Volunteering During a Pandemic
Posted: 10/1/20 by Michelle Fox (Administrative Director)
As we continue to search for our “new normal,” we recognize that everyone is probably tired of hearing that phrase thrown around. Sadly, coping with change has become an inescapable topic. We are living in a time where the future is unknown, and face masks have become part of our daily wardrobe. Now when you leave the house, you have to run through a whole new checklist: keys, wallet, sanitizer, mask - got it! At Olivia’s House, it is no different for the staff as we too are navigating our way through the “new normal.”
Every day that we walk into the grief centers, there is an energy that is missing, an energy that we are longing for. That missing energy is usually found in our beloved and faithful volunteers! Prior to the pandemic, we had volunteers scheduled daily to help answer the phones and assist with light clerical work. Weekly, we would have volunteers at Olivia’s House clean and garden so that our centers were beautifully manicured for the families we serve. Before we were ordered to quarantine in the spring, our Companions were volunteering their time in our Hearts Can Heal program, plus the volunteer cookie bakers knocking on our door every Thursday afternoon with freshly baked goodies for the families. We miss this!
Volunteers are such an integral part of our daily routine, but all volunteering opportunities at Olivia’s House are temporarily on hold for safety reasons. This saddens us! We are continuing to respect the guidelines set forth by the CDC to keep everyone safe and healthy. With social distancing and limited group gatherings prohibiting volunteering, our first concern will always be for the well-being of those who walk through the doors at Olivia’s House. Our centers are lonely and quiet, and the staff misses our daily check-ins with volunteers, but it gives us peace knowing that we are continuing to make everyone’s safety our first priority. We look forward to the day when we can resume operations as “normal,” but until then, please understand that we miss each and every one of our volunteers as you have become family…our Olivia’s House family!
The VIRTUAL Gala Goes Off
Posted: 9/1/20 by Leslie Delp, MA (Founder and Bereavement Specialist)
I sometimes wonder if anyone truly understands the intricacy of putting together an event for a large group of people, whether friends, family or strangers? For the record, it is difficult at best. When you take the already-complex task of planning our Olivian Gala and complicate it even further with a worldwide pandemic, you have what could qualify as a disaster waiting to happen! Not only did it open the fear of wasting money, resources and time, but it underscored even further the belief that events are just safer when planned by a professional (yes, there are people whose daily job it is to cross t’s and dot i’s for a living)!
I began holding events, both large and small, before we even had a doorway at Olivia’s House. As a matter of fact, our Executive Director, K.C. Delp, earned his first philanthropic donation dollar at an event I organized called “Monopoly Madness at the Mall” when he was merely seven years old. To say that event planning is in his blood is an understatement! Our first Olivian Gala, held in 2002, was very small — I believe only 75 people attended, simply because no one knew who Olivia’s House was or what kind of party we would throw. We had a very small silent auction and raised a modest but sufficient amount of money. Our emcee for the evening was none other than WGAL’s Kim Lemmon. She did a wonderful job of navigating the agenda for the evening and the Country Club’s meal and ambiance were outstanding as usual.
Since that first Olivian Gala, we have continued the tradition of connecting with our community at this event. We feel strongly that events are not fundraisers but FRIEND-raisers! We love the challenge of identifying a theme, securing the proper venue and designing everything from beginning to end. But suffice it to say, the event is all about the guests and our beloved sponsors!
We have never done a “virtual” Gala before, and our 18th Annual Scrumdidlyumptious Olivian Gala, our first virtual event, went off without a major hitch. Kudos to all who helped make it successful! We are now putting our creative thinking caps on to outdo ourselves for next year. The hardest part of holding a successful event is that each year we are challenged to outdo ourselves! Next year, when we gather together (and let’s hope we can), we are again WOW-ed by the event that will be created. We already have our date, and a theme. We have colors, ideas, and contingency plans in place should we not be able to hold an “in person” event at the Country Club. Suffice it to say, we will be there for you, no matter what happens!
Hearts Can Heal Goes VIRTUAL
Posted: 8/1/20 by Julia Dunn, M.Ed., LPC (Program Director)
Two weeks into our Hanover Spring
Hearts Can Heal program, news of a novel virus entering the United States began to trickle onto our radar. Within a 48-hour period, we went from brainstorming ways to reinvent the handshake squeeze ritual (following guidelines at the time that no hand-to-hand contact = safety), to realizing that it was unsafe for even the four staff members to be together in the grief center, let alone 36 program participants and a dozen volunteers. Suddenly, just as the families in our program felt after experiencing loss, our plans were flipped upside down.
Seemingly naïve in hindsight, our initial plan to hold off on Hearts Can Heal for two weeks and then resume in-person quickly became an unthinkable goal. But we had already invested two weeks into these families, and more importantly they had invested two weeks into the start of their healing journey. Even with the rapidly changing news of the pandemic swirling around us, we knew we could not leave these families stranded in bereavement limbo, so an action plan started forming. Ready or not: Hearts Can Heal was going virtual.
With full support from the Program team, Program Director Julia Dunn sprang into action writing the virtual Hearts Can Heal group. Following in Leslie’s footsteps and building off her original design, the program fell into place. We constructed a “Hearts Can Heal Care Package,” full of items and activities we would do together as a group each week. With one dedicated Companion in tow, Julia and Leslie led our families through the topics of memories, coping skills, and rituals. We even had past program graduates join us for Alumni Night! The success and growth evident each week astounded us and encouraged us to feel that we were on the right track.
