MIFFLINBURG — A funeral home in Mifflinburg now offers a way for family members and loved ones who cannot attend to have a presence during services.

Andre Roupp, funeral director at Roupp Funeral Home in Mifflinburg, introduced Hugs From Home and live streaming services. The two new features allow for grieving families to see messages from loved ones who cannot attend services due to travel and indoor capacity orders due to COVID-19.

“We are constantly trying to find better ways of serving our families, especially during these times of COVID,” said Roupp. “Families are affected by it in many ways. We are trying to keep up with different ideas.”

Assistant Funeral Director Hannah Troy heard about another funeral home in the Pittsburgh area offering balloons during services from loved ones to the family. Roupp Funeral Homes first started with balloons but decided it might not be environmentally friendly if families release them after the services.

Instead, loved ones can submit messages. Those messages will be handwritten by the funeral home staff onto a sympathy card and placed on display with a candle that will be lit during the ceremony. The family of the deceased will then be allowed to take the cards and candle home.

“We are finding that attendance is severely restricted,” said Roupp. “Families who are often grieving depend on the gathering of friends and family, but they cannot do that to the extent they want right now. Those who want to share condolences and are not able to or feel uncomfortable attending can submit the messages through our website.”

The Hugs From Home can be submitted to www.rouppfuneralhome.com/hugs-from-home. The service is free of charge, said Roupp.

“It’s pretty new,” he said. “We’re still growing it. Each family we offer it to loves the idea. So far each family we’ve served has found it to be helpful.”

A new sound and high definition video system were also recently installed so services can be live-streamed. New screens are also available to play video tributes, he said.

“People who can’t show up can watch it from home,” said Roupp. “They can watch it live or watch a recorded service.”

The services are likely here to stay, he said.

“This is longterm,” said Roupp. “This is something that is not going away. This is our new normal.”

Other funeral directors

Other funeral directors, including those at Olley-Gotlob Funeral Home in Sunbury and V.L. Seebold Funeral Home in Selinsgrove, around the Valley are not offering anything like Hugs From Home.

Jim Kelley, the funeral director for Kelley Funeral Home in Coal Township, said he has been live streaming services for families when requested for the last three months.

“We’ll continue it,” said Kelley. “It started because of COVID, but won’t necessarily end when COVID ends. It’s been a helpful tool for families.”

Jerre Wirt Blank, funeral director of Jerre Wirt Blank Funeral Home in Northumberland, said livestreaming is a trend that will likely end with COVID.

“I predict everyone will want to come back to the funeral home once more vaccinations are in place,” said Blank. “It’s going to very rapidly return to normal.”

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