Valerie’s House Receives NCEF Grant to Expand in Collier County

New Naples Home Set to Open in August

Valerie’s House, the first and only Southwest Florida nonprofit grieving center focused solely on children’s grief, announces the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), the founding organization of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, has provided a $100,000 grant to support the expansion of their Collier County-based support groups for grieving children and their families after the death of a loved one.

This is the third year NCEF has invested in Valerie’s House’s proven, evidence-based support groups, individual therapy sessions and case management services provided to children ages 4-19 years old. Valerie’s House, whose first home opened in Fort Myers in 2016, expanded to Naples in 2017 in borrowed space with limited capacity. Now with plans to open a new, permanent home of its own in Naples in August, the additional NCEF operating funds will help support the added capacity the new home will provide, helping approximately 100 more local grieving children and families.

Valerie’s House’s unique program model gives children a safe home-like environment to identify, express and process grief using art, music and other holistic services overseen by a licensed clinical social worker. After bonding over a potluck dinner, children are broken out into age appropriate groups while caregivers meet simultaneously in their own support group.

Naples widow Debbie Rettew and her two daughters, who lost their father John in 2017 after a long 6-year battle to cancer, have been able to find a way to navigate their loss and express themselves with others suffering the same pain through the unique supportive programs at Valerie’s House.

Debbie said, “When a child loses a loved one they feel isolated and lost. Valerie’s House puts other grieving children in the same age group which helps them open up more than they would with an individual therapist or with a parent. My girls walk out of those meetings relaxed, feeling more confident and positive about their situation.” In addition to supporting more children, the NCEF funds will be used to expand its role to help grieving children in the school system, including a mentoring program that will soon be announced.

Valerie’s House Founder and CEO Angela Melvin said, “We greatly value our partnership with the Naples Children & Education Foundation, who have supported us from the beginning of our expansion into Collier County, for their continued investment in our mission. We know that by connecting with others who are grieving in a supportive environment children and families can work through the loss of a loved one together and go on to live fulfilling lives. Together, we are filling the gap in the lack of bereavement support services in Collier County and staying at the forefront of addressing childhood trauma.”

About Naples Children & Education Foundation

The Naples Children & Education Foundation, the founding organization of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, is improving the educational, emotional, and health outcomes of underprivileged and at-risk children. Through its annual grants and strategic initiatives, NCEF has impacted over 45 of the most effective nonprofits in the community, providing 275,000 children with the services and resources they need to excel. NCEF’s unique approach, which emphasizes collaboration between organizations and bridges public and private resources, has become a blueprint for how to transform a community, one issue at a time.

About Valerie’s House

Valerie’s House was founded by Angela Melvin in 2016 and is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides grief support services to children and their families at its Fort Myers, Naples and Punta Gorda locations. As the first and only grief support program focused solely on helping children grieve, Valerie’s House provides a safe, comfortable place for children to bond, grieve and heal together following the death of an immediate family member. Valerie’s House is a United Way partner agency that is fully supported through generous donations from the community. For more information, enroll in programs, volunteer, or donate, visit www.ValeriesHouseSWFL.com or email info@ValeriesHouseSWFL.com.

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