West Des Moines, IA – Homesteaders Life Company, a national leader in pre-need insurance funding, has announced a new strategic relationship with Benekiva, LLC, a West Des Moines, IA-based software company focused on providing seamless technology solutions for financial services. Together, the two companies will work to offer a more efficient and effective claims process for Homesteaders’ customers.

“What impressed us most about Benekiva was their ability to modernize our systems at a reasonable cost, with limited involvement of our internal resources and within a very short window of time,” explained Steve Shaffer, Homesteaders President and CEO. “Homesteaders is excited to embark on this new opportunity. We believe investing in insurance technology is invaluable to our customers and the funeral profession. I am confident this relationship will benefit both companies well into the future.”

“Too many insurance companies rely solely on legacy systems that force them to continue to use outdated and ineffective technology,” explained Brent Williams, Founder and CEO of Benekiva. “Our software is designed to offer a better solution – one that streamlines business processes, provides quicker access to claim information and digitizes workflows without the added expense of upgrading legacy systems. We are pleased to work with Homesteaders, a company that shares our desire to invest in innovative technology.”

The two companies are working together to fine-tune the platform and integrate it into Homesteaders’ existing business model, with hopes to deploy it to customers later this year.

Homesteaders Life Company is a national leader providing products and services to promote and support the funding of advance funeral planning and end-of-life expenses. Visit to learn more.

Benekiva, LLC, was founded in 2016 to offer smart, sleek and powerful technology solutions for life insurance providers. It has since developed a comprehensive digital platform to service many of the document management, compliance and claims issues related to the insurance industry. The company is headquartered in West Des Moines, IA, with a satellite division in Winston-Salem, NC. Visit to learn more.

2018 NeFDA Convention

May 2018 – Members of the Nebraska Funeral Directors Association (NeFDA) celebrated 132 years of funeral service during their 2018 Annual Convention, May 8-10 at the Embassy Suites in Lincoln.  More than 120 attendees participated in continuing education sessions, met with exhibitors in a full exhibit hall and enjoyed networking activities. Educational sessions included: presentations about insurance; understanding the Catholic funeral liturgy; generational differences in the workplace; cremation; formaldehyde exposure; helping families cherish the memories; and a Nebraska Issues Forum.

A memorial service was held honoring those in the funeral industry who have lost a loved one. Later, members enjoyed an evening banquet to honor outgoing president William Cutler IV from Heafey Heafey Hoffman Dworak Cutler Mortuaries in Omaha and to welcome the new president Misty Brouillette from Metz Mortuary in York. The entertainment for the evening was magician Todd Lamanske.

During the annual meeting, Cutler read a proclamation from Governor Ricketts, congratulating NeFDA members on their 132 years of service to Nebraska citizens and proclaiming the week of May 6-12, 2018, as Funeral Service Professionals Week. NeFDA members also elected a new secretary, Paul Seger from Colonial Chapel Funeral Home in Lincoln. The members of the 2018-19 NeFDA Board of Directors are:

  • President: Misty Brouillette, Metz Mortuary, York

  • President-Elect: Brittney Voss, Dugan Funeral Chapel, Fremont

  • Secretary: Paul Seger, Colonial Chapel Funeral Home, Lincoln

  • Treasurer: Jim Wintz, Wintz Funeral Home, Hartington

  • Immediate Past President: William Cutler, IV, Heafey Heafey Hoffman Dworak Cutler Mortuaries, Omaha

  • Director and District 1 President: Marvin Olson, Forest Lawn Funeral Home, Omaha

  • Director and District 2 President: Brad Perdue, Zabka Funeral Home, Seward

  • Director and District 3 President: Tray Van Metre, Brockhaus Funeral Home, Creighton

  • Director and District 4 President: Michael Butler, Livingston-Butler-Volland Funeral Home, Hastings

  • Director and District 5 President: Cody Bridgman, Bridgman Funeral Home, Scottsbluff

  • Director and District 7 President: Craig Draucker, Draucker Funeral Home, Ogallala

  • Director and District 8 President: Trent Wagner, Solt-Wagner Funeral Home, Central City

About the NeFDA: The Nebraska Funeral Directors Association consists of members from across the state.  The association promotes high ethical standards and helps its members provide meaningful service to families. 


West Des Moines, IA – Homesteaders Life Company, a national leader in pre-need funeral funding, has announced the release of the Social Media Guide for Funeral Professionals. This free resource was developed in partnership with DISRUPT Media and features a step-by-step guide to attracting and retaining client families on social media. “Social Media is essential to a contemporary marketing mix,” said Dean Lambert, Homesteaders Senior VP-Marketing & Communications. “There are so many opportunities available online for funeral homes to connect and engage in meaningful ways with families, and this guide will give them a leg up on their competition.”

