sitting in my pool when it’s 80 degrees and sunny.

WHAT DO YOU VALUE MOST ABOUT OGR?

The willingness of the organization to try and better all the funeral homes and professionals to provide the best services they can to those individuals who need it most.

THE ORGANIZATION TRIES TO “FOLLOW THE GOLDEN RULE.”

WHAT OTHER MANTRA DO YOU TRY TO LIVE BY?

Do what is right, not what is easy.

GROW The Independent® | Winter 2023 25
When it comes to monetary matters, we have the insight — Doug Gober, Partner TheForesightCompanies.com // 800.426.0165 Talk to Doug about financing needs for your business.

LIVE STREAMING FOR FUNERALS

26 The Independent® | Winter 2023

One of the most important changes we’ve seen in recent years is the shift from physical to virtual events. This shift has changed expectations for what “attendance” means for a funeral service. Now, more than ever, families are looking for ways to connect with their loved ones, even if they cannot physically attend a funeral.

Despite the increased demand, many funeral homes are still hesitant to embrace this technology and evolve their offering to better fit the needs and desires of their families. They think of live streaming as “just a fad”, something that will “just go away” once the pandemic ends. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

LIVE STREAMING IS HERE TO STAY

Convenience is everything, especially in a world as unpredictable and unique as death care. Consumers now have a new baseline for what it means to “attend” and “participate” through virtual technology platforms (such as Zoom). Although, there’s a large wave of people opting in for physical attendance vs. virtual, that doesn’t change the expectations that all special moments will have a hybrid component. Even something as simple as Facetiming Uncle Bob in for a speech is opting in for hybrid.

For context, my company has been working with top institutions across the country, from Columbia University to Forest Lawn, to integrate hybrid solutions into their workflows. We’ve produced tens of thousands of live streams since 2020 and the demand for virtual funerals is still growing strong.

Live streaming also makes it easier for families to connect with their loved ones. They can watch, listen, and share memories from any device. And, with cloud-based technology, all of the recordings can be stored in one place for families to access at any time.

NEW REVENUE STREAMS

Funeral homes that choose to live stream their services have the

The Independent® | Winter 2023 27
“” 73% OF EVENT PLANNERS EXPECT HYBRID EVENTS TO BE MORE COMMON IN THE FUTURE.

potential to generate new revenue streams. When providing a quality video service, the average family’s willingness to pay ranges between $349-$699 for a private, live stream link and downloadable file. For a simple wide-shot, static camera, or iPhone, there isn’t necessarily room to charge, but definitely helps check the box for accessibility.

INCREASING BRAND VALUE AND RECOGNITION

All funeral homes strive to provide the highest quality service, with competitive pricing, backed by the trust of their brand. It’s more important than ever to take a step back and re-evaluate your online brand and reputation. They utilize the live streams and downloads as a value that only they can provide, ensuring that they are known as the best option for a hybrid funeral with demos online.

You might be thinking that setting up the iPad and sharing the link is checking the box for live streaming, but the top funeral homes we work with take a different approach. A beautiful live stream and recording is now a must-have for most families, and they love to know their service can be streamed with ease. This increases their online brand and turns viewers into future customers.

COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE

In an increasingly competitive landscape, funeral homes need to look for ways to differentiate themselves. Providing a high-quality live streaming service is a great way to stand out from other funeral homes that simply did not adopt the live stream offering. I’ve seen dozens of funeral homes include live streaming as a standard service, saying every single service that takes place here comes with a high-quality live stream and download. Instead of choosing the overwhelming a la carte option for all services, we’re seeing more and more all-inclusive pricing.

WHAT TO THINK ABOUT WHEN CONSIDERING LIVE STREAMING

Concerns like “How do we connect audio?”, “Is the picture quality high-resolution?” and “How do I know the stream is live?” are all things to think about when incorporating a live stream. These are all factors that the end viewer perceives as quality, and if it is done well, then

you’re set up to impress viewers.

When speaking to vendors, here are some great questions to ask:

• What do we need to do in the room on the day of a service?

