Niagara Gazette

Opinion

July 3, 2014

EDITORIAL: Unmarked graves are unacceptable

Niagara Gazette — Somewhere in the confines of North Ridge Cemetery in Cambria, seven former clients of Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara lie buried in unmarked graves.

It’s a situation that just seems indecent to us.

A former volunteer advocate, Mary Lasky, became aware of the situation following the funeral of a client and has been advocating for gravemarkers ever since.

Opportunities Unlimited officials say the situation is a matter of economics.

“Budgeting is a huge challenge right now,” said Roxane Albond-Buchner, manager of communications for Opportunities Unlimited, said about a month ago when asked about the situation.

She said that the organization’s Medicaid planner tries to work with clients to encourage planning for funeral and burial expenses but “the truth is, not everyone pre-plans,” she said.

Albond-Buchner added the organization has not ignored the issue. “We did reach out to families and employees through a direct mailing in 2008 and were able to purchase one of the grave markers.”

Which leads us to ask: What’s changed since 2008?

We’re apparently not talking about an incredible expense. In January of this year Lasky said she submitted a proposal to the foundation to mark the seven gravesites, after consulting with Niagara Monument Works. A price of $4,809 was offered to mark all seven graves, but a single memorial marker noting the names of all seven clients would cost  $1,164.

It’s worth noting that we’re discussing developmentally disabled people. While those buried at North Ridge likely conquered severe challenges to live fulfilling, productive lives, the simple truth is they couldn’t have done it alone. They needed help, likely a lot of it, from either family or organizations like Opportunities Unlimited.

These seven individuals need help again.

Lasky said she has been trying to convince the organization’s fundraising arm — The Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara Foundation — to place markers on those graves.

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