Funeral professionals who are just starting to use social media will find a step-by-step guide for setting up a Facebook business page along with tips and examples of the type of content that will resonate with their communities. More advanced social media users will benefit from information on Facebook advertising, pre-need lead generation and suggestions for other social media platforms to explore, including Instagram and messaging apps.

“Our goal was to give funeral professionals everything they need to start and manage a Facebook page for their funeral home business,” said Ryan Thogmartin, owner and CEO of DISRUPT Media. “This guide is unlike anything else available for funeral service.”

The 30-page resource also includes information on how to create a one-of-a-kind social strategy, as well as tips for incorporating video into a marketing plan, what to expect from the future of social media and a straight-forward glossary of common social media terms.

A free copy of the Social Media Guide for Funeral Professionals is available at

Homesteaders Life Company is a national leader providing products and services to promote and support the funding of advance funeral planning and end-of-life expenses. Visit to learn more.

DISRUPT Media is a full-service social media management and content agency dedicated to the funeral profession. The agency provides creative ideas and a simple plan to produce a social media presence that is completely unique for each client. Visit to learn more.

Make the Most of Your Investment in Key Employees

Many business owners train and mentor employees for the long term, only to have them leave in two or three years. Have you experienced the loss of a promising employee? If so, then you know the costs related to turnover are high and getting higher as jobs become more specialized. Even if you offer the usual employment benefits, and perhaps even a retirement plan, that may not be enough to retain these important employees in today’s competitive job market. Younger workers, in particular, don’t want to wait until retirement for a bonus —they often think in shorter terms. You also may have certain key employees who you want to let know how special they really are to your operation.

Questions to ask yourself about your key employees:

  • Who keeps the business running smoothly when I am here? When I am not here? Do I want them to stay until their retirement? Or until my retirement?

  • What is keeping them here? Job satisfaction? Financial security? A relationship with me or other employees? Will they stay because of their current benefits? If not, what will it take to keep them?

  • Is there a way, without raising their salaries now, to give them an incentive to stay?

  • Can I offer an additional benefit to these specific employees without offering it to all my employees?

How can I provide an incentive to stay to my most valuable employees?

An Employee Private Bonus Plan* will give your best employees a reason to stay. It is a carefully thought-out promise to pay a selected key employee specified bonus amounts at specified times for continuing employment with your company. A sample bonus schedule might include a $5,000 bonus after five years, $7,500 after 10 years, and $10,000 after 15 years. This bonus is generally tax-deductible to the business when paid. With this kind of plan, key employees don’t have to wait until retirement to see their reward.

You can design the plan to get a maximum retention value. The agreement states that if your employee is not performing their duties satisfactorily or is no longer employed with you at the time of a scheduled bonus, no payment is made. This type of bonus plan is appreciated by all employees and is especially attractive to younger employees who are just starting their careers.

How do you get the money to pay bonuses?

You finance bonuses with a universal life insurance contract.

  • When using life insurance as a funding vehicle, the business is the owner, payer, and beneficiary of the policy.

  • Cash values are owned and controlled by the business, are shown as an asset on the books, and generally grow tax deferred.

  • Insurance premiums are generally not tax-deductible to the business; however, the bonus is generally tax deductible when paid to the employee, once the employee has fulfilled the required number of years.

  • Using cash value life insurance as a funding vehicle also provides the business with Key Person coverage in the event of the employee’s death. The life insurance proceeds can be used to hire and train a replacement, and to replenish lost profits during the transition perio

A common variation includes offering a percentage of the death benefit to the employee’s personal beneficiary through a written Endorsement Split-Dollar Agreement. This provides needed personal, tax-free death benefit coverage to your key employees for pennies on the dollar. For this tax-free death benefit, a small term insurance cost is reported on your employee’s W-2 each year.

You may invest countless hours and dollars training and mentoring young employees. Your talented employees will be more likely to stay if you challenge them with responsibility and offer opportunities that may not be available from competing employers. An Employee Private Bonus Plan may help you get the best return for your investment in their future.

* All products and services may not be available in all states

Visit for more details.

Stay on Top of Old Medications This Flu Season

LINCOLN, NE (February 27, 2018) – Fever. Chills. Cough. Aches. It’s flu season, and one of the worst in recent history.

If you or someone in your family has suffered through the flu, you likely relied on over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help ease flu symptoms. Products like cough medicine, pain relievers, and decongestants may be available without a prescription, but should still be disposed of properly to protect human health and the environment.

