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West & Coe pick up community award

West & Coe Funeral Directors have picked up a special Community Involvement accolade in London-wide business awards organised by a newspaper publisher.

The company beat 97 other contenders to take the Archant Business prize for its bereavement aftercare programme called Helping Overcome People’s Emotions in Grief (HOPE).

The company, founded in 1903 by friends Edward West (grandfather of the current managing director Jeremy West) and Harry Coe, started life as a construction firm, organising funerals on the side. In the 1960s however, the sideline became the main focus and the company began to expand. It now has 16 branches and employs more than 50 staff.

The Hope programme was set up in 2004 to help bereaved people cope.

“We were very conscious that, once the funeral had taken place, it was the weeks afterwards where families struggled,” explained Jeremy. “Staff were continually asking me what we could do, especially when funding for local support schemes was cut.”

The service, which is totally free of charge to users –­ all costs are covered by West & Coe ­­- employs two full-time professional counsellors and helps hundreds of people each year, including those who have not used the company’s funeral services. Referrals come from doctors and other health professionals.

The programme is franchised to several church groups and the local branch of Age UK and the counsellors also visit local schools to speak directly to bereaved children.

“It’s no magic wand but it helps enormously with a combination of education – explaining what death is - and befriending people,” said Jeremy. “We run a ‘Tea at 2’ session every Thursday and people can just drop in. Many good friendships have been forged.”

Jeremy said he was “honoured and proud” to receive the award, adding that the company’s stemmed from his grandfather founded our business. “We give at least 10% of our profits – and in the last 10 years, considerably more – back into the community.”

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