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September 13, 2020

Outreach for the Cemetery · Hannah Suzanna · MFA, Digital + Media 2021

by Hannah Suzanna
Google Maps Search of Hospices in Alachua County, FL.

For Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery (PCCC), I called hospital chaplains and hospice organizations in Alachua County to see if they would be interested in a staff presentation about PCCC and different body disposition options that many people are unaware of. The cemetery is in an interesting place where more people are tuning into their presence, both due to rising awareness of environmental death practices and due to an increase of death planning as a result of COVID-19. This is leading to them getting more reservations for burial plots at the cemetery, but not the same rate of increase of burials (although burial rate has gone up as well). If the reservation rate stays high, particularly for people who will be alive for 30-50 more years, the cemetery will cease to be a resource for at-need burials. This would be unfortunate because, in addition to being environmentally supportive, PCCC offers the most affordable burial option in the area — only $2000 for the plot and burial. Even with funeral home expenses, someone can have a burial for easily less than $4000 which, while in my opinion should be covered by social programs for everyone, is still strikingly lower than the national average $8000–$10,000.

Costs of Services at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. Slide design by Hannah Suzanna. Image by Melissa Hill, provided by prairiecreekconservationcemetery.org.

Because of this, the cemetery wants to reach local end of life organizations who are working with individuals and families who are likely to have a death soon. However, cold calling for a staff presentation was ineffective. In talking with one of the cemetery’s board members, who also is a lead nurse in a local hospital, she explained that medical workers are being asked to manage their usual tasks as well as new COVID-19 protocols. Scheduling an additional meeting for staff is unrealistic. However, through doing the outreach more organizations became at least passingly familiar with Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery, which will hopefully translate to more of their clients becoming informed about the cemetery and make it easier for the cemetery to connect in the future.

Shrouded body on burial cart. Image provided by prairiecreekconservationcemetery.org.

The most effective form of outreach was inviting people who had already expressed interest in the cemetery to one-off presentations, virtually hosted by PCCC itself. Those invited included funeral home workers, cemetery volunteers who also work in medicine, board members, university students researching conservation burials, and community members. At the end of the presentations we expressed interest in presenting for more groups, and received leads for future outreach. If I had had more time there I would have worked with them on adapting this presentation for continuing education units required to maintain medical licenses such as nursing. This would have required adding a layer of granularity regarding where different body disposition options were available locally, as well as more precision around pricing and environmental impacts for lesser known options (such as donating to a forensic body farm or liquid cremation). 

Still from Freddie Johnson’s presentation, What’s a Body to Do? This iteration was presented on August 20, 2020. Slide design by Hannah Suzanna. Image provided by prairiecreekconservationcemetery.org.

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