• Where does the live stream get broadcast?

• Will there be someone available to help us if needed?

• Do you have resources to help us discuss live streaming with families?

The technical lift of live streaming can often be daunting for a funeral home, no matter the size of your team. When you consider adding live streaming to your home’s offering, it’s incredibly important to choose the right live streaming partner to simplify the process and customize it for you.

The shift from physical meetups to virtual hangouts has changed expectations for what “attendance” means for the funeral service. Live streaming is here to stay, and it is an important way for families to connect with their loved ones. It is also a great opportunity for funeral homes to differentiate themselves from their competitors and generate new revenue streams. With cloud-based technology, families can access recordings at any time, making live streaming an invaluable tool for funeral homes.

LiveControl is an OGR Supply Partner that gives funeral homes everything you need to enhance your live stream offering, affordably and easily.

OGR members get their equipment security deposit waived for two PTZ cameras and a digital recorder ($1,000 value).

GROW The Independent® | Winter 2023 29
ABOUT LIVECONTROL
TheForesightCompanies.com
We navigate the complexity of succession planning with knowledgeable strategies. — Gabriel Ngo, Director of Business Development
// 800.426.0165
Talk to Gabe about your business plan.

OGR Annual

REGISTER TODAY

THE CONRAD, INDIANAPOLIS

The 2023 OGR Conference is an investment in your company’s future – gaining you access to thought leaders, allowing you to collaborate on best practices, energize, and develop leadership innovations. When we gather in Indianapolis we honor our history while innovating for the future. We strive for synergy.

Synergy MAY 2-4, 2023
ogr.org/annual-conference
Conference

2022 DONOR TRIBUTE WALL

Schoppenhorst, Underwood & Brooks Funeral Home Shepherdsville, Kentucky

Humphrey Funeral Home A.W. Miles-Newbigging Chapel

Toronto, Canada

Wendy King OGR in memory of Katherine King

Chris Miller Thomas Miller Mortuary Corona, California

Jay & Mary Steele Arnett & Steele Funeral Home, Inc. Pineville, Kentucky

Skip, Dolores & Peter Urban

Anton B. Urban Funeral Home Ambler, Pennsylvania in honor of Victor Chigas in honor of Thomas Hemmerle

Marrocco Memorial Chapel Clifton, New Jersey in memory of Leland B. Cross, Jr. Steve Moore Moore Funeral Service Hattiesburg, Mississippi Geraldine “Geri” Oliverie Oliverie Funeral Home Manchester, New Jersey

Strunk Funeral Home Vero Beach, Florida

Cathie Tattrie

William J. Smith & Son Funeral & Memorial Services

Warren, Rhode Island in memory of Gus Smith

GOLD LEVEL ($1,000 or more) SILVER LEVEL ($500 - $999)
Anita M. Greene Wooster,
in memory of
Greene
Bill, Tim & Linda Brock Vander Plaat Funeral Home Wyckoff, New Jersey Mike & Marie Butler John & Nicki Butler Livingston-Butler-Volland Funeral Home & Cremation Center Hastings, Nebraska in memory of James McQuade
Ohio
Cliff
Paul Hummel III Hummel Funeral Homes Akron, Ohio
Ben Underwood
Kim Hunter
Make your tax-deductible donation at OGR.org/Foundation BRONZE LEVEL (up to $499)
AT IO N The Independent® | Winter 2023 31 Gene Hurst
in
Marrocco
FOUND
Hurst-Scott Funeral Home Richlands, Virginia Lucille T. Lea Lea Funeral Home Inc. Raleigh, North Carolina
memory of Rudy N. Lea Sr. Michael Lewis Lewis Funeral Home Milton, Florida Jim
Kevin Strunk

BRING OGR TO YOU

OGR offers two speakers who will come to your state, province or country’s association’s next conference or online webinar.

Nancy Weil has multiple presentation topics that have already been enjoyed by many state FDAswhy not invite her to yours?

Charles Castiglia offers

“Opioid Epidemic: How Funeral Directors

Can Respond” with up-to-date stats and information.

