Bigger space allows nonprofit to expand services
Posted on 03/23/2021
Jennifer Frush stands in the hallway of the new office.Transforming grief into life-changing new beginnings is the life’s work of New Hope Center for Grief Support, a nonprofit that celebrated 20 years as an organization in 2020 and recently moved from offices at Old Church Square to Northville Square. The transition doubled their space to 2,800 ft2, enabling them to bring a wider range of programs to individuals and families in need.

“We are excited to expand into a larger location while still being able to remain in Downtown Northville,” said Jennifer Frush, executive director. “This space will allow us to run multiple support groups at the same time in our own space.”

The office is elegant with tall ceilings, plenty of windows, spacious halls, large meeting rooms and cozy gathering spaces in addition to staff offices. Berkshire Hathaway and other tenants at Northville Square took New Hope under their wing by donating attractive furniture to help create a chic and welcoming office space that supports their mission.

Grief is a universal life experience. However, the way in which people experience it is unique to each individual and each relationship lost. As a peer-support organization, the team at New Hope understands both the pain of loss and the need for age-specific and loss-specific support programs. Their mission is to reach grieving people and help them change despair to hope, and heartbreak to healing. In 2020, their programs and counseling reached more than 1,599 people and attendance was 5,069 (for example, one person may attend five meetings of a support group).

COVID-19 has brought tremendous change to the nonprofit. They have added additional support groups, including one for the novel coronavirus, one for all losses, and a new Teen Group. The nonprofit switched from in-person support groups and grief counseling to online (Zoom) meetings. Their 8-week workshop, From Grief to New Hope, began March 15 and is now being conducted as a hybrid meeting – virtually and in-person at Ward Church with small groups of 10.

“Some of the benefits of meeting online for our ongoing groups is that it allows anyone to attend, regardless of their comfort level with in-person services,” said Frush. “We have had greater numbers attending the sessions and some come from out of state and Canada. Online meetings have allowed us to reach a larger footprint and serve grieving individuals who may be a lot further from our office location.”

While many participants look forward to returning to in-person groups, some participants have said they prefer the virtual format. One participant said, "It is a new world we live in. I thought it was very helpful to be at home and be able to contemplate the weekly discussion immediately when the session was over for the week." Another said, "It was great and still felt like we were all close even if we were not."

Overall, they have seen an increased need for grief support since the pandemic began with more people reaching out to the organization, especially soon after losses. In the past, people may have waited several months before seeking support. New Hope staff and key volunteers underwent training on Trauma Informed Care, which equipped them with the skills to support individuals who may have experienced a traumatic loss or who saw previous trauma resurfacing due to the death of a loved one. Nearly all staff have been vaccinated.

“Although there have been obstacles both in terms of coordinating virtual programs and for our funding, COVID-19 has encouraged us to expand our programs to support more grievers,” said Frush. “We plan to continue to offer both virtual and in-person programming in the future.”

Volunteers extend services to thousands each year New Hope has an army of volunteers with a roster of approximately 170 “Ambassadors of Hope.” Roles range from being an office volunteer or assisting with programming, either leading discussions or being an aide to the presenter. All volunteer efforts are managed by staff that cover those functions, including Office Administrator Colleen Agrotis and Program Specialists Valerie Brda and Angela Miller.

Fundraising is critical to their mission

Because services are provided for free to participants, fundraising and grants must cover all costs. With the support of individual donors, fun-raisers (explained below), grants, sponsors, and fundraising events, New Hope has seen consistent growth in their funding each year. Individual donations typically comprise nearly half of the nonprofit’s funding.

A fundraiser gala, Reflections of Hope, will be held June 4 at St. Mary's Cultural Center to celebrate their 20th anniversary (one year later) and raise funds to continue bringing hope, healing, and new beginnings to adults and children grieving the death of a loved one. The founders of New Hope will attend the gala, which includes a formal dinner, a live band, ceremonies, and a silent auction.

The nonprofit had to cancel a previously scheduled gala due to COVID-19, and switched to a Facebook fundraising challenge to get the organization through a challenging year that saw donations fall and the need for grief support grow. That effort raised more than $20,000 for New Hope in honor of their 20th anniversary.

Volunteers help with fundraising by hosting "fun-raisers," which are events they plan and put together with proceeds going to New Hope. Some examples are football squares, karaoke, Superbowl parties, line dancing, and more. These are fun social events for those in the community and raise funds to continue the organization’s mission.

Outreach boosts numbers of people seeking help at New Hope

New Hope partners with several local organizations, including local funeral homes, hospices, schools, and local private practice mental health organizations. Frush represents New Hope as a member of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Marketing Group and Northville Chamber. She also sits on several community councils, including the Northville Cares Committee, Ascension Community Council, and Wayne County Educators - Continue the Conversation Committee.

New Hope leaders recently spoke at the NPS Parent Camp, presented at a Lunch and Learn for GM, and were featured on an episode of Dr. Michele Leno's Mind Matters. Those outreach efforts allow the organization to reach more people and increase awareness and use of their services.

To learn more about New Hope, visit their website.  Staff of New Hope sit around round table outside new office