Selected Independent Funeral Homes has named Joshua Nathaniel Blake of Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home in Waco, Texas as the 2023 recipient of the NextGen Professional of the Year Award.

Recipients are presented with a physical award and receive complimentary registration to participate in the NextGen Seminar. The award highlights career achievements and community involvement of funeral professionals under the age of 50.

As chief operating officer at his firm, Blake is constantly helping improve and enhance the business. During the pandemic, he pivoted regular operations to serve the community while retaining as many team members as possible. He coordinated staff vaccinations while refining virtual arrangements and livestreaming services. He also managed critical website, software and social media upgrades at the firm.

Blake’s firm has thrived under his leadership, receiving the Small Business of the Year Award in 2021. It continues to receive the Best of Waco Award from the Wacoan Magazine and was voted the top funeral home in Waco by Locals Love Us.

An active member of Selected, Blake has demonstrated leadership within the association through his involvement on Selected’s board of directors. He served as board president from 2021 to 2022. He has also served on the NextGen Advisory Group and the Programming Work Group. He graduated from the Selected Leadership Academy in 2018 as a member of the SuperNova Class.

The NextGen Professional of the Year Award is a meaningful honor for Blake. “I remember attending my first NextGen seminar and watching David Speaks receive the award,” he said. “You could feel the joy in the room for someone so deserving as David.

“Fast forward to the present, and it feels surreal to be winning the award. I decided to dedicate the award to Hatch Bailey, the owner and president of our funeral home. I realized at that moment that receiving this award wouldn’t be possible without him. I’m thankful he took a chance on me when he hired me after making a career change, and now he has entrusted me with the management of his family business. Receiving this award from my peers feels like a fist pump with a ‘heck yea!’ from some of my biggest supporters.”

One judging panelist for the award said of Blake, “Wherever he goes, he makes a difference.”

Selected Independent Funeral Homes created the NextGen Community to develop young funeral professionals as well as to assist those new to the profession. The NextGen Seminar, held annually, offers educational and networking sessions for participants.

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