Build for Valerie's House Pensacola Permanent Location: The Kitchen is the Heart of a Home
Grant Year: 2023 | Focus Area: Family| Amount: $108,364| Grant Status: In progress
The mission of Valerie’s House is to help children and families work through the loss of a loved one together and go on to live fulfilling lives. Founded in 2016, Valerie’s House is an established organization headquartered in southwest Florida. Valerie’s House first opened its doors in Fort Meyers, Florida and has followed with permanent expansion chapters in Naples (2017), Port Charlotte (2019), and now Pensacola in late 2020, launching the first peer-to-peer support group in April 2021. Valerie’s House is the only nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in the community whose sole mission is helping children and families work through the loss of a loved one together. Valerie’s House Pensacola (VHP) serves children ages 5-18 who have had a parent or sibling die in their families and is the only organization in the area that exclusively addresses childhood grief by offering free grief support services for children and their families. The organization strongly believes that bereavement care must be readily available and accessible in every community, especially in high-risk communities.
OVERVIEW OF THE PROPOSED PROJECT
Valerie’s House strengthens and enhances the lives of grieving children and families in the Pensacola Bay area. A critical part of the Valerie’s House model is to serve a meal before each group night. This sets a welcoming tone for the evening, giving caregivers a chance to decompress from their day and connect with one another, and giving the kids a chance to play with one another before settling into specific groups. For some, the meal served at Valerie’s House is their only full, healthy meal of the day. Leftovers are sent home to help with additional meals for the week. VHP’s permanent location is a historic home that has been a commercial space for over 50 years, functioning with only a small kitchenette. IMPACT 100 funds will be used to build out the kitchen space to make it a functional and comfortable space to support VHP’s programs and meal preparation. As the kitchen is the heart of a home, an eating experience each evening for the group participants is the start of the healing process for the children. The kitchen serves the food and allows for preparation of healthier options for families. This creates an opportunity for the families to sit and integrate prior to separating into age specific groups for program activities.
EXPECTED IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY
Valerie’s House currently receives weekly referrals from the Department of Children and Families, firstresponders, and schools for at-risk children who are grieving the loss of a parent or sibling. No child is ever turned away. The goal for the kitchen build is to create a functional space that is inviting for families and sets them at ease as they would feel in their own home. The space will serve as a place where staff members, volunteers, and contributing organizations set up and serve meals on group nights (8 to 10 nights a month). In addition, VHP staff will conduct simple cooking lessons focused on nutrition and the correlation between physical health and mental health for kids and caregivers. Valerie’s House uses nationally recognized, culturally sensitive grief evaluation tools given to all participants when they first begin groups, and periodically during their time at Valerie’s House to track improvement. The organization’s overall program goal is that 70% - 80% of children who attend Valerie’s House groups for at least 6 months will see a dramatic increase in several key factors: 1. Their ability to talk about their loss, 2. Their ability to trust someone in their life, 3. Their ability to have hope for their future.