LANSING, Mich. — Ele’s Place Director Kristine Kuhnert is passionate when talking about the 300 plus active volunteers who help make Ele’s Place, a center for grieving children and families, a success.
“They are absolutely essential. They are crucial. You know we have over 30,000 hours of volunteer time every year. Every night, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, we have programs here, and just in those nights alone, there are 25 to 35 volunteers who are giving three to four hours each week.”
Ele’s Place mission is to provide a safe atmosphere for children where healing can occur following the death of a child’s family member, friend, or another person close to them.
Kristine adds, “It sounds very odd to say, but this place is magical. It's all about grief. I think that that's a very odd word, but magic happens here! Magic happens! People find some peace!”
Leah Ann Sherer has been an Ele’s Place volunteer for more than 11 years. She says she gives her time because she doesn’t want any child to experience what she went through as a young girl.
“In 1973, my mother died from injuries she sustained from a car accident. No one showed us how to mourn. My brother was five, and I was seven. It was a very difficult time for us. We went through a lot of changes. My father remarried the next year, and we all of a sudden had a step-mom. We had a new sister, a new school and a new neighborhood. That’s a lot of changes for an eight-year-old. I took on an adult role at eight years old. And so when I heard about Ele’s place, I knew that's the place I needed to be. I can't take away the grief that the children are going through, but I can at least help them to transition through it better than what I did when I was at age.”
Ele’s Place trains volunteers to help out with everything, from facilitating ongoing peer support groups for both children and their parents to helping with the annual Ele’s Place run/walk fundraiser.
Twenty-year-old Max Kuhnert attended Ele's Place as a child after a drunk driver killed his father.
Max says at the time, he was angry and headed down a path of destruction until he started attending Ele’s Place.
Today he volunteers as a grief facilitator and feels like he is giving back to a program that helped him.
“Ele’s Place is one of the best things that ever happened to me personally. I remember my mom used to bribe me and my brothers with Taco Bell to actually come. In the moment you don't want to go out and talk about your feelings with a bunch of other kids because you feel like you're the only one going through it. Looking back at it, it's been the greatest decision that my mom has ever made for me.”
Kim Bowen is a volunteer at Ele’s Place because she believes in giving back.
“The Ele’s Place mission speaks to me personally because there's that opportunity to help families and help those kids resolve that grief so that they can live productive lives moving forward. I want that for my kids. I think that that's something good. It’s good to give back.”
Dawn Haddad is Director of Development at Ele’s Place.
“We want to recognize our Ele's place volunteers as good neighbors because we really couldn't do what we do without all of them. We really rely on their compassion and their dedication to our mission.”
This week’s Good Neighbors are all the Ele’s Place volunteers, who for the last 30 years have helped to provide a safe atmosphere for children healing following the death of a loved one.
If you would like more information on becoming an Ele’s Place please visit their website at www.elesplace.org.
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