Barnes-Sorrentino Funeral Home owner Frederic Sorrentino said that in the business’s 58-year history in West Hempstead, nothing was quite as “treacherous” as the months of March, April and May, as the pandemic reached its peak.
“People were really at the end of their rope, because they didn’t know where to reach out to,” Sorrentino recalled. “We were getting calls from Queens, Brooklyn and all over the tristate area from people who were just asking for help.”
At one point, he said, Barnes-Sorrentino had to turn families away, because many cemeteries and crematories were backed up for weeks. And many people could not attend funerals, Sorrentino recounted, because of the state’s health and safety restrictions.
Distraught by the heartache that many families experienced, he decided to waive fees for private viewings, and offered discounts for the funeral home’s services.
“Treat people as you’d like to like to be treated, as my dad always said,” Sorrentino said. “We did the best we could under the circumstances, and we persevered.”
Last month, HSBC Bank USA honored Barnes-Sorrentino with its Small Business Spotlight Series award, which recognizes small businesses that selflessly serve their communities. In addition, a $5,000 donation was made in the funeral home’s honor to the Disability Opportunity Fund in Rockville Centre, which provides financing, technical services and policy advocacy to increase access to affordable housing and related services for people with disabilities across the country.
“Small-business owners are an integral part of our communities and the economic engine that drives our economy,” HSBC Bank USA Vice President Shaun McDougall said in a news release. “The Small Business Spotlight Series recognizes people for their great contributions to the community and their tireless efforts to achieve success.”
Sorrentino, 63, said it was heartwarming to receive the honor and to know that small businesses haven’t been forgotten. “It’s a great cause for businesses across the country that don’t get a helping hand,” he said. “None of these businesses are looking or asking for a handout; they just want to level the playing field.”
Rosalie Norton, a member of the West Hempstead Community Support Association’s executive board, said that whether Sorrentino is supporting the association or the Chamber of Commerce, he has long been involved in the community. His compassion, Norton said, makes him more than deserving of an award like this.
“When my father and my son-in-law passed away, we used his services,” Norton said. “They went out of their way to be helpful to my family, and I think that just displays his attitude and his philosophy as to how he conducts himself and his business. The company is just an object. It really boils down to the people that are in charge, and he’s been one of the most caring, sympathetic people in the community.”
Sorrentino said that while things have been much more normal since the summer months, he hopes that the coronavirus vaccine, which was set to arrive in all 50 states on Monday, would help decrease the number of Covid-related deaths.
“It was eye-opening, to say the least, for all of us,” he said. “I’m just happy we were there to help families when they needed us.”