Nonprofit Funeral Consumers Alliance celebrating 60 years

  • Local volunteers with the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts convene in Greenfield on Monday. From left are Sandy Ward of Holyoke, Jim Couchon of Springfield and Joan Pillsbury of Gill. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Local volunteers with the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts convene in Greenfield on Monday. From left are President Cecile Richard of Springfield and Kate Mason of Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Local volunteers with the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts convene in Greenfield on Monday. From left are President Cecile Richard of Springfield, Kate Mason of Greenfield, Sandy Ward of Holyoke, Jim Couchon of Springfield and Joan Pillsbury of Gill. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/25/2022 11:52:42 AM
Modified: 3/25/2022 11:51:51 AM

GREENFIELD — Staffed completely by volunteers, a local nonprofit that seeks to inform residents about the cost and processes of funeral options is celebrating 60 years of serving the region.

The Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts, which was originally called the Springfield Memorial Society before changing its name in 2001, advocates for “the consumer’s right to choose meaningful, dignified and affordable final arrangements,” according to its website. The membership organization, lead by a seven-member board of trustees, was incorporated in 1962.

“One of the big things we do is a biannual price survey of funeral homes in the area we serve — Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden and Berkshire counties,” explained Cecile Richard, president of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts.

In the most recent report, produced in October 2020, the alliance obtained price lists from 55 funeral homes — out of a possible 85 — and compiled them into a spreadsheet, allowing for price comparisons on immediate burial (with no formal viewing, visitation or ceremony), direct cremation, basic service fees, embalming, caskets and outer burial containers.

Franklin County funeral homes — including Witty’s Funeral Home in Orange, Kostanski Funeral Home in Greenfield and Turners Falls, Smith-Kelleher Funeral Home in Greenfield and Shelburne Falls, McCarthy Funeral Homes in Greenfield, Johnson Funeral Home in Shelburne Falls, and Wrisley Funeral Home in South Deerfield — were among those in the report.

The organization also conducts outreach programs, Richard said, particularly to independent and assisted living locations.

“We have someone go out there and talk to them about their rights and what they should be thinking about for their final disposition,” she said.

Richard said that, according to the organization’s parent company’s review of the information on burial options, Massachusetts ranked the lowest with respect to how much information consumers are provided. Some of the information the consumer’s alliance aims to provide includes an individual’s rights as far as planning a funeral, time frames to be cognizant of, state and local laws regarding burial arrangements, and the costs associated with various stages of the process.

The nonprofit, she said, works independently of the funeral industry.

“The price surveys we provide, those are to give people an idea of what the ranges are; we’re not advocating for any particular funeral home,” Richard clarified. “It’s strictly, ‘Here’s the information that will allow you to choose what’s right for you.’”

Richard said to reach the milestone of 60 years is significant, “especially when (the nonprofit) always relied on volunteers.”

“I think it speaks to the commitment of those volunteers who keep it going, keep it viable,” she said.

For more information on the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts, visit www.funeralconsumerswmass.org. Volunteers can also be reached at 413-376-4747 or by email at fcawmass@gmail.com.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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