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Heartwood Preserve’s Pandemic Plan – Phase 1

By Florida's Original NatureCoaster™ Posted on May 7, 2020

As Florida begins to cautiously re-open for business, Heartwood Preserve has shared with NatureCoaster how it is approaching this new phase of the pandemic situation. Although cemeteries and funeral homes are essential businesses, Heartwood Preserve is a small operation and cannot afford to take avoidable risks to our staff.

Heartwood Preserve’s Daily Operations Plan

  • The entrance gate to Heartwood Preserve Cemetery and Nature Preserve is open daily for visitors to the walking trails and those visiting burial sites
  • The Welcome Center is closed to daily visitors
  • Heartwood Preserve continues to serve the community as a cemetery as an essential service (along with funeral homes and crematories)
  • The staff will continue to answer phone calls and respond to email
  • All events and monthly Talk & Tours have been postponed until further notice.

Preplanning Guidelines

  • If you have been thinking about preplanning at Heartwood and now find yourself with extra time on your hands and a To-Do list that you’re checking off, now may be a good time to contact Heartwood Preserve.
  • Preneed arrangements (“Preplanning”) can be done remotely. Forms can be mailed or emailed, details can be discussed over the phone, and payments can be received by phone or mail.
  • The staff of Heartwood Preserve can meet with you at the Welcome Center by appointment. The staff practices social distancing, wears masks, and sanitizes all touched surfaces before & after.
  • Do not make an appointment unless you will follow these safety protocols and are not symptomatic or known to have exposure or high risk to COVID-19. 
  • Selection of a burial space can be done while practicing social distancing (you can walk around and find an area you like) or can be selected at a later date. The use of photos and video to locate a space is also an option.

Burial Services at Heartwood Preserve

Regretfully, Heartwood must make some changes – hopefully temporarily – to the way burial services are held. This is in keeping with the established protocol of social distancing as the best way to stem the spread of this awful virus and keep our families, staff, and the community safe.

  • Instead of a 6 person crew carrying and lowering the deceased, we will have a maximum of 2 crew rolling a gurney or cart (“church truck”) to carry the deceased to the grave.
  • Rather than our customary hand lowering of the deceased, a lowering device will be used.
  • Shovels will be sanitized between handling by staff and family members who wish to assist.
  • No more than 10 people, including staff, may gather at the graveside for the burial, and all must maintain a 6-foot distance.
  • A larger gathering either graveside or in our Welcome Center to celebrate or remember the deceased may be held at a future date for any burials that take place during this time at no additional charge.
  • In the case of a burial of someone who dies from COVID-19, only essential cemetery and funeral staff may be present for the burial.
  • We are exploring options to Livestream or video record burial services, should the family wish.
  • At any time, these rules may change as required by law or recommendation of the CDC, with which Heartwood Preserve will comply.

Heartwood Preserve Executive Director expresses deep sentiment over COVID-19 changes

“It is and will always be our deepest intention to carry out each burial with the utmost respect, dignity, and compassion for the deceased and the family. We are saddened by the prospect of having to implement these changes that will impact the experience of our families on the day of burial,” said Laura Starkey, Executive Director of Heartwood Preserve. “At the same time, the safety and health of our staff and all who attend or visit our cemetery is also important.”

Come out for a walk on Heartwood Preserve’s trails! There are many spring flowers blooming, with more coming out each day. It will help to heal the soul. Promise.

“Thank you for understanding and for supporting Heartwood Preserve and the health and well-being of your community. Remember that this will not last forever,” Laura said.

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