Unused or expired medications can be taken back to one of 320 pharmacies participating in the Nebraska MEDS Initiative for proper disposal. These pharmacies across Nebraska will take back your medications free of charge, no questions asked. Find a participating pharmacy at

According to Marcia Mueting, PharmD, “People may not know that the pharmacies participating in the Nebraska MEDS Drug Disposal Initiative can help consumers get rid of unwanted over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Even though these medications are available without a prescription, they still contain potent drugs which can cause poisonings in children or pets, if they are available.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, OTC medications have the potential to be misused, which can lead to addiction and overdose. To keep these and all medications from falling into the wrong hands, ensure they are safely and securely stored in your home and periodically check your medicine cabinet for expired prescription and OTC medications.

“Many non-prescription drugs used to treat the flu contain the cough suppressant dextromethorphan. Dextromethorphan is commonly misused or abused by taking large doses in combination with alcohol or marijuana to get high,” says Mueting. “As soon as someone decides that they no longer need an OTC medication, they can safely dispose of it by taking it to one of the participating pharmacies for disposal.”

OTC and prescription medications can contaminate waterways – rivers, lakes, and groundwater – when flushed, put down the drain, or thrown in the trash. Most water treatment facilities do not have the capacity to remove these compounds. Instead of flushing or trashing those old medications, take them to a Nebraska MEDS Initiative pharmacy. Find a participating pharmacy near you at or call the Nebraska Regional Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. These pharmacies accept medications for proper disposal, giving consumers an easy and safe method of keeping medications out of the environment and from falling into the wrong hands.

“Since the MEDS initiative went statewide in 2016, over 50,000 pounds of medications have been returned to pharmacies across the state,” said Hallie Schimenti, MEDS Project Coordinator. “Every day is take-back day in Nebraska.”

The Nebraska Medication Education on Disposal Strategies (MEDS) Coalition educates Nebraskans about drug disposal and provide safe ways to dispose of them to better safeguard the environment and protect public health. The Coalition includes the Nebraska Pharmacists Association, The Groundwater Foundation, Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department, Lincoln Police Department, Coalition Rx, Lincoln Public School Nurses, LiveWise Coalition, Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Hospital Association, Nebraska Medical Association, Nebraska Recycling Council, Nebraska Regional Poison Center, Safe Kids Lincoln-Lancaster County, KETV, Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, and Nebraska State Patrol. The Nebraska MEDS initiative is funded by the Nebraska Environmental Trust and the Nebraska Legislature.

Nebraska National Guard Museum – Price of Freedom Display

The NeFDA Board is excited to sponsor the Price of Freedom display at the new Nebraska National Guard Museum in Seward. This is a permanent exhibit at the museum that will represent the true price of freedom – those lives lost in service to our country. The board has contributed an additional $10,000 toward the project for a total of $20,000. NeFDA strongly supports contributions from members to help cover the remaining balance. Staff from the Museum are available to provide more information about the project. If you would like to be a sponsor of this unique project, please fill out the form and send to the NeFDA office. You (or your company) will be featured on a plaque on the display if you choose to sponsor. Once the project is completed, NeFDA would participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony with the museum. Time is running out – contact the office today! The deadline is February 28, 2018.

The Dodge Company Welcomes Tawnia Steinhoff and Kris Hilton to Its Team of Sales Representatives

Billerica, MA – The Dodge Company is pleased to announce the addition of Tawnia Steinhoff and Kris Hilton to its dedicated team of sales representatives. If their time spent in Billerica in August is any indication, both are on track to provide excellent service to the funeral service professionals in their respective territories.

Tawnia succeeds Grant Robinson, in a territory which includes north and western Iowa, Nebraska, middle North Dakota and eastern South Dakota. She attended Kansas City Community College, graduating in 2001 with an Associate in Arts Degree in Applied Science – Mortuary Science. Tawnia became licensed as a funeral service practitioner in 2002. Prior to being employed as an embalmer and technical adviser for the Iowa Donor Network for three years, she spent seven years with Bertrand Funeral Homes of Knoxville and Pleasantville as an embalmer and funeral director.

On a personal note, Tawnia grew up on a farm, what she describes as a cow/calf operation in a small northwestern Iowa town. She enjoys spending time with friends, traveling, gardening, helping on the family farm and her horse Diablo.
Kris Hilton has taken over the territory previously served by Fred K. Gifford, III. Kris’ territory includes Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, central and northern Massachusetts and east central New York.

Kris is originally from Webster, Massachusetts, but has lived in Worcester for many years. Professionally, Kris is a Massachusetts licensed funeral director and embalmer. In recent years, Kris has been employed by O’Connor Brothers Funeral Home in Worcester.

When not working, Kris enjoys trying different kinds of foods and traveling. He has a Boston Terrier named Elmo who you may see accompanying Kris on his travels.

Tim Collison, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, said “Tawnia and Kris are excellent additions to the Dodge sales representative team. Both individuals combine high technical skills with a customer service mindset, which is the foundation for Dodge representatives and a pillar of the Dodge Company.”