For more information, contact Nancy Weil at NWeil@OGR.org

OGR Membership Director OGR Past President
32 The Independent® | Winter 2023

Insurance-Related Tax Deductions to Know This Tax Season

When you’re eligible, claiming tax deductions can be an effective way to reduce your tax burden. If you don’t know certain tax deductions exist, you can find it challenging to identify their available deductions. Surprisingly, certain costs related to your insurance and health care may lower your tax bill. Many times, there is a possibility to deduct your medical expenses, insurance premiums and other health-related costs from your taxes. There are many other things to consider for potential deductions. Working with a financial advisor is best when it comes to all the tax options to find the right strategy for your situation.

HSA CONTRIBUTIONS

Health Savings Accounts are available to people with high-deductible health care coverage, whether that be for themselves or their families. While HSAs are technically an insurance product, the contribution you make can be used to supplement your health insurance and reduce your medical costs. For example, if you withdraw HSA funds tax-free to pay your health care premiums or other qualifying medical expenses, you can do so provided your plan allows it.

In addition, HSA contributions are also tax-deductible. So, if you are contributing regularly, you could get a welcome break at tax time. In 2023, HSA limits are $3,850 for individual coverage and $7,750 for family coverage. The limit of contribution results in a sizable tax deduction. You would not need to itemize deductions on form 1040 to qualify.

QUALIFYING MEDICAL AND DENTAL EXPENSES

Per the IRS, you also can claim a deduction if you itemize deductions and have qualifying medical and dental expenses exceeding 7.5% of your adjusted gross income for the year. It is important to keep in mind that you can only deduct the part of your expenses that exceeds 7.5% of your annual gross income, not all of your medical costs. For example, if you spend

$6,000 on health care each year and your annual gross income was $60,000, you can deduct $1,500 on your taxes but not the full $6,000. While you’d most likely need to spend a sizable amount on health care to be eligible for this deduction, it might be possible if you or a member of your family was battling a serious health issue and spent a significant amount on treatment and care.

HEALTH CARE PREMIUMS

Claiming tax deductions that you are eligible for is an effective way to reduce your tax burden. It could be challenging to identify all the deductions available to you. It can be surprising to find out that certain costs related to your health care and insurance could lower your tax bill. In many cases, you could be able to deduct your medical expenses, insurance premiums and other health-related costs from your taxes. Again, working with a financial advisor when it comes to deductions can help with all your tax options to find the right strategy for your situation.

Generally, with an employer-sponsored health plan, your company subsidizes a portion of your insurance premiums. The employer-paid premiums and any pre-tax premiums from your paychecks are not tax-deductible. You might might qualify for a tax deduction with an employer-sponsored health plan, but you could potentially qualify if you are paying anything out-of-pocket for health care premiums.

If you have purchased any coverage through a marketplace, COBRA, or pay for Medicare Part B, C or D, your premiums may be tax-deductible if you are itemizing deductions but only the portion that exceeds the threshold of 7.5% of your annual gross income. Premiums for Medicare Part A are NOT tax-deductible.

THE BOTTOM LINE

While it would obviously be great to have a perk of all insurance premiums being tax-deductible, it simply is not the case. However, you

ABOUT LIG SOLUTIONS

With more than 30 years of combined experience in the health, life and Medicare insurance industries, LIG Solutions has distributed more than 1.2 million insurance policies. LIG has partnerships with national, regional and local insurance carriers across the country.

LEARN The Independent® | Winter 2023 33

can deduct a portion of your health or auto insurance premiums, as well as other qualifying or health-related costs. In doing so, you could help reduce your tax burden and keep more cash in your pocket. Consider speaking to a tax professional when it comes to learning about all your options.

LIG Solutions is an OGR Supply Partner, allowing all employees of OGR member-firms as individuals or families to shop and enroll in healthcare products. This concierge service partners you with a licensed insurance agent to answer any questions you have and navigate the insurance marketplace for medical, major medical, critical care, accident medical plans, Medicare, short-term policies, vision, dental, disability income protection, supplemental insurance coverage and more, without a vested interest in which carrier you choose.

