Face Coverings, social distancing required to bring grieving families together
FORT MYERS, Fla. – July 27, 2020 – Valerie’s House, the only non-profit organization in Southwest Florida with its sole mission to help children grieve, is reopening Monday, Aug. 3, with in-person support groups at its three locations in Lee, Collier, and Charlotte counties.
“Grief is already isolating. Having to do it alone is not who we are,” said Valerie’s House Founder and CEO Angela Melvin. “We have a solid plan in place. However, we also know that at any moment, things can change. We are moving forward, but with caution.”
During the past 90 days, 67 new children joined the Valerie’s House program, including children who lost a family member to the virus. Valerie’s House has been offering virtual support groups since March 29 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey sent to families indicated 80 percent wanted to come back to meeting in person.
Safety precautions will be enacted, including requiring face coverings, social distancing, and temperature checks of each person as well as a form that each person will sign attesting they have not been ill or associated with anyone who has COVID-19. Chairs and floor cushions the children sit on will be placed six feet apart. Some groups will be conducted outside under tents.
“We may not be on the hospital’s front lines, but we’re right behind them,” Melvin said. “That means we have to pivot and adjust. The important thing is that we’re together.”
All children will receive a face covering at the first meeting that they can decorate in honor of their loved ones. Staff will clean all surfaces each night with a deep cleaning weekly by a professional company. Family dinners will no longer be offered.
Valerie’s House has also added additional nights for grief support to allow for social distancing and increased demand. Groups now will be offered every night Monday through Thursday at each of the locations throughout Southwest Florida. Two additional counselors have been hired to accommodate the expanded schedule, bringing the total number of employees to 10, including three licensed clinicians.
“We are spending money that we had not planned for, but the work we are doing is crucial to helping children during this dark time,” Melvin said.
Virtual groups will continue to be available for families who want to continue meeting online. In addition to providing grief support groups, Valerie’s House also sends an e-newsletter to their families and focuses their efforts on connecting families with additional resources in the community.
Valerie’s House is accepting appointments for new enrollments. Families in need of grief support for children can reach Program Director, Amy Strom by phone at 239-841-9186 or by emailing, email@example.com.
“Our doors are always open to families in grief,” Melvin said.
About Valerie’s House
As the first and only organization in Southwest Florida with the sole mission of helping children grieve, Valerie’s House has helped more than 1,000 children and their families since opening its doors in 2016. Valerie’s House provides a safe, comfortable place to heal together following the death of someone they love. Valerie’s House offers support groups and other activities at a home on 1762 Fowler Street in Fort Myers and a home in Naples at 819 Myrtle Terrace. Valerie’s House also holds group meetings at First United Methodist Church in Punta Gorda. Valerie’s House is a United Way partner agency and is fully supported by community donations that can be made online at www.valerieshouseswfl.org or by mail to Valerie’s House, Inc., P.O. Box 1955, Fort Myers, FL 33902.