Make up questions:

1 – What's going on at 111 Domedion Avenue this Saturday?

2 – How many RYLA attendees have we budgeted for this year?

3 – Where in the world is Professor Phil?

Members in attendance were Liz, Eva, Gabe, Chris, Rob, and George.

Liz led the Pledge of Allegiance and Chris led us in the Four-way Test.

Gabe then began explaining to our guests that many of our members had other obligations today.  There were actually nearly as many guests in the room as members, so Rob introduced us to Peter and Jeff Banks from Dignity Memorial.  Rob, being a veteran, has unfortunately buried a lot of his friends from the Army, and he marvels when a comrade’s funeral is done well.  He told us that Jeff and Peter take really good care of veterans and their families and they prepare all families for something that we all will ultimately have to face.  Gabe then introduced our other two guests, Gary from the Kenmore club and Gabrielle, who are also both funeral directors with Dignity Memorial.

The Prez then reminded us about our club’s Mix and Mingle at Westwood on April 16th.  He had attended the Cheektowaga Mix and Mingle, along with Gerry and Jorge.  Each club president in attendance talked for a few minutes about their club and Gabe talked about our upcoming golf outing, handed out the info, and asked for volunteers.  He said that 35 – 40 people were there and it was a nice event.

Next, Gabe spoke about RYLA and the early deadline on April 6th for submitting applicants.  Katie’s cousin is interested and Ward and Jerry might also have candidates in mind.  Our club budgeted for two participants this year.

The Prez then asked Chris if we were confirmed to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity on Saturday the 30th.  Chris said that we were confirmed to work at 111 Domedion Avenue, which is near Schiller Park off Genesee Street.  Please be there at 9am if you are able to pitch in and call Chris with questions at 254-0440.

Gabe noted that Professor Phil was again absent and said that we would have to fine him for depriving us so many times of his weekly pop quiz.  He also decided not to do fines, as there were so few of us to collect from.

So we moved on to the golf outing, which is getting closer, as we noticed on the calendar, more so than in our weather, on this first full day of spring.  He thanked Liz, who has already been working so hard, putting together the elements of the mailer and organizing everything etc.  Every golfer will get a goodie bag, so we need prizes and sponsors to help us fill them up.  Gabe mailed out a bunch of sponsor letters and already one attorney has said that he will do it.  He’s also waiting to find out from Blue Cross / Blue Shield and Independent Health about the amounts of their sponsorships.  Our proceeds from the event will go to the American Cancer Society.

Looking down to the bottom of the agenda, Gabe reminded us about our final Habitat volunteer day (until the fall) on April 27th.  The District Assembly will be held in Niagara Falls on May 4th.  Finally, his year as President concludes on June 27th when we hold our installation dinner at Westwood.

The Prez then announced that he had received an email from the Bisons asking if we’d like to attend a baseball game as a group.  They would put our group up on the scoreboard if we got twenty or more people to participate and he suggested that we might also be able to do it with another club if we didn’t have twenty.  Gabe also asked the Bisons if they would sponsor our golf tourney. (editor’s note - atta boy, Gabe!)  He said that they will do something for us, even if they just give us some nice merchandise for prizes or our auction.  Cindy is captaining the gift basket auction and ticket sales for the 50/50.  It sounds as if we will have quite a few volunteers also.  Sponsorships are what we need the most!

George came in directly from the dentist’s office and asked, “Is this real life?”  (Editor’s note – No, he didn’t do that.  Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the joke.  Ask somebody about the internet phenomenon, “David after the dentist” video if you really want to get in on it.)

The Prez then announced the Williamsville club’s Wine, Cheese, and Dessert event at Park C.C. this (past) Saturday.  Global Wines and Spirits and Wegmans are their major sponsors.

We then broke for another delicious and generously portioned lunch.

After lunch, Gabe introduced Jeff Banks, who was actually not Jeff at all.  Peter Banks laughed and noted that there is a family resemblance, though he’s a bit thinner than his brother. Peter noted that he, Jeff, and Gary had all been local owners of funeral homes that still retain their family names, though they are now a part of Dignity Memorial Providers.  Gabrielle is a funeral director at one of the homes in Western New York.

They focus on helping families to prepare for what we all must eventually face – the loss of a loved one.  They have seven homes in the area, including all of the Dengler, Roberts, and Perna homes.  The parent company, S.C.I., is the largest one in their industry, with 1800 homes.  For all of the homes they purchase, they keep the family names and the local staff on hand to retain their connection to the community.  In most cases, the former owners stay on as managers and/or consultants.  In 2000, they sold many of their overseas properties and became a public company.  Now they are just in the United States and Canada.  Tom Ryan, their senior leader, has had them focus on “organic growth” and involvement in the communities that they serve.

Peter noted that their affiliation with so many homes offers the advantage of “portability” for the plans that they offer to families, should they decide to move somewhere that a Dignity home is in proximity to.  They serve over 300,000 families per year, and they always try to figure out how they can improve their service.  For example, they offer a 100% service guarantee.  If there is any part of the service they provide that the family deems to be insufficient, they refund that portion of the charges.  They also offer a personal planning guide for families that helps them get their information organized, making it much easier for the families to carry out the final wishes of the deceased.

And now, with more and more people living in nursing homes, they are focusing on pre-arrangements that help people manage their Medicaid spend downs.  Without a plan in place, many people will unfortunately be forcing their families to pay out of pocket for their final arrangements.  However, with a trust in place, they can hopefully keep up with inflation and avoid the uncertainty and financial strain for their families.

As part of their community service, they also hold free seminars for seniors and support an “Escape School” program that teaches kids how to escape from would be abductors.  Seniors are also able to access education regarding identity theft from their “Safe and Smart Seniors” program.

For veterans they hold seminars about benefits and they also own a duplicate of the Viet Nam Veteran Wall that has the name of each soldier that died in that war inscribed on it.  The wall goes on tour and evokes a strong response from veterans and families that otherwise wouldn’t be able to travel to Washington to pay their respects.  Veterans are also invited to call their company’s “Compassion Help Line,” which is manned by psychologists and psychiatrists 24/7.

Peter wrapped up by saying that they are rated very highly by J.D. Powers and families they serve get feedback “scorecards” to fill out.  If they ever get a scorecard that does not have a perfect score of 10, they always want to know what they could have done better.

Finally, Peter drew his own ticket, and he said, “Give the money to the club!”  He didn’t quite understand that there was another step, but his gesture was very generous.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to draw the winning card from the deck, and the money carries over.