“The VNA is one of many valuable community services that we are fortunate to have in the Valparaiso area. The agency represents strength in dignity, compassion, and caring. Through the dedication of the new VNA Phoenix Center, we hope the VNA continues to rise to future community outreach challenges,” commented Rick Urschel, vice president of operations.
After much consideration, the name “VNA Phoenix Center” was chosen as the name for the building. Urschel told VNA Executive Director Laura Harting that from the prospective names, “phoenix” stood out largely due to the legend of the phoenix that fit the center and its mission so well. From there, they selected the VNA Phoenix Center, recognizing the VNA’s commitment to provide bereavement support for grieving children, teens, young adults and their families.
The center, located at 501 Marquette Street in Valparaiso, provides age appropriate support groups and activities such as art and music therapy, writings, recreation and memory projects to help children, teens and young adults from toddler to college age learn to cope with their grief over the loss of a loved one. The children’s groups meet bi-weekly over an extended period of time, allowing the children to guide their own healing process.
The program is open to any family in the community dealing with a grieving child and requires that participating children be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or other adult family member. “We are well aware that parents and other family members are often dealing with their own grief and sometimes aren’t able to be emotionally present for their young ones. Or, they simply just don’t know how to help,” says VNA Phoenix Center supervisor Michele Murphy-Wise. Group support and networking opportunities are offered for the adults while children participate in activities, allowing them to also share their feelings, emotions and ideas with others who are dealing with similar issues.
The program relies heavily on volunteer support. Trained volunteers facilitate the children’s peer support groups, oversee and direct children’s activities, work at the reception desk and serve as “house parents” during the sessions. Says Murphy-Wise, “Volunteers are vital to the program. Volunteers who facilitate the peer support groups make a commitment to a total of 24 hours of training and to give 6 hours a month for at least a year. The program just wouldn’t be possible without our volunteers.”
There is no fee to participate in the program because a death in the family is so often accompanied by financial turmoil and the VNA wants to be sure help is available to grieving children and families regardless of their financial situation. Laura Harting, Executive Director says the VNA is confident that families, once back on their feet, will help support the program for other families. The VNA is also counting on support from the community.
The VNA is in the middle of a $750,000 capital campaign to help pay for the renovation, furnishings and supplies, and to raise funds for the first year of operation. The Higbie family, Bill and Karen and their children, Grace and Matthew, serve as co-chairs of the campaign.
The VNA welcomes interested members of the community to tour the facility and learn more about the program. Donations in support of the program may be made online at the VNA website www.VNAportercounty.org or mailed to the VNA at 2401 Valley Dr., Valparaiso, IN 46383. For more information, please contact the VNA at (219) 462-5195.
Photo: Grace and Matthew Higbie, outside the VNA Phoenix Center in Valparaiso.