Energy Costs

continued from page 22

9. CONSIDER A RETAIL ENERGY SUPPLIER

If you’re in a deregulated state for electricity or natural gas, you can benefit from energy choice.

10. EDUCATE YOUR EMPLOYEES & SECURE EMPLOYEE BUY-IN

Educate your teams on the benefits (both financial and environmental) and communicate effectively so that everyone is on board and doing their part.

34 The Independent® | Winter 2023 LEARN TheForesightCompanies.com // 800.426.0165 Partner with Foresight for business growth and success. At The Foresight Companies, our mission is to provide our clients with customized financial and operational solutions We deliver results through our passion for the funeral and cemetery profession and the communities they serve.
Veterans Funeral Care Workshop OGR presents a two-par t ser ies that will open a new client base and forever change your business Lear n more and register at OGR.org/VFC

BodyBagMan joins OGR Supplier NetworkBodyBagMan manufactures industrial strength, LLDPE disposable plastic cot covers, cremation box liners, cooler tray covers and body bag liners. Our family-owned and -operated factory has been located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin since 1956. Ordering direct from a USA factory guarantees affordable pricing and fast shipping for domestic clients. Tired of waiting on your distributor waiting on the slow boat from China to get you the supplies you need? Cut out the middleman and order USA factory direct. As a benefit of membership, OGR funeral homes get 10% off their first order. Contact Ryan Luetzow at Ryan@LuetzowInd.com with questions or sales inquiries. BodyBagMan.com | Johnson Consulting Group celebrates 22 years in the funeral

profession - For more than two decades, Jake Johnson and his team have focused on creating lasting client relationships, facilitated more than $2 billion in funeral business transactions, created web-based accounting platforms, provided business coaching, leadersihp programs, technology offerings and more. JohnsonConsulting.com | Liz Hamilton joins Passages as sales rep - Hamilton will be the point of contact for wholesale customers in the Southwest region of the United States, including funeral homes and cemeteries. She is a licensed funeral director who attended mortuary school at Fayetteville Technical Community College. She’s worked in the profession since 2016 promoting ‘green’ funeral practices and community-led death care. PassagesInternational.com

The Independent® | Winter 2023 35 supplier news
Want to see your company’s news featured here? OGR Supply Partners are invited to send your press releases and other company updates to Communications@OGR.org for inclusion here and on our blog at OGR.org. 1-800-868-9950 Your Real Source. Anywhere. Anytime. Find exactly what you’re looking for! www.nomispublications.com

George Irvin Green Funeral Home Inc. Munhall, Pennsylvania

Scott L. Green is the president of George Irvin Green Funeral Home Inc. in Munhall, Pennsylvania. He shared his experiences with running a successful funeral home that has been around for more than 80 years.

HOW WAS YOUR FUNERAL HOME FOUNDED, AND HOW DOES IT OPERATE TODAY?

Our funeral home was founded in 1941 by my grandfather, George Irvin Green. In 1959 my grandmother, Helen Gaut Green, became a Licensed Funeral Director alongside her husband. I’m a third-generation funeral director, along with my brother, Todd Green, and we work with our father Donald I. Green.

WHY DO YOU BELIEVE FUNERAL SERVICE IS IMPORTANT?

We are dealing with vulnerable and grieving families, and it is our responsibility and honor to help guide them to creating a memorable celebration of their loved one’s life.

WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF WORKING IN FUNERAL SERVICE?

When all the details were handled with the utmost respect and the families are satisfied and saying thank you for doing a wonderful job.

WHAT MAKES YOUR FUNERAL HOME UNIQUE?

We pride ourselves on exemplary service, which means we try to provide all options, to all families, at all times.

HOW DOES YOUR TEAM JUGGLE HAVING BOTH A BUSY FUNERAL HOME AND A BUSY PET FUNERAL HOME?

Communication is the key to running both a successful funeral home and a pet funeral home. Having designated rules in making decisions helps that process and allows both businesses to be successful.

