Coronavirus News: Staten Island funeral home provides free funerals during pandemic

STATEN ISLAND, New York City (WABC) -- A Staten Island funeral home is stepping up during the coronavirus pandemic, offering free funerals to those with no families or those who are struggling financially.

John Vincent Scalia, 76, opened the John Vincent Home for Funerals in 1971, and he says he felt compelled to give back.

"It's a mission, like a religion," he said. "I'm giving back to the community."

The family-run business on Staten Island, and from the very beginning, Scalia said he always he felt compelled to provide free funerals for those who needed them.

But now, during the COVID-19 outbreak, he feels it's even more important to continue carrying out this generous act.

The person must have lived and died on Staten Island, and Richmond County officials say at least six people in that borough have died from COVID-19, along with two others who most likely did.

The no-cost funerals will be held at Resurrection Cemetery, and Scalia points out that right now, time is of the essence.

The Medical Examiner will only hold unclaimed bodies for 14 days, with the next stop being city-run Hart Island in the Bronx.

Scalia is working closely with county Public Administrator Edwina Frances Martin, who is making sure this tradition continues to be carried out seamlessly.

As for the actual services, in the past, volunteers would attend. But with current restrictions in place, that's not possible.

Still, Scalia and Martin say they will be graveside, committed to making sure no one leaves this world alone.

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