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(Monterey, CA) Leigh Susan Fitz, Executive Director and founder of Arms of Angels Grief Counseling, announces that AoA has been granted its federal exemption certification as a 501c(3) organization. "Most organizations achieve their non-profit status after a lengthy period of time and the paperwork is daunting" she states. In this case however she prepared and filed the paperwork in November, 2012 and received the "exemption letter" on March 11, 2013.
Arms of Angels is the only no-cost service for Monterey county families where the counselors work with one family at a time for 6 sessions. The goal is to provide them with the skills they need to support each other after they leave the program and continue their lives together. Ms Fitz is now working on the organizationís June 13 fundraiser to be held at the Center for Spiritual Living at Franklin and Pacific Streets in downtown Monterey.
On Sunday, August 12 from 4-7 enjoy a beautiful summer evening in Carmel Valley at the new location of Plaza Linda at 27 East Carmel Valley Road while helping a new non-profit that provides free grief counseling services to Monterey County Families. Arms of Angels holds six week counseling sessions at the Center for Spiritual Living in downtown Monterey. More information on the organization is available at their website ArmsofAngels.org.
Hosted by Kiki Wow and featuring well known musician and singer Troy O'Shann, this first-time fundraiser will also include many local musicians as guest players. Donations for entry will be accepted at the door, food and drinks will be available for purchase and there will be a fifty-fifty raffle and silent auction.
Arms of Angels Executive Director Leigh Fitz was inspired to start the program after attending a similar one in Pennsylvania in 2006 with her daughter Madison, then 12 years old. Local counselor and musician Peter Rush works with the families on understanding and navigating the grieving process after the death of a loved one. All proceeds will cover program costs and help Arms of Angels provide services to more Monterey County families.
A recent poll conducted by the National Alliance for Grieving Children found that kids who have lost a parent or sibling bear a burden of sorrow and anxiety, yet they strive to be resilient in the face of their grief and greatly value the support of friends, family and the community, according to the results of this first-ever nationwide poll of bereaved children. For grieving kids, resuming normal life following loss demands successfully navigating the school day. For many, this task becomes harder. Nearly half of kids say they are having more trouble concentrating on school work and about three in 10 say they are not doing as well in school as before. Just 27 percent say that going to school after their loss was helpful. The poll suggests that schools are challenged to provide meaningful support to kids in grief. When asked to grade their school and teachers on "helping me deal with my loved one's death," many kids assigned them either a "C" (15 percent), a "D" (10 percent) or an "F" (23 percent).
Dealing with the death of a loved one is crushing, the findings show. Three quarters (75%) of the kids surveyed say they are currently sad - even though, for the survey sample, the loss was experienced on average more than two years ago. Nearly seven of 10 kids agree the death of their loved one was the worst thing that ever happened to them. More than two in five (41 percent) said that in reaction to their loss they had acted in ways that they knew might not be good for them either physically, emotionally or mentally.
Bereavement centers and grief counseling programs have a critical role to play in fostering a helpful, healthy dialogue within families about loss. A new grief counseling service is available free of charge to Monterey County residents. The program, called 'Arms of Angels', will be held at the Center for Spiritual Living in downtown Monterey at 400 West Franklin Street on Thursdays evenings. Pre-registration is necessary for joining. Children ages 5-19 are welcome and they must be accompanied by a parent. For more information and to register go to ArmsofAngels.org or contact the Executive Director, at 831-521-3672.
Here are other valuable resources for grieving families and concerned individuals:
The New York Life Foundation/National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC) poll was conducted in-person at bereavement centers during group sessions between November 21, 2011 and January 5, 2012. Children and teenagers under the age of 19 were given printed copies of the survey, customized with questions pertaining to the gender and type of family member they lost (parent or sibling). An adult Group Leader read each question and response category aloud, allotting time for every participant to answer. Surveys were immediately sealed in an envelope and sent to New York Life Foundation for data processing. Participation in the survey was strictly voluntary and all answers remained confidential. In a similarly sized random sample survey, the margin of error (at the 95% confidence level) for the total population in this study (531) would be plus or minus approximately 4.3 percentage points. The question "How long ago did your loved one die?" was answered by 497 respondents; the mean response was 2.2 years. The polling was overseen by Mathew Greenwald & Associates, a premier full service market research firm headquartered in Washington, D.C.
After my daughter's father died unexpectedly in 2006 we were both devastated. Luckily for us, a resource existed in our community to help us through our grief. "Olivia's House", which is a model for other grief counseling programs across the United States, had their own great facility in our hometown of York, Pennsylvania.
When I arrived to drop my daughter off for her first evening of their program, I was told my group was meeting in it's own room. I did not know I was to be included until that moment. Every Thursday she would go with a group of kids in her age group to their own space and work on activities with a well trained volunteer. The parents of all the kids would meet and discuss how things were going at home, how we were coping and what the kids were working on that week, and why. We learned about the grieving process, and how to handle it in such a way that acknowledged our ever-changing feelings and still made us hopeful that our everyday pain would change and become more bearable as time went by.
At the end of the program we attended a big potluck where everyone brought the favorite dishes of their deceased loved one. We had a special send off ceremony, and the kids presented the adults with projects they had worked on in their groups. There were opportunities for memorials at the Olivia's House property, and ways to stay connected socially if we wished to do so. I thought it had been very helpful and educational, but until years later I did not fully appreciate how much their program had changed our lives and made it possible for us to carry on.
A year after he passed away we moved across country to California and started new lives here. My daughter went to high school and adjusted well to her new surroundings and friends. She met her first boyfriend, and made many adult friends who came to care for her very much. While she went through the normal ups and downs of high school, she was a successful student who did well in school and sports and also participated in extra curricular activities. She went to dances and bonfires, learned to drive, and fell in love for the first time. When she was a senior she applied to 7 colleges and got into 5. She chose the school of her dreams, UC Santa Barbara, and as of this writing had completed her freshman year there with high grades. She is hoping to study abroad for a year, and is already working for a non-profit that she loves and has made great contributions to with her time and talent.
In short, she is a happy, successful kid with a lot of love in her life and she has a full, bright future ahead of her. We both still miss her father, but we are at the point where thinking of him more often makes us smile than cry. I remain grateful that the services at Olivia's House were available to us, and have recommended them to other families there suffering from loss. I strongly believe what they taught us helped us get through the worst time of our lives, and prepared us for all the good times ahead.