Regional West Birth and Infant Care Center Receives Donation to Help Grieving Parents

Representatives of Connected Forever and Dugan-Kramer Funeral Chapel present a CuddleCot™ to staff of the Regional West Birth and Infant Care Center. From left: Julie Meier, RN; Catharine Houstoun, RN; Sara Kraft-Leavitt, RN; Jesse Pella holding Frannie Pella; Tracy Pella holding Maybry Pella; Cooper Pella; Erika Carmody, MSN, RN; Melissa Schaub, MSN, RN; Kayla Sorell, BSW; Tammy Lutz, Mary Beth Mau.

Representatives of Connected Forever and Dugan-Kramer Funeral Chapel present a CuddleCot™ to staff of the Regional West Birth and Infant Care Center. From left: Julie Meier, RN; Catharine Houstoun, RN; Sara Kraft-Leavitt, RN; Jesse Pella holding Frannie Pella; Tracy Pella holding Maybry Pella; Cooper Pella; Erika Carmody, MSN, RN; Melissa Schaub, MSN, RN; Kayla Sorell, BSW; Tammy Lutz, Mary Beth Mau.

Scottsbluff, Neb., – There is no cure for the unspeakable pain of the death of an infant, but a new device called a CuddleCot™ donated to Regional West’s Birth and Infant Care Center by Dugan-Kramer Funeral Chapel may help bereaved parents as they prepare to part with their child.

 The CuddleCot is a small cooling device that can be placed in a bassinet or crib to help preserve a baby’s body; allowing the parents more time to grieve in the privacy of their hospital room. Without a cooling process, a baby’s body quickly deteriorates after death.

Having provided services for a number of families that lost babies in recent months, the staff of Dugan-Kramer was looking for a way to do more.

“We saw a need to help parents through the grieving process, so we began researching ways to help bereaved families,” said Tammy Lutz, Managing Funeral Director at Dugan-Kramer Funeral Home in Scottsbluff.

An article on the Nebraska Funeral Directors Association website led Lutz and funeral director Mary Beth Mau to information about a Nebraska-based nonprofit organization called Connected Forever, which was established three years ago in Tecumseh, Neb. With the assistance of Connected Forever, Dugan-Kramer Funeral Home was able to purchase a CuddleCot for the Birth and Infant Care Center.

“The CuddleCot gives the gift of time to parents and families,” said Tracy Pella, president of Connected Forever, and mother of a premature baby who died at birth.

She traveled to Scottsbluff from eastern Nebraska with her husband Jesse, and three young children to present the CuddleCot to the nursing staff at Regional West. It was the fifth CuddleCot donated to a Nebraska hospital through Connected Forever.

Pella, a school psychologist and licensed mental health therapist at Bennett-Paylmyra Schools in eastern Nebraska, and her husband, a farmer, founded the organization after the birth of their twin sons. Cooper and Cohen were born at 23 weeks, 4 days gestation on June 1, 2011. Cohen died the same day, but Cooper, weighing only 14.8 ounces, spent 134 days in the NICU and is now an active 6 year old. The Pellas said they started the organization “so that no family has to endure a similar journey alone.”


Connected Forever supports families who have experienced premature birth or infant death by providing resources, education, and emotional support. Managed by a small board of professionals who are family friends, the organization has grown tremendously in three years through the dedication of volunteers and donors. It now provides bereavement support and NICU support for families of any baby born in Nebraska. Programs include funeral burial assistance, financial assistance for NICU expenses, peer mentor support, CuddleCot donations, online support, special events, and community outreach.

The donation of the CuddleCot was welcomed by the staff of the Birth and Infant Care Center which grieves with bereaved parents for the babies they did their best to nurture. It is an important addition to the personal mementos the nursing staff provide as a remembrance − the baby’s footprints on a card, a lock of hair preserved in a memory box, and a keepsake cast of the baby’s hands and feet.

“This will make a tremendous difference by allowing parents a few more moments or hours with their baby. We’re very grateful to Dugan-Kramer for this donation,” said Erika Carmody, MSN, RN, director of the Birth and Infant Care Center and Pediatrics at Regional West.

For more information about Connected Forever, visit

Regional West Health Services in Scottsbluff, Neb., is the parent company of Regional West Medical Center, a 182-bed regional referral center and one of three Level II Trauma Centers in the state. As the region’s only tertiary referral medical center, Regional West offers care that spans more than 32 medical specialties provided by over 28 physician clinics. With nearly 300 providers, and over 2,000 employees, Regional West provides comprehensive and innovative health care services for the people of western Nebraska and the neighboring states of Colorado, South Dakota, and Wyoming.