Who We Are, How We Began!
The Final Farewell Project Executive Director Dorene Sherman began developing the idea of an organization that will help families with funeral and burial expenses in 2014 while working in her hometown of Toledo at a local cemetery. She met families that came into the cemetery to make final arrangements, and while they would have a plot, they were unaware of the other costs to bury their loved one. This happened more than once and it was always difficult to turn a family away at the most difficult time of their life. She also met a grandmother of a 2 year old child that had been buried in an unmarked grave in a city cemetery for 10 years because the family was unable to pay for even the most inexpensive grave marker. All that they had to show where they child was laid to rest was the cemetery marker with the lot number. Families of children lost to suicide, drug overdose or violence were always the hardest. When there was no money to cover the costs it was hard to watch families struggle to raise the money to pay for the very basic arrangements. Over the years since, there have been many more stories that inspired the vision that The Final Farewell was to become.
As a mental health advocate, Dorene had a passion for years to help remember those who have passed but were forgotten in unmarked graves at State Mental Hospitals around the country. Back in her hometown of Toledo, The Toledo State Hospital had it's own cemetery from 1922-1973. There were 1,994 patients who nobody claimed and were forgotten were buried in unmarked graves. In 2005, The Toledo State Hospital Cemetery Reclamation Project (TSHCRP), under the auspices of NAMI of Greater Toledo. TSHCRP began working in cooperation with the University of Toledo (the owner of the properties which contain the cemeteries) and Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital (previously known as Toledo State Hospital).to restore the two cemeteries and proclaim the honor due the people buried there. Toledo was not alone. There are cemeteries all around the country that are the final resting place for forgotten souls. In Akron there is a similar story. In Schneider Park in West Akron hundreds of bodies were buried there from 1875-1919. The County "poorhouse" or "infirmary" housed many of the infirm, indigent and mentally ill. This was where bodies from the infirmary/poorhouse and those who could not afford burial were buried and left to be forgotten. Now Schneider Park is a beautiful park where children play and families walk their dogs. Neither of these stories are happy and most residents of both cities are saddened by the history. However, Dorene felt that it was time to right the wrongs of the past and to remember those who have long been forgotten in Summit County and all throughout NE Ohio.
It became her goal to ensure that every person would leave this life with the dignity and respect deserved, and that those who have already passed would not be forgotten. She has taken the quote Robert Morrison - “To do what ought to be done but would not have been done unless I did it, I thought to be my duty.” as her personal challenge.
With the help of Manuel Halkias, Kitty Burgett and Jared Sherman they formed a new nonprofit to meet the needs of grieving families and to remember those lost souls who have passed this life forgotten in order that they may now be remembered and honored. In March of 2018, Tamara Cummings came on board as Treasurer and the organization continues to grow with a vibrant Community Advisory Board made up of committed community leaders who share the same vision.
Mother's Day weekend 2018 The Final Farewell Project assisted their first family who waited two years to bury their mother's cremains. It was the best Mother's Day gift to be able to assist a family finally lay their mother to rest.
The organization looks forward to continued growth and to working with families and community members to meet their mission to "NEVER FORGET."