MARQUETTE – The Community Foundation of Marquette County is announcing the creation of the Marquette County Emergency Cleaning Fund, which was recently established to provide financial assistance to family members in the community who have experienced a violent suicide. The fund provides financial resources to have the suicide site cleaned quickly and without expense.
Dave Aro, a community member who recently witnessed the violent suicide of a friend, came up with the idea of a fund to help families through this crisis. After speaking with Marquette County law enforcement and EMS personnel, Aro learned there were no resources for family members or loved ones to help with the necessary clean-up following incidents of this kind. Cleaning a suicide site requires biological remediation, which can cost up to $5,000. In addition, families who can’t afford to hire a cleaning service have the unthinkable task of cleaning the site themselves, which is both biologically unsafe and emotionally traumatic.
In his research, Aro learned the rate of violent suicides has increased during the last three years, with an average of eight to 10 such deaths annually in Marquette County. “The police I spoke with were very sad and frustrated that they had nothing to offer people going through this,” Aro noted. “That is what pushed me to want to do something.”
Aro quickly reached out to the Community Foundation of Marquette County to establish the fund to address this unmet community need. Zosia Eppensteiner, Community Foundation CEO explained, “As someone who’s given back to the community for a long time, Dave has a proven track record in terms of recognizing local needs and responding to them. He clearly identified the need and the gap in resources and services and made a strong case to create a fund to address it.”
To set up the program, the Foundation is working in partnership with Six Feet Over, a statewide non-profit based in Detroit that provides financial assistance and other resources to suicide loss survivors in Michigan. In addition, Eppensteiner and Aro met with the Marquette County Sheriff’s Department and the Marquette County Health Department to talk about the proposed initiative. Aro’s idea to help families in need became a wider community collaboration, which is a key factor in the success of launching the fund.
Eppensteiner continued, “Our Foundation’s mission is connecting donors with community needs, along with leading and collaborating to address them. We are doing exactly that with our community partners, who are involved locally and statewide in suicide prevention and ‘postvention,’ along with members of the community who feel strongly about this issue and support this effort.”
With the fund in place, when an incident occurs, local law enforcement personnel will provide family members with information on how to access the program. Then, a family member or designated representative can contact Six Feet Over, which will arrange for a local cleaning service to handle the necessary biological remediation. Requests for cleaning services to Six Feet Over must be made within seven days so that sites can be remediated as quickly as possible. The organization schedules and pays for site cleaning, along with offering other free suicide support for survivors for one year following their loss.
An advisory committee of community representatives from the Marquette County Sheriff’s Department, the Marquette County Health Department, local cleaning companies, Six Feet Over representatives and family members who have experienced violent suicides oversees the fund.
Aro is out spreading the word about the issue of violent suicides and the availability of the new fund, which he invites community members to support. He said, “When the Sheriff’s Department deals with this situation, they say families are in shock and ask them, ‘What do we do?’ Now, we’re giving law enforcement and EMS personnel a tool to help families get through this situation — something which previously wasn’t available.”
Sarah Derwin, Marquette County Health Department health educator and leader of the Marquette County Suicide Prevention Alliance, commented, “Suicide is a public health issue that affects so many in our community. To be able to offer a family or loved one immediate assistance can help lessen the emotional and financial impact of suicide. It can also be very healing after losing a loved one to know that you have support from your community.”
Eppensteiner explained, “People who give to this fund help address an immediate need, along with ensuring this resource will be there for families facing this crisis in the future.”
Community members who wish to support the Marquette County Emergency Cleaning Fund may donate online at www.marquetteemergencycleaningfund.org or send checks to the Community Foundation of Marquette County, with Marquette County Emergency Cleaning Fund noted in the memo line. For further information, please call the Foundation at (906) 226-7666.