All of the men who taught me how to run Evergreen are now buried at Evergreen. They had taught me well, and I would use their lessons to position Evergreen as a regional leader. As we approached our 100th year in business, the company would extend its reach, meet the changing needs of families and offer a unique burial option for the region.
The first half of our tenth decade, the past ten years in business, began as the country was heading into what would become known as the Great Recession. The economic decline started in the United States and led to a global economic meltdown. Roanoke did not experience the great housing boom the United States experienced earlier in the decade, and it did not experience a great decline during the recession. According to the Roanoke Regional Partnership, the region’s Gross Metropolitan Product (GMP) declined 0.3 percent between 2008 and 2009 compared to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which fell by 2.6 percent over the same period. Roanoke was in pretty good shape.
Our first expansion was the Memorial Park in Boones Mill, Virginia. We saw an increase in burials in both parks in 2008 but many of those were cremations. The trend to cremation increased over the decade and shaped our thinking for the decade to come. The Great Recession was coming to an end, and we were reaching out into another new community. Evergreen purchased Green Hill Mausoleum, located in the middle of the Buena Vista, Virginia Municipal Green Hill Cemetery.
We started the planning for “green burial” in 2009, with a wooded section of Mountain View Memorial Park. Work also continued to be done on the Green Hill Mausoleum to bring it up to Evergreen standards through 2010. The development of Forest Rest, the only Natural Burial Park in SW Virginia, literally between Harrisonburg, VA and Durham, NC, would last until the spring of 2012.
Natural Burials are made without embalming, and burial vaults are priced comparable to cremations. Shrouds or favorite blankets can be used instead of a casket, or a simple biodegradable pine box or wicker basket can be used. By the end of 2012 year, we had sold one lot but had no burials.
Evergreen broadened its reach even further near the close of 2012—this time in the Town of Vinton with the stock acquisition of Mountain View Cemetery Company, Inc.
With five properties now under our umbrella: Evergreen Burial Park, Mountain View Memorial Park, Green Hill Mausoleum, Mountain View Cemetery, and Forest Rest, my wife Lisa joined me as a director of the company. We wanted to let the communities where our properties operate know that all were held to the Evergreen standards, so in 2013 we started a new branding campaign highlighting our new name, Evergreen Memorial Trust. As a part of the branding process, each property got its own website and Facebook page as well as common logo and look.