By Susan Bennett
A $500,000 challenge grant has been awarded to Valerie’s House as the cornerstone of a $3 million capital campaign to help the non-profit organization build a permanent home and expand grief support services for children.
The challenge grant was awarded by philanthropists David and Linda Lucas, who have been long-time supporters of Valerie’s House. The non-profit has one year to raise funds to match the $500,000, according to Valerie’s House Founder and CEO Angela Melvin.
“We are very grateful for the generosity of David and Linda Lucas, who are passionate about helping others. David lost his own father at a very young age and would have been a Valerie’s House child himself, if our program had existed then,” Melvin said.
The new Valerie’s House location will be built on a one-acre parcel donated by the City of Fort Myers on Veronica Shoemaker Boulevard near Winkler Road.
The 7,000 square foot facility will include healing rooms, therapy rooms, and a volcano room with punching bags and other tools to allow children to release tension and anger in a healthy and safe way. A memorial wall will commemorate loved ones who have died and outdoor space will be designed for both reflection and fun.
“The Valerie’s House Forever Home will be a special place for all grieving children in Southwest Florida to connect with one another and learn the tools to heal after they have experienced the loss of someone they love,” Melvin said.
The new home also will serve as the administrative headquarters for Valerie’s House and will allow the non-profit to expand and reach the growing number of children who need help.
Melvin said Valerie’s House board members and volunteers have already raised about half the funds of the $3 million project through in-kind and financial pledges. The recent $500,000 challenge grant from David Lucas is especially significant and includes sponsorship and room-naming opportunities ranging from $5,000 to $100,000.
To review the sponsorship opportunities and see a 3D animation of the new home, visit https://valerieshouse.org/capital-campaign
One in nine children in Florida is predicted to lose a parent or sibling before the age of 21, according to the 2020 Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model.
Since its opening in 2016, Valerie’s House has helped almost 2,000 children grieve the loss of loved one.
Valerie’s House currently 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. More information can be found at www.valerieshouse.org.