In February, 2006, George Clark’s company Pure Country Weavers was commissioned to create a tapestry blanket in tribute to the late Coretta Scott King. The tribute blanket, featuring an image of Mrs. King, was to be presented at her funeral the next day. They rose to the challenge and delivered the custom-made photo tapestry within 24 hours.
After that experience, Clark envisioned a new line of textiles his family business could produce – Tribute Blankets. These woven tapestries translate photo images of a deceased loved one into an heirloom quality blanket. When a distressed mourner wraps him or herself in one of these special blankets, they feel comfort and find strength that heals grief.
In 2011, Clark brought Tribute Blankets to the annual meeting of the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) in Miami. He introduced grief counselors at the conference to the pain processing power of these blankets. He soon realized the best way to reach grieving families is where the grief journey starts – at the funeral home.
Fast forward four years. At the 2015 convention of International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA) in San Antonio, ADEC also happens to be meeting at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on the exact same dates in April. ADEC’s grief counselors and death educators were invited to attend the ICCFA expo.
At the Funeral Home Gifts booth, noted grief educator Dr. Bill Hoy spoke glowingly of the Tribute Blankets he saw featured in online videos of funerals he studied for his scholarly ADEC presentation. As George Clark found out, the best way to reach grieving families and do the most good is to start at the funeral home.
The funeral homes that offer Funeral Home Gifts’ Tribute Blankets benefit in many ways. When a funeral director gives a grieving family a personalized Tribute Blanket, the emotional reaction provides a lasting positive memory of the funeral home. The results include word-of-mouth referrals, business growth and income from blanket reorders.
Licensed funeral director Becca Temrowski of Temrowski Family Funeral Home in Michigan emphasizes personalization. For the past three years, she has given Tribute Blankets to families at every service. During the arrangement conference, she helps the family visualize a service focused on the person through the Tribute Blanket. As a result, she converts what might start as a direct cremation request into a memorial service.
Temrowski said, “I have families choose my funeral home specifically because I offer the Tribute Blankets. It is by far the best, most thoughtful and innovative thing I have done to increase revenue, transition services and uphold my strong reputation.”
David Navarrete, with a 20-plus-year career in death care, had great experiences using Tribute Blankets. He joined Funeral Home Gifts last year as Senior Vice President. “We not only created memorable experiences for our families, we also built loyalty and trust for our business.”
As a tool to help the bereaved, the Tribute Blanket is a comfort to people and pets. One testimonial at the Funeral Home Gifts website focuses on a Black Labrador whose master had died. When the blanket with Dad’s image arrived, the dog, which had been listless for months, started barking and wagging his tail. He jumped on the blanket and claimed it as his own. The family had to get another blanket for Mom.
For those humans who miss a beloved companion animal, the company also makes blankets that feature pets. The business building power of a Tribute Blanket can be used by pet loss providers as well as funeral homes.
At the 2015 ICCFA expo, Funeral Home Gifts introduced casket cap panels to match the Tribute Blankets. The cap panels expand the range of personalization options funeral homes can offer their families.
The cap panel is fully customizable with photos, theme images, and text. Once the image is composed, it is dye-sublimated, or printed, on a satin material that is attached to a rigid foam board, customized to fit any size casket.
Megan Clancey, Director of Sales, said, “A funeral home in Orlando that’s been using the cap panels have raved about these. Families walk in and it’s one of the first things they see. They’re so vibrant and bright.”
“When the cap panel goes in the casket, we were thinking it would be buried with the individual, but the bottom line is, they go home with the families who keep them as a personalized memento of their loved one,” said Karl Weisenbeck, President of Funeral Home Gifts. “Also, we are getting re-orders on the cap panels.” The company offers frames for the panels as well.
The company uses a simple online ordering system that allows funeral directors to upload a photo, check its quality, add custom borders in 1,000 different designs, and place text (such as name, DOB, DOD), religious symbols and Scripture passages. The ordering process takes about five minutes to complete.
After Funeral Home Gifts receives the order, they weave the blanket that day. They use eight and a half miles of six different cotton thread colors to create the images within the fabric. The same day, it’s shipped out for next day delivery, all at a total cost of $84.99 for the blanket. The process for ordering a cap panel is just as quick, and the company offers a bundle price for both items.
Funeral Home Gifts has seen a meteoric rise in the number of Tribute Blankets created and sold. From 2011, when they shipped 25,000 blankets, the company has shipped 200,000 as of April 2015. Learn more about Tribute Blankets and cap panels at www.FuneralHomeGifts.com or contact them directly at 800-233-0439.
About the Author
Gail Rubin, CT, is a Certified Thanatologist (a death educator) and Certified Funeral Celebrant. She is the host and author of the award-winning TV show and book, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die and creator of Mortality Minute radio spots. Her newest free eBook is Celebrating Life: How To Create Meaningful Memorial Services, With Templates and Tips. Sign up for her free newsletter at www.AGoodGoodbye.com.