WHAT DOES YOUR FUNERAL HOME DO IN ORDER TO CREATE A STRONG COMMUNITY PRESENCE? DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THIS IS IMPORTANT?

Being active in your local community is probably the singular most important marketing tool we have available. We are active in many community organi-

zations such as Rotary, Garden Club and our local churches. We make it a priority to attend and sponsor golf outings, local baseball and softball teams, boy scouts and high school scholarship awards. We do pictures with Santa at the funeral home for both pets and children alike. I think it’s important to have the funeral home open for many activities throughout the year, not just for funeral service. We need to make it a welcoming place.

IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU USE TECHNOLOGY TO FURTHER THE SERVICES YOU OFFER?

During the pandemic we’ve had to rely more and more on technology. Part of that has been utilizing the Passare online planning platform for family members that can add vital information, the obituary and uploading pictures.

WHAT GROWING TRENDS HAVE YOU NOTICED IN THE FUNERAL SERVICE PROFESSION? HOW DO YOU KEEP UP WITH THESE CHANGES?

36 The Independent® | Winter 2023 GROW MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

since 1941. (submitted photo)

Trying to brand your funeral home, such as being a veterans funeral home, motorcycle, etc. We focused on branding ourselves mostly on aftercare. In October we did a pumpkin decorating grief class and had a grief pumpkin

patch outside our funeral home. We recognized Children’s Grief Awareness Day by having an ornament decorating time and reading children’s books about grief and emotions for kids at the funeral home.

WHAT DO YOU VALUE MOST ABOUT OGR? WHY DID YOU BECOME A MEMBER?

I believe we’ve been members of OGR since 1959, and it’s probably one of the singular most important organizations that we’ve been a member of for all these years. I truly believe the members of OGR make the organization what it is and the ability for them to share ideas at the conferences and study groups make it an invaluable organization to be part of. I truly believe we’re a better funeral home and organization by being part of OGR.

IS THERE ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR THAT YOU DO AT WORK TO KEEP YOUR SPIRITS HIGH OR THE SPIRITS OF YOUR STAFF HIGH?

I believe recognizing and showing appreciation to your staff goes a long way. Compensation is always important, but sometimes it’s just saying, ‘Thank you, we appreciate all the dedication you provide.’ We also sometimes give gift cards to a favorite salon, tickets to sporting events and gift cards on their birthday just to say thank you.

WHAT ARE THREE FUTURE GOALS THAT YOU HAVE IN MIND FOR YOUR FUNERAL HOME?

Our goal in the future is always to continue to provide the highest level of service and to keep educated on new trends. We never want to be a funeral home that becomes complacent.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?

For the last 27 years, we’ve been providing a remembrance service during the holiday season and we take great pride in all those years to provide a wonderful service for the community. We’re also very proud of offering a Valentine’s Day widows luncheon for all widows who have lost a loved one throughout the year.

GROW The Independent® | Winter 2023 37
(ABOVE) George Irvin Green Funeral Home Inc., in Munhall, Pennsylvania, has been in continuous operation (BELOW) The full staff of George Irvan Green Funeral Hom Inc. poses for a picture in a church near their Munhall, Pennsylvania, facility. (submitted photo)

News from OGR

CASTIGLIA PRESENTS IN OHIO ON OPIOID EPIDEMIC

Charles Castiglia of Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home presented OGR’s “Opioid Epidemic: How Funeral Directors can Respond” as a webinar to the Ohio State Funeral Directors Association. One attendee commented, “Best presentation I’ve heard on opioids thus far!” Learn how to bring this program to your state association by contacting NWeil@OGR.org.

EVAN J. STRONG FUNERAL SERVICES’ 20TH ANNIVERSARY WHITLEY’S FUNERAL HOME VOTED BEST FUNERAL HOME

Evan Strong is OGR’s immediate past president, and has supported OGR’s mission by offering his insight and guidance. His funeral home has served Calgary families from its two locations for the past two decades.

The funeral home in Kannapolis, North Carolina, received the recognition from the Independent Tribune. Whitley’s has been honored with the award every year for the past 25 years.

