In every part of the U.S., several hundred bodies each year go unclaimed. Family members do not step forward, either because they do not know their loved ones are dead, or because they cannot afford funeral services. Usually, the state and/or local government pays for these bodies to be interned, placing plaques on the graves that give details about the bodies or marking them only with crosses. If your religious organization would like to get involved and help with these unfortunate souls, you can contribute in the following of ways.
Donating Money to Upgrade Pine Boxes
Many states are only willing to pay for pine boxes, the legal bare minimum in which to bury the unclaimed bodies. Your organization could contribute funds to provide a slight upgrade from pine box to simple casket. It provides a more dignified way for the bodies to be buried.
Ministers, Preachers and Priests Can Say Funerary Services
Because the bodies are unclaimed, no one knows if the deceased had religious affiliations of any kind. Hence, most of the bodies go into the grave without a kind word or thoughtful prayer. A charitable contribution in this case is a funerary service for each individual, with well wishes for the deceased in the afterlife.
Donating Stone Grave Markers
Grave sites that have many unclaimed bodies buried in them are often referred to as "potter's fields" because the dead died with no money to bury them. For those that might only get a wooden cross to mark the heads of their graves, your organization could purchase stone markers that detail the deceased, allowing living relatives to eventually find their loved ones by what is on the marker.
When Bodies Are Finally Claimed
In some cases, when living relatives finally find and claim their deceased relatives, they do not have the money to exhume the bodies and rebury them elsewhere. Your organization could also step in and help these impoverished survivors with the costs of relocating the deceased and with a proper headstone. When the deceased are claimed but not removed from the potter's field, the government can actually force the surviving family members to pay, incurring punishment on top of grief and financial distress. Your organization can provide a great deal of relief.
Contacting Funeral Homes to Help
To get involved, you can contact a local funeral home like Louis Suburban Chapel's Inc. The funeral directors can place you on a list of organizations that are willing to help with funeral services and expenses. They will notify you whenever an unclaimed body comes into the funeral home, and then your organization can decide how to best help the deceased.