Funeral home family recognized for altruism
EAST BRUNSWICK ? Mortuary employees must possess a considerable amount of empathy and goodwill in order to formidably handle death and grief on a daily basis.
With such respect for humanity, it?s not surprising that many of those in the funeral industry are philanthropic, and an especially charitable township funeral parlor has now been recognized for its efforts after years of altruistic contributions.
Brunswick Memorial Funeral Home on Cranbury Road was recently honored with the Community Service Award by the International Order of the Golden Rule (IOGR) for its outstanding endeavors in charity work last year, validating the local business? long history of giving back to the public.
IOGR is a leading funeral association that serves the needs of independent funeral homes. They establish guidelines and standards that these funeral homes must adhere to as expressed in their golden rule credo, ?Service measured not by gold, but by the golden rule.? The organization sponsors awards and scholarships to its members, which are announced every year at a con- ference in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Brunswick Memorial, which became a member of the invitation-only IOGR in 1987 after passing a rigorous application process, bested over 900 other funeral homes across the U.S. and Canada for the Community Service Award. The local business is only the second recipient of the award, which Funeral Director Michael Kulbacki accepted in person at the conference.
The funeral home, which is a family operation, has been exceptionally active in the community in various capacities for a number of years. However, it was the Kulbacki family?s very own Christmas miracle that caught the attention of IOGR.
“We can only hope that the extraordinary generosity and thoughtfulness of the Kulbackis serves as an example and motivates others to support those men and women who have given so much to protect us,” said IOGR President Kevin Opsahl.
Last Christmas, the funeral home donated 150 American Express gift cards to New Jersey National Guard troops who had served in Iraq, according to Business Manager Brian Kulbacki. The idea for the donations was conceived when Kulbacki?s parents, Peter and Diane, who own and operate Brunswick Memorial, worked with the family of a veteran who was struggling to make ends meet.
“We found that no one really helps the troops when they come back from Iraq,” Kulbacki said, noting that the family was also assisted by St. Bartholemew?s Church on Ryders Lane.
Brunswick Memorial wanted to do more, so the Kulbacki family sought out Home Front Hearts, an East Brunswick-based organization that provides resources to the families of veterans. The family the funeral home was working with belonged to this organization, and helped the Kulbackis connect with Randi Cairns, the founder and executive director of Home Front Hearts. With assistance from Cairns, Brunswick Memorial was able to distribute the $25 gift cards among needy veterans in the area.
“We wanted to help make their holidays a little more special,” Kulbacki said. “We received a ton of feedback from the families ? Christmas cards, thank you letters ? but we tried to stay in the background.
“We didn?t do this to win awards or to be praised. We just wanted to give back to the community,” he said.
The donations to the troops is their most recent effort, but the Kulbacki family has a longstanding tradition of philanthropy, going back to before the funeral home opened its doors.
“My father and mother have always been heavily involved in the community, and in fact, they both met in the 1970s when they joined the East Brunswick Rescue Squad as volunteers,” Kulbacki said. “They’ve demonstrated time and again that we owe our neighbors and communities a responsibility to do as much as we can for those who need help. That credo has been ingrained in the fabric of our funeral home and staff.”
Kulbacki said his family has been involved in many charities and causes, including the Ronald McDonald House in New Brunswick and the American Cancer Society Advisory Board. It has also been active in local community centers and congregations like St. Bartholemew’s Church, where the family is currently in the process of sponsoring a program that would replace the house of worship?s kneelers. The funeral home is planning to match any money raised by the church for the project.
“There’s really no specific type of organization that we support,” Kulbacki said. “Any opportunity that touches us, we go for.”
Kulbacki’s parents still support and are members of the volunteer group that brought them together, the East Brunswick Rescue Squad, and Brunswick Memorial helped fund the rebuilding efforts when the rescue squad building burned down in 1999.
Brunswick Memorial also encourages the rest of their staff to give back to the community in any way they can.
“Every employee has an equal opportunity to participate. We want them to show their appreciation to the public,” Kulbacki said of his staff of seven licensed funeral directors. “We try to be as involved as much as we can, and we do our due diligence to follow up with requests that we receive.”
Kulbacki said the local business is currently attempting to obtain a grant that it would give to the township?s Buddy Ball program.
“We’re proud to be in the position we are in the community,” he said. “We have the ability to give back, and we will continue to do so.”