Using an audio/visual element through the program provided a backbone to the six weeks, culminating in a video that inspired a final ritual for our group to commemorate the unique healing journey they were on. During our last group session, Julia chose a video that introduced the concept of holding a “Viking Funeral” to represent letting go of your past self and becoming the person you want to be. The video showed children writing on cards what they wanted to let go of and placing these cards on a massive Viking ship, which was ceremoniously set on fire to symbolize the release of the past. Keeping with this idea of healing and moving forward, we constructed our very own Viking ship – one that we would set aflame to represent letting go of the parts of ourselves that no longer serve us. Each participant added their card to the ship, allowing us to experience our first Viking Funeral.
By bringing the Hearts Can Heal program— a program that has worked successfully for over twenty years – into a virtual realm, we have been able to maximize our resources and potentially expand our reach in the future. Olivia’s House knows how to assimilate change, and we are excited to continue meeting the needs of our community in innovative ways!
The VIRTUAL Olivian Gala
Posted: 7/1/20 by K.C. Delp (Executive Director)
We are getting pretty good at rolling with the Covid-19 punches! Who should be better at assimilating change than a Grief and Loss Center? When we decided to make our 18th annual Scrumdiddlyumptious Olivian Gala entirely virtual, we knew people would have questions. The first one was obvious: Why? While the current “green phase” pandemic protocols allow for gatherings of up to 250, that does not account for groups of people dining together. The dining room restrictions require the Country Club of York to provide service at only a maximum of 30% capacity. Right then and there our decision was made. BUT, had that not been the case, could you imagine us trying to set up a dance floor incorporating 6 foot distancing?! It would have been an entire night of the Cupid Shuffle! However, we were a bit curious to see how our favorite Gala fashionistas would work their matching facemasks!!!
With a VIRTUAL event EVERYONE can participate! That begs the next question: What is a Virtual Gala? On Friday, July 31 from 7:00 pm until 8:00 pm the Olivia’s House Facebook page will be your source for streaming content. We will stream our Tradition Toast (so make sure to have your beverage ready), Leslie’s annual address, our Premier Auction, the reveal of the winning Golden Ticket holder for the Chocolate Diamond Necklace and our Scrumdiddlyumptious Scavenger Hunt winner (extending two coveted tickets to the 2021 Olivian Gala). And you will not want to miss our special guest appearances! Who knows, you may even share a dance to live music!? We will be having the time of our lives together in the comfort and safety of our homes.
The online auction, beginning July 24th, will come to conclusion during the virtual event. Register now for our online auction on the GiveSmart platform. Once registered, you can purchase your Golden Ticket candy for a chance to win our Chocolate Diamond Necklace, compliments of Futer Bros Jewelers. Use your social media to engage in our interactive scavenger hunt (we can't wait to see your outfits and hear your songs)! AND most importantly, place your bids on our fabulous online auction items! The best part, you will receive text message updates about the status of your bids throughout the evening.
We would much rather give you a hug in person, and together lift a glass to another wonderful year of supporting our grieving community. Ensuring best health practices for everyone is our goal, so thank you for your understanding. We feel blessed to live in a time where technology can help us to bridge this gap!
Pregnant During a Pandemic
Posted: 6/1/20 by Michelle Fox (Administrative Director)
It is of no surprise to some that I am a planner, a routine person, a scheduler, and a list maker. . .but being pregnant during a pandemic is something I did not foresee happening. When my husband and I decided to begin a family, I was aiming for a winter/spring pregnancy. Imagine my delight when it just so happened that we would be expecting a baby girl at the end of April. Perfect, right? Oh, how wrong I was.
I thought I could spend the last month and a half of my pregnancy being selfish with my time. I saw myself perusing the aisles of Target, sniffing candles while sipping coffee. I thought I could sneak in a pampering session to get my nails done—something just for me to enjoy. I thought my husband and I would go for one last dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant—just the two of us. But what happened is something I could have never planned for. The Covid-19 pandemic put a halt to all of my pregnancy plans just six weeks before I was set to give birth.
I am grateful that myself, my baby and my family remain healthy, but not everyone is so fortunate. Families are having to distance themselves, some not even allowed to see their loved one who may be in a hospital room, solo. High school and college seniors are missing out on some of the most important milestones in their academic career. Children are forced to continue to their education at home without seeing their friends and teachers. There are so many losses that we did not prepare for because we didn’t know we’d have to.
While we are foolish to think that life will go back to “normal” after the pandemic calms down, we find ourselves asking, what is normal now? How will I cope without my family surrounding me giving birth in the hospital? How cautious will I have to be when introducing my baby girl for the first time, limiting who she can be around? When will it be safe to take her out of the house to run an errand without having to wear a mask or remain six feet from other people? There is so much uncertainty surrounding us at this time and I, too, am navigating this uncharted territory.
The pandemic is something none of us would have ever dreamt of happening, especially a planner like myself! But we must remember— this too shall pass. It has brought on many mixed emotions, and an important reminder that you cannot predict the unpredictable. We are all in this together. Alone, but together!