Preserving Tradition...In These Uncertain Times
I first became involved with CFDA about six years ago. I needed to complete my CEUs, and at the time, I figured that I would knock them all out in one day at the CFDA Summer Convention at Water's Edge. Back then, my thought process was, "The food would be better, and the chair is probably softer than the normal all-day course I would attend at Briarwood." Oh yeah, I almost forgot-there was a cocktail hour. Well, while there, John Cascio cornered me and asked if I would consider serving a term on the CFDA Executive Board. I relented because I did not have much free time; my wife was pregnant at the time, and like all of us, I was working crazy hours. However, he insisted. And like most funeral directors, I have a difficult time saying "no" to people. Plus, I figured it would only be for a year or two. Well, here we are six years later. Because of that one conversation with John six years ago, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to serve all of you and represent the CFDA as President. For the last several years, I have had the pleasure and opportunity to work alongside many fine funeral directors whose passion for this industry is unmeasurable. Being involved with this team and association has provided me the opportunity to venture outside the bubble of working in an independent firm in a small town, and an opportunity to share ideas and seek knowledge from people I consider colleagues, not competitors. At meetings, we do not always agree on all subject matter; however, the environment enables us to understand different viewpoints and matters, which has vastly improved my ability to successfully operate a small business and better serve families in my community.
Being involved with a CFDA has reignited my passion for funeral service. As a result, my craving for knowledge and aspirations for the future have grown immensely. I no longer find CEUs to be a chore. Instead, I find myself searching for new and exciting subject matter to study, in order to become the best funeral director I can be. In today's day and age, this has become much simpler to achieve. There are countless online seminars available, which contain extensive high-quality content. The days of having to travel to a convention in person and incur significant expenses to find the best programs or subjects that interest you have changed. I urge all of you to continue your growth and knowledge, as it is beneficial to our industry for all of us to keep learning.
The biggest strength of the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association is you, its members. Together, it is our goal to advance the profession of funeral service through public awareness, education, advocacy, and high ethical standards. We need to work together to promote these goals.
We should all be proud to say that we are members of CFDA and other groups that work towards the betterment of funeral service. All of our actions represent all of us as a whole. The integrity of this sacred profession is represented by all of our actions. It is our duty to honor this profession and be the best ambassadors that we truly can be.
Being members of the CFDA offers many benefits. It provides guidance, especially in difficult times like the one we're facing right now during this pandemic. The CFDA provided a constant flow of time-sensitive information, alerting us of two updates from the CDC and governor's office regarding best practices in this current environment. This was a valuable asset, especially during these uncertain times. There were many new protocols put into place, and I'm sure that many of you were extremely busy and understaffed, as I certainly was. Still, it is in times like this that the value of a strong association truly shows its benefits to its members.
One change this year is that members may choose to become a member of the CFDA and/or a member of the NFDA. In years past, you were required to be a member NFDA to become a member of the CFDA. This option was chosen to give members more flexibility and control over costs and choices. I still do believe that the NFDA is an extremely valuable association of which to be a member, as it offers many strong resources to assist funeral directors. Personally, I will retain my membership. They offer many excellent continuing education programs, talented speakers, and a wealth of legal information including several waivers to protect funeral homes in the very litigious society in which we operate our businesses today.
In addition to our chosen path as funeral directors and embalmers, we often quietly manage many other responsibilities behind the scenes. The CFDA and other professional associations are there for our support, so take advantage of it. Time is in short supply when you are a funeral director, but in today's litigious society, we must all spend a few extra minutes to protect ourselves by having a waiver signed for unique situations, such as getting that extra signature from the next of kin for cremations. These small steps can protect our businesses and livelihoods for from many headaches and unintended consequences. I urge all of us to stay current on national and state laws, and protect our industry's image and our firms' integrity. We are lucky to have an active legislative committee headed by Nicole Paquette, John McHugh, and Mike Dugan. They are our voice in Hartford. Before serving on the board, I did not understand the complexity and obstacles that must be overcome to enact any changes in government. Even if the change is in the best interest of the public, in the industry it can be a very slow and unpredictable process that requires a great effort to achieve needed changes. Especially in these times of state budget cuts and shortfalls, our efforts have to be the best that they can be. This is a valid reason why our political action committee is so important in enabling us to reach our goals. For that reason, I would like to thank all of you who support our PAC, and also encourage those of you who don't to consider offering your support in the future. It goes a long way. Furthermore, having the right help on our side in Hartford is invaluable. This is best achieved by you, the local funeral directors, reaching out to and maintaining relationships with local state representatives. Your direct voice in their ear can go a long way in helping achieve needed changes at the government level when our issues are brought to the table.
As we all know, this year has been unlike any other. While many people were stuck at home with no job to attend to, there were not enough hours in the day for us to complete our work. We also had concern for our own love ones at home, especially in the beginning when there were many unanswered questions with regard to safety measures and exposure risks. John Cascio and the CFDA worked tirelessly to get whatever PPE equipment and supplies were available. This was no small task during the beginning stages of this pandemic. John, we all thank you for your extra effort, and are similarly appreciative of the Connecticut Department of Health for assisting in acquiring needed PPE. During a time of crisis, the CFDA believed it was necessary to provide all of the information we could to not only membership, but all funeral directors in the state of Connecticut to make sure everyone in our profession could safely serve families and protect themselves to the best of their ability. We hope that many non-members saw the value in this and will consider joining us in the future. For my funeral home, in the first week of June, it was like COVID-19 turned off. Over the next several months, we only handled several virus-related deaths. Then, about four weeks ago on a Sunday night, we had four COVID-19 deaths in 12 hours. It felt like we are right back where we were in April and May. However, this time we felt more comfortable because we are confident that the protocols and methods that were put into place helped us safely navigate the first wave, and we have the promise of a vaccine in the near future.
This pandemic made us evolve as an industry. Many steps must now be done differently, and some may never return to old ways. Many services are being live streamed, families are signing papers by DocuSign, and some meetings are being conducted over Zoom. Many clients who had never used technology now do so on a regular basis. I believe that in the future, several of these aforementioned items will continue to be used. As funeral directors, we have always been able to adapt, but this pandemic has really put us to the test to adapt quickly. As an industry here in the state of Connecticut, we were very successful in doing so.
As funeral directors, we are in constant communication with the medical examiner's office. It is vital that we have a mutual respect for each other and strive to help each other complete our respective jobs. From my experience as both a Connecticut funeral director and representative of the CFDA, Dr. Gill has been a pleasure to work with and very open to ideas to better serve our members and the families we are helping. Every year, he makes himself available to come speak with our membership and keep us up to date on changes and procedures. He also provides us with many informative statistics from his field. I can't remember a year when he wasn't facing a restricted budget and increased caseloads, and yet he has continued to operate his office at the same speeds and standards.
In closing, even during these uncharted, foreign times, as funeral directors we must protect the dignity of a valuable and fulfilling funeral service for the families who call upon us for our guidance. We must also progress our profession while adapting to the profound obstacles we are encountering, and not just tread water waiting for the storm to pass.
I wish all of you a great year and please don't hesitate to call upon the CFDA for assistance and guidance.
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