With five requests to the Chelsea Funeral Fund since Dec. 30, including one of Monday for a COVID-19 death, Father Edgar Duarte of St. Luke’s Church warned the City Council that it is in danger of being depleted very soon if no action is taken.
The Funeral Fund was established originally in June to help residents provide a burial for unexpected deaths during the COVID-19, and many from community organizations and City government have referred those in need of funeral money to Father Edgar and the Fund. Families are able to access $1,700 for referrals, and Father Edgar most of the time donates his services to officiate over the burial.
Father Edgar said there had been 12 families that have been helped at a cost of $20,000 since COVID-19 hit, but he said there has been a major uptick in requests since the end of 2020 and the Fund is in danger of running out of money.
“The objective of the fund is to help residents provide a dignified burial of their dead in the worst of times,” he said. “One issue that concerns me now is since Dec. 30 the number of referrals has been increased greatly in a short time.”
He said there were two referrals last week, and two the previous week. On Monday, La Colaborativa Director Gladys Vega sent over another referral for a 60-year-old man that recently died of COVID-19.
“At this time, the Fund was started with $22,000 and is left with $8,000,” he told the Council. “With this man referred today, it will be left with a little over $6,000. We are very concerned that at this pace and with the increased mortality rates because of COVID-19, our Fund will dry up before our regular fundraising efforts can replenish the Fund.”
Father Edgar and Councilor Judith Garcia put an order before the Council to provide $25,000 of City funds to help replenish the Funeral Fund.
That effort was moved to a Second Reading at the City Council on Monday night, with much support from Councilors – including Councilor Damali Vidot.
Vidot said after having spent an hour talking about a $300,000 project to beautify the downtown, things like this just seemed so much more important.
“There are dire needs out there like this,” she said.
“We have a responsibility to help Father Edgar, who is doing the Lord’s work literally,” she said. “I feel what he has done is immeasurable and we should support him.”
Garcia said the Fund is quickly getting depleted, and compared to other expenditures for COVID-19, it’s a very small amount.