KARRER-SIMPSON WINS ‘BEST OF PORT HURON’ AWARD

An affiliate location of Pollock-Randall Funeral Home, Inc., Karrer-Simpson in Port Huron, Michigan, was recognized as the best funeral home in their city. The awards program honors companies with excellent customer service and community involvement.

40 The Independent® | Winter 2023 GROW

Funeral Homes

VETERANS OUTREACH

Martin Funeral Home held a dedication ceremony for their new Veterns Museum inside their Mount Morris, Michigan, location (pictured below). Jim Rudolph of fellow OGR member Veterans Funeral Care in Clearwater, Florida, presented alongside owner Adam Martin. Area VFWs, American Legion posts and Patriot Guard Riders were also represented.

INFINITY FUNERAL HOME EXHIBITS AT CAREER EXPO FOR JR HIGH STUDENTS

Infinity Funeral Home in Biloxi, Mississippi, supported Pathways2Possibilities again this year. P2P is a career expo designed for 8th graders, providing interactive ways for them to discover a career path as they enter high school. This year, P2P welcomed more than 7,000 students over two days.

Infinity employees, seen in the photos above and below, enjoyed educating and connecting the next generation during this worthwhile experience.

Martin was also one of 11 OGR members to participate in Operation Toy Soldier, the proprietary program of OGR Endorsed Supplier Veterans Funeral Care collecting new toys and distributing them to veterans and active-duty military families in their area. Other members to take part include:

• Anderson Family Funeral Homes - Cresson, PA

• Cooper Funeral Home - Tecumseh, OK

• Heartland Cremation & Burial Society – Raytown, MO

• Huff-Guthrie Funeral Home – Franklin, PA

• Hummel Funeral Homes and Crematories - Akron, OH

• Infinity Funeral Home - Biloxi, MS

• Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home - Hamburg, NY

• Michigan Cremation & Funeral Care - Grand Rapids, MI

• Twiford Funeral Homes - Elizabeth City, NC

• Veterans Funeral Care - Clearwater, FL

To learn how your funeral home can join the VFC Provider Network, contact Nancy Weil at NWeil@OGR.org.

GROW The Independent® | Winter 2023 41

Oct. 7, 1942 - Dec. 14, 2022

March 27, 1981 - July 29, 2022 employee and son of owners

Hahn-Groeber Funeral Home Lafayette, Ind.

April 15, 1928 - Nov. 30, 2022 mother of company president Church & Chapel Metal Arts

Naples, Fla.

42 The Independent® | Winter 2023
Josh Groeber Angelina Taddeo Wiley Everett King father-in-law of OGR’s CEO Corbin, Ky.

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above &

These select Above & Beyond comments are from families served by OGR member-firms via Family Contact Program surveys, complimenting the team they worked with for their exemplary service and going above & beyond expected service levels. These members are now eligible for the Exemplary Service Award, given to three firms each year at the OGR Annual Conference.

Rob Brown was excellent throughout our entire experience. He treated us with compassion, patience and sincerity. Rob was very thorough and patient with us as he presented service and merchandise options. Our family’s expectations were exceeded by the Chiles-Laman team. They provided us with picture boards, ordered our food and allowed us as much time as we needed to tell our loved one goodbye.

We were met with compassion, caring and great attention to detail from the Mulhearn staff. Mike listened to everything my family and I had to say as he led us in the right direction. He was so comforting and took time with us on the hardest days of our lives. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about the service.

Everyone was wonderful in all aspects. They took me by the hand and led me gently and respectfully through everything. I could not be more pleased, and I will always be thankful. The funeral director was respectful, clear and concise while quickly understanding what I wanted. It was all better than I could have expected.

Our funeral director, Carlo, did a wonderful job of supporting us through our decision making. He showed us a whole range of options without any pressure. Pure serendipity stepped in on the way to the national cemetery in Canton. He was hindered by a traffic accident on the expressway and called us and the cemetery to let us know of the delay. My family and I looked at each other and laughed as my husband always said he wanted to be late to his own funeral. The military funeral was exactly as requested – it was so beautiful and so reverent and honorable.

