Crematoriums in hard hit areas of New York have a backlog of nearly a month and now, volunteers are coming to their aid.
Mike Lanotte, the executive director for the New York state funeral directors association, told CNN that volunteers are helping to ease the burden that downstate crematories are experiencing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Licensed funeral director volunteers, like 58-year-old Dave Penepent, work with multiple funeral homes to pick up and transport bodies of the deceased.
Penepent, who is also an associate professor of Funeral Services Administration at SUNY Canton, said, “I knew that with the backlog of human remains down in the NYC area there was going to be the need to find a solution to get these remains to a final resting place.”
Some context: In the beginning of April, Penepent created “Hands with a Heart” along with four of his students who have been deputized as resident funeral directors.
“I’m just offering a hand, and what is in that hand? The hearts of the bereaved families. In the middle of our hands is the grieving hearts of the bereaved,” Penepent told CNN.
Over Easter week Penepent said he and his team transported 70 bodies to crematories out of the area to their final resting place.
This past week “Hands with a Heart” transported 150 bodies, and Penepent says he is looking at close to roughly 250 human remains to be transported this week. Most bodies are going out of state to places like Connecticut, Vermont and Pennsylvania.