Honoring lives well lived

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Salvos Funerals founder motivated by opportunities for mission.

By Esther Pinn –

It was an unusual career change for Salvation Army accountant Malcolm Pittendrigh, but Salvos Funerals was an idea he couldn’t get out of his mind.

For the past 19 years, Pittendrigh has worked for The Salvation Army Australia Eastern Territory’s finance team. The last eight have been as financial controller for Aged Care Plus. With a solid background in finance, Pittendrigh’s career path was set. However, that all changed when he pitched the concept for Salvos Funerals at a Salvation Army revenue ideas meeting in 2012.

“One of the catchphrases of the Army is, ‘We’re there for when it matters most.’” Pittendrigh said. “During grief and the loss of the loved one, we want to be there because the Army has always been there, whether it’s a bushfire, a flood or a time of crisis. We’re there for those key moments.”

After receiving approval from Salvation Army leadership to explore the program, Pittendrigh spent time in prayer. “Having been with the Army for so long I felt deeply committed to it,” he said. “I understood the financial side well and thought, there’s an opportunity here to serve the community, connect people into corps but also see ourselves set up in a financially sustainable way so we can give back.”

Pittendrigh researched the funeral industry, with the support of Aged Care Plus. Then, at the start of 2016, Pittendrigh and his small team began a six-month trial with funeral company, Magnolia Funerals. The success of the trial then paved the way for the recent soft launch of Salvos Funerals.

“One lady whose mum had passed away said to me, ‘This has been the best day of her life,’” Pittendrigh said about a funeral his team conducted during the trial period. “I think for her, we’d honored her mum in such a special way that gave fresh perspective on a life well lived. There were tears of sadness but there were also joyful celebratory tears at the same time.”

Genuine care for people in a time of grief and crisis is at the heart of the mission of Salvos Funerals. “As Christians, a funeral is a sad process but there’s a celebration and there’s hope, where for some, they don’t have that hope,” Pittendrigh said. “The Army is here to walk them through what can be a really horrendous load. I could tell you countless stories where we’ve been able to pray and come alongside families.”

Salvos Funerals also aims to offer tailored funerals. Throughout the trial period, Pittendrigh found the little details make all the difference in creating special services that honored their clients’ loved ones. They achieved this by working to meet any request from their clients, such as releasing doves at a ceremony or scattering a loved one’s ashes at sea. “Mission is the key, to support families and offer a loved one a personalized and transparent funeral,” he said.

Flexibility and affordability are also priorities for Pittendrigh and his team. An average Salvos Funeral will cost just under $5,000, well below prices offered by other funeral companies. “We pride ourselves on not having marks-ups and being open about what the costs are,” he said. In the future, Pittendrigh hopes to subsidize funerals for those who unable to afford it.

Pittendrigh hopes to connect clients with other Salvation Army services, such as Salvos Counseling, to provide families with support in the grieving process. He also hopes to see salvation stories and connections with corps develop out of Salvos Funerals. “I feel the real added value is that we’ve got other support mechanisms in place within the Army that offer hope in life. It’s more than just a funeral service we provide; there’s a post support available that we can own,” he said.

Any profit raised through Salvos Funerals—which is currently operating throughout Sydney, the NSW Central Coast and Newcastle—will be invested back into the work and mission of The Salvation Army.

See more at salvosfunerals.com.au.

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