44 The Independent® | Winter 2023
CHILES-LAMAN FUNERAL & CREMATION SERVICES Lima, OH MULHEARN FUNERAL HOME Monroe, LA ZWICK & JAHN FUNERAL HOME Decatur, IN CALDWELL & COWAN FUNERAL HOME, INC. Covington, GA

SINGLETON FUNERAL & CREMATION

Glen Burnie, MD

My family and I were overly pleased with every aspect of the services provided by the Singletons. We cannot express enough how helpful, sympathetic and professional they all were. Mike Canapp provided us with every need to get through this devastating loss. He went above & beyond to ensure every need was met. He assisted with a pastor for services, he was amazing. Our family is truly appreciative for Mike & his staff.

JANOWIAK FUNERAL HOME, INC.

Ypsilanti, MI

Chris, Sandy, Jim, Geoff & Kim all went above & beyond with everything! My brother was the ninth funeral in the last two years. My 91-year-old mother was so impressed she moved her arrangements from another facility in town to Janowiak. The funeral director was patient and he listened to details about my brother’s life to put together a video, which was very well done. We wouldn’t change a thing; they exceeded all expectations. We are recommending them to anyone who will listen. They are now our family’s funeral home – I’m sorry we didn’t find them sooner!

OLIVERIE FUNERAL HOME

Jackson, NJ

The funeral staff was very professional, helpful, and very understanding towards my family and I during our difficult with the loss of our loved one. The funeral director was helpful and informative through the entire process which put my family and I at great ease and comfort. The funeral service, visitation, and ceremony for our loved one was everything we expected. The staff made sure everything went according to plan! If we could plan this funeral again, we would not do anything differently. We were more than pleased with every step the staff took to make sure everything went well!

WENNER FUNERAL HOME

Cold Spring, MN

All staff at the Wenner Funeral Home are exceptionally compassionate, kind, detail-oriented, professional and wonderful to work with. Every one of our questions were answered and provided with dignity. Our funeral director was very professional, helpful and both reminded and suggested ideas we have hay forgotten during this time of grief. He went out of his way to provide us with our wants and needs. We would not change a thing!

may have forgotten with our wants and needs.

The Family Contact Program is a FREE member benefit that is simple to use and offers valuable information on your funeral home’s operations, services and staff through surveying families you’ve served. Join OGR’s Family Contact Program today and you could be one of next year’s Exemplary Service Award winners. For more information or to sign up, visit OGR.org/Family-Contact-Program or contact us by email at FamilyContact@OGR.org or (800) 637-8030.

The Independent® | Winter 2023 45 beyond

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CELEBRATING MILESTONE ANNIVERSARIES

- Members that joined OGR in January, February & March -

65 YEARS

March 1958

Kreidler Funeral Home, Inc.

McAllen, Texas

60 YEARS

March 1963

C&F Enterprises, Inc.

dba Fremont Chapel of the Roses

Fremont, California

55 YEARS

February 1968

Stevens Mortuary, Inc.

Knoxville, Tennessee

50 YEARS

March 1973

Citty Funeral Home

Reidsville, North Carolina

35 YEARS

January 1988

Jakubs and Son Funeral Home, Inc.

Cleveland, Ohio

30 YEARS

January 1993

Hurst-Scott Funeral Home

Richlands, Virginia

March 1993

Matthews Funeral Home, Ltd.

Melville, Saskatchewan, Canada

15 YEARS

February 2008

Highland Funeral Service Inc. -

Barnett Funeral Home

Wytheville, Virginia

Marrocco Memorial Chapel

Clifton, New Jersey

March 2008

Osborne Funeral Home, PA

Williamsport, Maryland

10 YEARS

January 2013

Hardy-Close Funeral Home

Shepherdsville, Kentucky

5 YEARS

January 2018

Huff-Guthrie Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Inc.

Franklin, Pennsylvania

February 2018

Shumate Funeral Home

Middlesboro, Kentucky

March 2018

Arnett & Steele Valley Chapel

Harrogate, Tennessee

CONNECT The Independent® | Winter 2023 47
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SALUTE

Resources Needed

OGR’s Membership Committee is developing a resource center to help members conduct funerals for veterans and first responders.

