In 2007, after working as a funeral director, embalmer and branch manager for a funeral company for several years, Stéphanie Côté decided she was ready to take her career in a new direction. Feeling, more strongly than ever, the deep satisfaction of serving people in mourning, she set up her own company, Voluntas commémoration inc.
The mother of two young children (two and four years old at the time) set up a home office to start with, while she was finding her target clientele. She signed partnership agreements so that she could offer a full range of funeral services, performing most tasks herself – client meetings, decedent care, room arrangements and funeral direction.
She also served as a volunteer on various committees with Partage-Action, the West Island Palliative Care Residence, Femmes d’ici and Outstanding Seniors.
In 2009, Stéphanie’s husband and business partner, Denis Marcoux, joined her to embark on a new adventure. The couple were asked to serve as grief support facilitators with the West Island Palliative Care Residence, an experience that helped to deepen their understanding of bereavement and fine-tune their approach to serving clients.
In 2010, Stéphanie and Denis opened their funeral boutique in the Place Kirkland shopping centre on St. Charles Boulevard in Kirkland, near the dry cleaner, the cruise centre, restaurants and the NOVA second-hand store. The couple soon became part of the daily lives of local residents who were running errands or meeting friends for lunch. It didn’t take long for people to feel comfortable coming in and asking questions. Some found this new approach inspiring, some found it surprising – but they felt free to come back when there was a death in the family or to find information on end-of-life issues. In this location, decorated like a family room in an ordinary home, Stéphanie and Denis meet with clients to plan funerals or take care of pre-arrangements. A selection of urns crafted by local artisans and related products at reasonable prices are available to make things easier.
The business continued to flourish and expand and in 2012-2013 Voluntas began to grow their team of employees to include another full-time Funeral Director and Customer Service coordinator. From the start, the Voluntas team has directed funerals in various houses of worship and to plan and coordinate many touching and unique events; some simple, some more elaborate; in a variety of splendid settings, including family homes, the Fritz Community Centre, Tadja Hall, Trestler House, and the St. Lawrence Yacht Club, to name a few.
In 2015 Voluntas began its search to find an additional location that could serve the community. Throughout the previous years serving families, Voluntas had always made it their commitment to listen attentively to the needs and request of their families and to respond accordingly. One request was the wish that Voluntas had their own venue where families could gather to honour their loved ones. Voluntas heard the requests loud and clear.
In early 2018, following lengthy discussions, The United Church of Canada accepted to sell the property and building of Ste. Genevieve Church in Dollard-des-Ormeaux to Voluntas with the agreement that the sanctuary and offices would remain in place for the congregation to use for their weekly worship and ongoing mission. This partnership turned out to be beneficial to all.
Construction began in July. Voluntas enhanced the surrounding landscape and redesigned the current structure. Throughout the reconstruction period, careful attention was taken in recycling as much of the existing building as possible transforming it into a sustainable structure.
December 2018 the new location opened. Voluntas now has a 6000 sq. ft. funeral facility based on their philosophy of being environmentally and socially conscience. The facility is a complete break-away from the traditional funeral home. Families make their arrangements in a homey setting. The gathering space for events is large, light-filled with everything moveable within. Families appreciate that they are the only family using the premises when they are saying farewell to their loved one. They appreciate that refreshments of fresh coffee, tea and water service are always provided in the gathering room even if catering is not part of the event. They appreciate sitting on the patio amongst the vegetable and flower gardens in the summer.
Meanwhile, the team of dedicated employees continues to grow as Voluntas has earned the confidence of the community and holds fast to their mission of providing unparalleled service. The team strives to earn each family’s confidence. They are available around the clock, day and night. A call will always be answered by a Voluntas employee and not by an answering service.
In November 2019, after 9 years, the Kirkland Boutique was closed and all operations was consolidated at the new location in Dollard-des-Ormeaux.
In 2020, the pandemic shook the world. Nevertheless, Voluntas was prepared as sanitary measures were already a regular part of the protocal; constantly disinfecting the premises, hand gel strategically placed throughout, and the staff observing sanitary practices during events and during the handling and preparation of the deceased. Some additional adaptations were also included to enhance our processes in order to guarantee the safety and ease of mind of the families that we serve. We posted our safety protocol on our website so that families would be informed and could feel safe during face-to-face meetings and events. Our team also made themselves available to take as many phone calls necessary from members of the community who felt vulnerable and in distress during confinement.
By introducing webcast funeral services and serving one family at a time, we have found it to be a significant benefit during the pandemic.
Voluntas continues its mission to serve and assist. Filou, our comfort dog and member of the Côté-Marcoux family, joined the team to offer serenity to both grieving families and staff members. A bee hive hosting honey bees was also installed on our property to promote pollination of our ecosystem. This year’s honey harvest was distributed to the families we served throughout the year. A small gesture of sweetness during these difficult months.
Since 2008, we are proud that Voluntas has established itself as a committed and devoted business that deserves the trust of the West Island and surrounding community.