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University of Iowa News Release

April 4, 2005

UI Students Create Funeral Resource Guide For Social Workers, Public

Making informed decisions about final arrangement options and costs in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and surrounding communities will be easier for many families thanks to the efforts of social work students at the University of Iowa.

A group of seven undergraduates has spent the semester collecting information about making final arrangements and planning a funeral. The results of their research are compiled in "The Funeral Resource Guide," the first guide of its kind in this area. The students will unveil the guide and share it with area social workers, health care professionals, and the general public on Friday, April 15, at 9 a.m. at the Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A. The guide is free and also will be posted later this month on the UI School of Social Work website,

The guide includes information about pricing from more than 30 area funeral homes, veteran's burial benefits, Iowa laws regarding final arrangements, federal regulations regarding the sale of funeral-related merchandise, decisions that need be made regarding final arrangements and ideas from local funeral directors to help personalize services.

"Our target audience for the Funeral Resource Guide includes social workers who work in hospitals, nursing homes and in hospice programs, where 80 percent of deaths occur," said Mercedes Bern-Klug, assistant professor of Social Work, who served as faculty supervisor for the project. "The information in the Resource Guide will enhance social workers' ability to help family members at this stressful time."

Debra Tomlinson, a UI junior from Arlington Heights, Ill., said the project opened her eyes to the variations in costs and services available. Families facing the loss of a loved one do not want to spend time comparison-shopping, she said. "We hope families of people who are approaching death will find this information useful in planning a funeral that meets their emotional needs and is within their financial means," Tomlinson said.

The students who completed the guide are UI juniors in the Social Work Processes class taught by Sara Sanders, assistant professor of social work. In addition to Tomlinson, members of the group included: Corey Arkush, from Vernon Hills, Ill.; Allison Juhl, from Greene; Joelle Koon, from St. Charles, Ill.; Tara O'Brien, from Cedar Rapids; Ashly Overturf, from Bettendorf; and Megan Roth from Donnellson.

Free copies of the Funeral Resource Guide will be made available to the public at the April 15 presentation. For additional information contact Bern-Klug at 319-335-1265.

The UI School of Social Work is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,; Program: Mercedes Bern-Klug, 319-335-1265

OTHER INFORMATION: Project leader Debra Tomlinson and faculty supervisor Mercedes Bern-Klug are available for interviews about the Funeral Resource Guide. They can provide media with copies of the guide in advance of the April 15 presentation.