Winston-Salem cemetery trying to help veterans, families with sponsorship program

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A Winston-Salem cemetery is asking local organizations to gift burial plans to veterans and their families.

Oaklawn Memorial Gardens hopes a sponsorship program will help families honor their loved ones’ final wishes – in spite of financial hardships.

“We’ve had a veteran that didn’t have a place to be buried, had to be cremated that didn’t want to be because they didn’t have the money to pay for it,” said Ricky Lewis, the Oaklawn Memorial Gardens manager Ricky Lewis.

“We’ve reached out to these different organizations and offered this very special rate, and they’re able to then purchase a burial package which they donate to a veteran and or their spouse,” said Danielle Jesserer, a family services counselor.

The hope is that with enough volunteers, the cemetery will be able to ease the financial challenge some families experience.

“There’s a big difference between an ‘at- need’ and a ‘pre-need,’ Lewis said. “When you hear people that’s done their pre-need, you’ll hear families, ‘Oh my God. I’m glad mom and dad took care of this now' then you’ve got the people that come here at ‘at need’ and [they’ve got to] come out of their pocket for tens of thousands of dollars.”

Lewis has been the manager since July.

To the best of his knowledge, this is the first time the cemetery has invested in this type of community outreach.

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