Havering funeral director is community hero

AN INSPIRING Havering funeral company has proved community sprit is alive and kicking after picking up a special accolade at the Archant Business Awards.

West and Coe Funeral Directors, one of Havering’s oldest businesses, beat nearly 100 contenders from across the capital to scoop the prestigious Community Involvement prize at a recent ceremony in central London.

The company, founded in 1903 by friends Edward West and Harry Coe, started life as a construction firm, building homes in Elmhurst and Harrow Drive, Hornchurch, and most famously Wykeham Lodge next to St Andrew’s Church, Hornchurch, with a marginal interest in arranging funerals.

In the 1960s the sideline became the focus, and the company now boasts 16 branches - three in the borough – with more than 50 staff, making it one of the largest independent funeral homes in the UK.

However, under the benevolent guidance of managing director Jeremy West, it is the company’s extraordinary dedication to life outside the business that impressed judges.

Since 2004, 54-year-old Jeremy has run a unique aftercare bereavement programme called Helping Overcome People’s Emotions in Grief (HOPE).

With two full-time professional counsellors the service helps many hundreds of people each year – including those who have not used the company.

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The programme is franchised to several church groups and Age Concern Havering, and the counsellors attend schools in Havering to speak directly to bereaved children.

Incredibly the service is provided free-of-charge with all costs paid for by Jeremy.

“So many people who had lost someone had no-one to go to and it was absolutely heartbreaking,” he said. “We have two elements in the programme: explaining what death is, and befriending people. We as a company care about what happens to people after the funeral.”

He added: “My company have an ethos stemming back to when my grandfather founded our business. We give at least ten per-cent of our profits - and in the last few years considerably more - back into the community.”

Jeremy is also chairman of Hornchurch Cricket Club and has personally organised and sponsored a major youth cricket coaching programme, called Cricket for All, for the last eight years.

This season more than three hundred local children, from the age of eight upwards, attended the club free of charge.

He is also chairman of Living the Dream Trust, an independent trust established in 2007 to help support young talented athletes of Barking and Dagenham, and West and Coe is the major sponsor of Dagenham and Redbridge Football Club.

If that isn’t enough, the company backs every event it is asked to support in Havering, including fundraising events for St Francis Hospice, in Havering-atte-Bower, and the Queen’s Theatre, in Billet Lane, Hornchurch.

Jeremy said: “We are honoured and proud to have been recognised by the award. We enjoy giving back to the community we are part of.”

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