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Continuing Vision: Jeff Holcomb Is On A Mission To Help Funeral Directors Earn CEUs

Original Article written by Thomas A. Parmalee with FuneralVision on May 6, 2024

Jeff Holcomb, 66, has been a funeral director for about 43 years, and he once dreamed of owning his own funeral home. While the stars never aligned for him to do that, he scratched his itch of becoming a business owner in a different way: In 2006, he launched Continuing Vision, which hosts virtual and on-site events with the goal of helping funeral directors fulfill continuing education requirements.

“I did have aspirations at one time of owning my own funeral home, but the cost kind of put that on the side – and I started Continuing Vision in that respect of wanting to be an owner of something,” he said.

A first-generation licensed funeral director, Holcomb became interested in the profession while his father was working on a part-time basis at James Funeral Home on Atlantic Avenue and LaPolla Funeral Home in Canarsie, a neighborhood in Brooklyn. “That is where we lived and that is where I started,” Holcomb said. “I was actually in a Seminary College studying for the priesthood and saw funeral service as a vocation that was more my calling.”

Today, he manages a firm owned by Service Corporation International on Staten Island – Harmon Funeral Home, where he has been for five years. The funeral home serves about 250 families per year. The bulk of his career was spent at Aievoli Funeral Home in Brooklyn, where he worked for 25 years.

Over the course of his career in funeral service, the experience that stands out the most is the death of his son, Brian Holcomb, on July 1, 2022.

“That really changed my perspective,” said Holcomb, who is married and also has a daughter. “I had always been on the other side of death, and now I was that person … it was a gut-wrenching change.” His son died after a battle with cancer, Holcomb said. “He beat the original prognosis by a year,” he said. “We fought hard and tried to give him any chance he could in fighting the cancer … until the end, I did not realize how much pain and suffering he went through.”

His son continued to work right until the end, he said: He was also a funeral director, working at Aievoli Funeral Home in Brooklyn. The ordeal has helped Holcomb connect with families, he said, noting that when someone dies, there may be massive medical debt and all sorts of other challenges left behind. “You try to have compassion for the family,” he said.

As for Continuing Vision, he says he started the company because as a funeral director, he saw that it could be a struggle to earn the necessary CEUs to renew his license. “All the offerings were always through the associations at their meetings, and as a working funeral director, I always had to stay back at the funeral home while the owners went,” he said. “There is not a lot of time to earn CEUs at a small firm if the owner is away and you have to man the store.”

So, he got to thinking that he could not possibly be the only hardworking funeral director in such a situation. “I decided to create something,” he said. “I would move around borough to borough, giving everyone opportunities on different days.”

He knew he was on to something from the moment he held his first event in 2007.

“We did it at the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan on Lexington Avenue,” he said. “We had a military presentation and about 75 people for that first event. It went very well, and it has continued to go very well.”

He suspects that is largely because he’s a funeral director and fairly well known in the profession. “I am one of them,” he said. When you come to a Continuing Vision seminar or workshop, there are absolutely no association fees or requirements to be part of any group, Holcomb said. “We opened it up to everyone, and it worked,” he said.

When he started the company, virtual events were not even considered for CEU purposes, so Holcomb learned how to coordinate on-site events by going out and doing it. As a funeral director, however, it came naturally.

Today, the company hosts both on-site and virtual events that offer CEUs to licensees. “So, for New York, if you need 12 credits, six of which have to be attended and the others which can be completed online, you can do it all through Continuing Vision,” he said.

It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, however, that Holcomb began to get serious about virtual events, he said. For some time, Holcomb focused on offering CEUs and doing events only in New York, but it became apparent to him that funeral directors in other states also struggle with meeting CEU requirements and could benefit from Continuing Vision’s events.

“I then branched out into New Jersey with the help of some speakers,” he said, singling out Edith Churchman, owner of James E. Churchman Funeral Home in Newark, New Jersey, for her assistance. Continuing Vision courses are also approved by the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice as well as in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Indiana. The company recently began offering CEUs for Tennessee licensees as well, Holcomb said.

“You just have to navigate the waters with some of the states in terms of those that accept Academy approval – and find out the nuances of state notification, etc.,” he said.

Asked about CEU requirements, Holcomb said he thinks that every state should have some type of minimum requirement. “You don’t go to a doctor or trust a nurse who doesn’t continue their education,” he said. “You want to keep up with new trends and procedures with embalming and with integrating different things into your services.”

While each state should have some minimum requirements, he believes there should be some leeway for them to customize them as needed. Over the years, Continuing Vision has made a clear impact on the profession, which is not lost on Holcomb. Over 7,500 people have attended a Continuing Vision program either virtually or on site over the years, he said.

The majority of his offerings continue to be an on-site format, he said.

“I tend to gravitate toward restaurants or catering halls, especially during the week as they have availability,” he said. “They offer a nice setting, have nice rooms and the food is usually good.” He added, “I don’t like the idea of having a tray of cookies or paper cups for coffee – most of these places have porcelain cups, and there is not a cheap feel to it.”

Typically, Holcomb designs a program so that it covers six hours, which usually translates into six CEUs. “Even with the inflation and different venues upping their cost, I try to keep the price at $210 for presales,” he said. “The day of the event, it is normally a little higher – about $270. We offer a continental breakfast, lunch and coffee throughout the day – the whole nine yards.”

As he’s built Continuing Vision, Holcomb has gotten a great deal of help from various funeral professionals, including Regan Moreland, a funeral director from Alabama who serves as his digital marketing manager and web administrator.

He’s also been blessed to work with some incredible speakers and instructors, including Kari Northey, also known as “Kari the Mortician,” out of Michigan; John Hill, who works for James Funeral Home in Huntersville, North Carolina and is a funeral service education instructor at Fayetteville Technical Community College in Fayetteville, North Carolina; Dr. Jennifer Lares, a mortuary officer with the U.S. Army who also does consulting work with Larry Stuart Jr. and Raven Plume; and Kelley Romanowski out of Minnesota.

“The most impressive presentation I have seen in recent times was ‘Are You Facing It or Fearing It? The Transformation of Death Care,’ which was presented by Kari Northey and John Hill,” Holcomb said.

As to what presenters can do to deliver a better experience to attendees, Holcomb has some wise words of advice. “Put a little personality into the presentation,” he said. “Just reading from slides puts people to sleep.  You have to mix it up. It’s almost like you are an entertainer when you are performing.”

While Holcomb has built an impressive business, he scoffs at the notion that he’s getting rich running Continuing Vision. “Everything has a cost,” he pointed out. “This isn’t a million-dollar business. Most events I have done have just broken even on covering costs. But it’s not so much the monetary aspect – it’s more about giving back to the profession and giving them the availability to earn their credits. And we have some nice social gatherings.”

Thank you to Funeral Vision for doing a great job highlighting Jeff and Continuing Vision!

View the original article HERE!

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