» When planning a funeral for a veteran or first responder, what products do you offer families?

» Do you have any poems, pieces or music you have seen used at one of these funerals?

» Forms, forms, forms - What links do you have to important forms when planning a veteran’s funeral?

Contribute your resources to help in the development of this project. Email what you have to Nancy Weil at NWeil@OGR.org.

Check Out the New and Improved Family Contact Survey Program

OGR’s most used member benefit is the Family Contact Survey Program. For years members have relied on the honest feedback they receive from the families they serve through this program. In 2023 this

program has been updated to provide better information to you and make it simpler for the families you serve to fill out the survey.

Not everything is changing as the Exemplary Service Awards program remains the same and will be awarded at OGR’s annual conference in May. Plus, Above and Beyond positive family testimonials will continue to be shared in the Independent® magazine and in social media posts that you can share.

“Our favorite part of the program is when families write additional comments,” said Veronica Weymouth of Weymouth Funeral Home in Newport News, Virginia. “It’s amazing how many people actually take time out of their day to give their honest feedback.”

The survey is now a four-question survey

that can be answered in less than 5 minutes. This shorter format will lead to more returned responses. Within those 4 questions are sub-questions focused on how your staff performed, merchandise options, how well the visitation and funerals met their expectations and more. Questions regarding streaming of the service and veterans’ honors have been added.

Surveys can easily be filled out online providing you with faster access to responses. OGR has already templated the email request and will link your template directly to your funeral home’s survey. Additionally, a Google review request linked to your Google review page is available to help your funeral home increase their positive feedback on the internet.

All of this is a free member benefit, so if you are not already doing a post-service survey now is the time to get started! Contact Membership Director Nancy Weil at 800.637.8030 or NWeil@OGR.org, or visit us online at OGR.org/Family-Contact to learn more.

GROW The Independent® | Winter 2023 51 ADVERTISERS INDEX Access Financial Group 38 American Macular Degeneration Foundation . . . . . . . . 22 ASD - Answering Service for Directors . . . . . . . . . . . 35 The Dodge Company . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 The Foresight Companies . . . . . . . . . . . . 20,25,29,34 FuneralClicks 18 Funeral Results Marketing 43 Johnson Consulting Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Matthews Aurora™ Funeral Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 The National Directory of Morticians 28 National Mortuary Shipping & Cremation . . . . . . . . . . 13 Nomis Publications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Pristine Air Technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 SpartaCraft, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Starmark Cremation Products 23 Thumbies 49 Veterans Funeral Care . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
IT’S AMAZING HOW MANY PEOPLE ACTUALLY TAKE TIME OUT OF THEIR DAY TO GIVE THEIR HONEST FEEDBACK.
“”

2022 Awards: Call for Nominations Golden Light Award

The OGR Golden Light Award, now in its 19th year, honors an individual (not a firm) who has made specific, meritorious contributions to society through his or her profession, community or field of voluntary service as career achievements.

Golden Rule Community Service Award

The Golden Rule Community Service Award recognizes a firm for outstanding service to the community during the 2022 calendar year. Members are encouraged to submit their own firms.

To qualify, nominated firms must:

• be an OGR Member Firm in good standing;

• supply support materials as evidence of the activity or service, such as press clippings, letters of thanks, testimonials, photos or governmental citations; and

• not have won this award in the past three years.

Presort Std. U.S. Postage PAID Indianapolis, IN Permit #279 International Order of the Golden Rule
3502 Woodview Trace, Ste. 300 Indianapolis, IN 46268 www.OGR.org
winner will receive an engraved award and acknowledgement at the Golden Circle Celebration Dinner at OGR’s Annual Conference in Indianapolis, in The Independent® and on OGR’s website. Submissions must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST February 28, 2023. Questions may be sent to Anna Delph at (800) 637-8030, ext. 119 or ADelph@OGR.org. Submit your nominations at OGR.org/Awards
Each
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