The Power of Community Connection: A chat with Einan’s at Sunset Funeral Home

Einans at Sunset Funeral Home Memorial Funeral grave site with American flags and flowers

Organizing events and community outreach programs can be a meaningful way to serve the families you work with and give back to your community while having a positive business benefit. In this interview, we spoke with Holley and Sarah from Einan’s Funeral Home who have honed their skills in event planning and community involvement through their extensive community event program. To learn from their experience and get inspired, watch the interview or read on below! 


Can you tell us about the various community events you do and why you're chosen to be active in this way with the community?

Holley Sowards: The biggest reason, since I started here, that I believe community outreach is super important is building relationships with people in the community and getting to know them. And them getting to know us before a need arises, so I believe that if you know and trust someone if the need arises, you're going to think of them and call them.

And that's the type of relationship we want to have with the community. So they already feel safe before calling us. And we've seen time and time again here that this is probably one of the most unpopular places to come to. You don't want to be here. You have to be here. And you don't like us, you know? And so we have a lot of barriers that we have to break down just to get them to trust and understand that we are real people helping real people. Now, we're very good at it, and we do a great job. But if we are able to be out there on the streets with our community, it just makes things a lot easier. And we all have big hearts. So, you know, it's not really hard to get any of us on board with getting out there and doing something to support the community.

That makes a lot of sense. Do you have families who have attended a service either in person or virtually and then come back to you all in the future for other needs?

Holley Sowards: Yes, we've seen a lot of cross-reference. It's hard to measure the return on investment with this kind of stuff, but we know it's working as we continue to see our volume increase year over year. The other big thing to know is it's not just any one activity that is important, it's all of it. You know, you have to have a diverse portfolio of activities, like community outreach and advertising, and all the things to kind of make it all work.  

But yes, we've had tons of families who have attended our events and then later needed our services, and vice versa. 


You hold events like the Every 15 Minutes, The Butterfly Releases, Echo of the Bells, Memorial Day, and Tree of Remembrance. Can you speak a little about who these events are for and why they're meaningful to bring people together?

Sarah Smith: One of the things we try to do with our events is provide a space for people to come together who are experiencing similar things. For example, when someone experiences a death due to suicide, it's not something that's always talked about in public. It's not always easy for people to find others who have also lost someone in that way and who understand what they're going through.

With events like the Echo of the Bells, we can create a space where people who have lost someone to suicide can be around others who know what they're feeling. It's the same for our Tree of Remembrance event - everyone there has lost someone recently, and they can connect with others who are going through the same thing. And we can provide that space for them, whether they watch virtually through the recordings or whether they're here in person. They can at least be around people who've been through what they're going through.  We can create an area where they're surrounded by people and they all know that they're all there for the same reason.It gives them some type of support outside of their family or local friends.

Do you have any tips for organizing community events for funeral homes?

Holley Sowards: Absolutely. One of the things I've learned in the 10 years I have been here is that you don't always have to do everything on your own. It's nice to partner with people who have the same goals in mind so that it's not all on your plate. Because a lot of times I think funeral homes would love to get involved with a ton of different things. But time is an issue, right?  There's not enough time in the day to take care of all the day-to-day stuff, let alone plan a new event. So, one of my mentors told me to stop trying to do everything on my own and partner with other people.


How do you involve your team to work on events with you?

One thing I've learned is not to make it a requirement for my staff. It's better to make it something they want to volunteer to do because forcing them to do extra work, even if you're paying them, can lead to burnout and a negative outlook on the event. I've noticed that when I require less things as mandatory, more people show up.

 Include their families, and allow them to bring them to some of these events to help out. That helps because now we're not taking away from their family time necessarily. Their family can participate, you know, and so it's lovely. We have things there for the kids like face painting and free hot dogs. 

How do you get the community involved to help?

One event where the community gets very involved is our Memorial Day service. On that day we put up and take down 1000 flags. We have the Boy Scouts and other people in the community volunteer to help with that. For them, it’s their way of service. They tell us they love to volunteer and come out and do it every year as it’s how they give back to these veterans.  

If you offer it to the community to help, you'd be amazed at how many people will respond and want to participate.  It's all about using your resources and trying to work smarter, not harder. You can post on social media and ask for volunteers, and you may even want to offer a little incentive like free pizza or donuts and orange juice for the kids.  So it's just all about using your resources and trying to, I guess, work smarter, not harder. 


Any other tips or advice?

I would definitely say record everything and live stream everything. I mean, why not? Make that a part of everything. Our community expects it from us now. If we forget to mention it on our event promotion on social we get questions coming in ‘Are you going to be recording it?’   And why not make it easy for families to watch it?