Ernest Gallant, chairman of the co-op’s board of directors, readily admits “Our current lobby is too small to comfortably accommodate the long lineups of people who often come to wakes at our home. As well, when people are entering by the door-full, it is sometimes complicated to make your way back to the exit or to get to the office to make a commemorative charitable donation.”
The board is therefore suggesting a major expansion of at least 30 feet by 30 feet to the lobby at the front of the building. Separate entrance and exit doors would be installed to help better separate traffic. The office would also be moved and set up near the exit doorway.
Others are suggesting the wake room should be expanded a bit. Others believe a chapel would be needed to accommodate families who prefer funeral or memorial services at the home rather than in a church. The board believes the expanded lobby could possibly double as a chapel; all that would be needed are chairs, a mobile altar and a podium.
Those are but a few of the suggestions that are presently in discussion. Gallant says the board is inviting members to offer other suggestions that could better meet their needs. In addition, the co-op has also invited two local construction companies to submit bids for an expansion and modernization that would better accommodate the needs of today’s clients and make the front of the building more attractive.
“People’s needs in regards to funeral services have certainly evolved over the last 25 years, so we have to keep up with the times to avoid losing clients to other funeral parlors,” he adds. “There was a time when the vast majority of our clientele was Catholic. We however serve all denominations as well as those who have no religious affiliation. We therefore have to take into consideration the needs of all of our clients, who come to us from the Richmond, Evangeline, Grand River/Lot 16 and Miscouche areas.”
When it will have studied all of the suggestions and ideas received, the board of directors will prepare an official expansion proposal to present to the members at their annual meeting later this winter. The members will be asked to vote on the proposal.
Luckily, the Evangeline Funeral Co-op has no long-term debt. Its original mortgage was paid off in a couple of years and its small renovations, carried out over the years, were paid shortly after they were made. So, if needed, the co-op could take out a new mortgage to fund the expansion.
However, the board would prefer not to get into debt, if at all possible, and instead carry out some fundraising. Members would be invited to invest further into their co-op and other people would be encouraged to make donations. It is also quite possible that a fundraising campaign would be undertaken to invite people and businesses to sponsor certain portions of the expansion (such as doors and windows, for example).
“Once again, it will be the members who will provide us with the global direction we should follow,” concludes the chairman.
In other matters, the co-op is pleased to have been able to hire a new permanent manager – Adrien Arsenault. Luckily, he already understands the operation of the co-op: he has served on its board for several mandates since the co-op’s foundation in 1986 and he has been a volunteer at the parlor since its construction in 1987. Throughout the years, he has pretty much done everything there is to do at the funeral home, except for embalming and hairdressing.
He replaces Zita Gallant who had been manager for 15 years. Following a lengthy sick leave, she decided to retire from her job at the co-op. In the meantime, several people have filled in to do her work.
Arsenault, who was hired permanently in November, is in the process of modernizing the office’s filing, accounting and billing systems. As well, after helping families make funeral arrangements for their loved ones, he prepares and sends death notices to media and posts them on the co-op’s web site. This site is part of a network used by all of the Island’s co-op funeral homes. The section for Evangeline Funeral Co-op will soon be bilingual since it serves a bilingual clientele.
“I’m at the parlor every Friday afternoon from 1-5 p.m. to take care of the general administration of the co-op,” notes Arsenault. “People are welcomed to drop in during those hours to become a member, to make payments on their shares or to buy a pre-arranged funeral. Or, they can call me anytime and set up an appointment at a convenient time for both sides.”
Arsenault carries the co-op’s cellphone 24 hours a day so that he can directly answer all calls from people wishing to make funeral arrangements for a loved one.
The co-op’s management notes that since the business’s establishment, the co-op has conducted 576 funerals, which gives an average of 22 funerals a year.
The co-op currently has more than 1,000 members. Each had to invest $50 in shares to become a member. Comparatively, non-members must pay $250 more than members when buying a funeral.
CUTLINE: The board of directors of the Evangeline Funeral Co-op will soon propose a major expansion to their parlor in Urbainville. From left are chairman Ernest Gallant, manager Adrien Arsenault and vice-chair Hubert MacLellan.
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