Carl Jenkins says an increasing number of families hold unique services to celebrate the lives of loved ones lost.
He says an upgrade under way at Jenkins Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Newton will help the business improve those services.
The funeral home broke ground this week on a new outdoor pavilion. The structure — 61 feet by 30 feet —will include a picnic-style shelter with ceiling fans, outdoor lighting and plumbing for restrooms.
Families will be able to share meals at the grave site of their loved ones after funerals.
Jenkins, who owns the business with his wife Lori, said the original idea was to better serve Hmong families at their traditional funeral services. Hmong is an Asian ethnic group whose families traditionally feast over an entire weekend after a death.
The new structure will be used by many faiths, Jenkins said.
"When I managed Catawba Memorial Park many years ago, we would occasionally see individuals and families sitting around their loved one's grave eating a sandwich," he said. "Food creates great comfort. We want the community to use (the pavilion) and enjoy it."
The funeral home expects pavilion construction to cost about $25,000.
The next phase planned includes a preparation room and receiving hall with a projected cost of $250,000.
"(Families) want space...space to display photos, golf clubs, and maybe even the golf cart, create personalization and create a celebration of the life lived," Jenkins said.
"Mainly, people want the ability to express who their loved one was and what their life was about. It doesn't have to be bigger or longer, just more meaningful than what may be offered at a cookie-cutter funeral firm."
The funeral home has already renovated restrooms and state rooms that have not yet opened to clients.
Still to come are a new drive-through and drop-off area at the entrance of the new receiving hall, and more paved parking will open to guests.
With the building additions and renovations, Jenkins said the facility will be completely compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
Completion of the project is set for early summer 2012.
The adjacent cemetery owned by Jenkins Funeral Home opened in the 1800s, according to information provided by the funeral home. Startown Baptist Church operated the cemetery from the 1950s until 2003, when Carl and Lori Jenkins bought it. Jenkins opened its funeral home in August 2004.