Michelle Fox: Ten Years Later
Posted: 6/1/21 by Michelle Fox (Development Director)
If you would have asked me upon college graduation where I saw myself in the future, I would have responded with a shoulder shrug, and a hopeful, “We shall see!” At that point in my life, ten years ago, I made the choice to walk through the doors of Olivia’s House for the very first time. Fresh out of college, with no real-life experience and butterflies in my stomach, I was greeted by Leslie with a warm smile and a friendly welcome. We sat down in her office and so began my first professional interview (outside of working in the retail world).
I was nervous, and I still don’t remember what I shared with her during our interview. . . I blacked out from anxiousness! One thing that will always stick out to me about that day was that talking to Leslie felt like talking to an old friend - picking up right where we seemingly left off. I walked away from the interview feeling rather confident, but unsure if I would hear from her. Lo and behold, Leslie called me! This year, on June 13th, I will be celebrating my 10th Anniversary at Olivia’s House.
I have worn many hats over the years while working at Olivia’s House (very proudly may I add)! My starting role as the Program Coordinator taught me so much about our programs as I worked beside the children and families we served. As the Volunteer Coordinator, I also got to meet and work alongside our amazing volunteers. Fast forward a few years, and I transitioned to my role as the Administrative Director, where I started to learn the “business side” of the not-for-profit model, helping to plan our largest fundraisers and doing everything an administrator does.
If my years of experience have taught me anything, it is that hard work and dedication will carry you far. Here I am, celebrating my 10th Anniversary with a new title, Development Director. I never knew my career would lead me to where I am today, but I am so excited for the future. Now, if you would ask me where I see myself in the next ten years, I have a much more clear response!
The Beautiful Possibilities of Hybrid
Posted: 5/1/21 by Leslie Delp, MA (Founder and Bereavement Specialist)
Years ago, when I was teaching both professionals and laypeople the importance of funerals, I recalled something that my mentor Alan Wolfelt had once shared with me. At the time, there was seemingly outlandish information regarding the latest development in the world of funerals and memorial services. Alan said, “We are a transient, busy society and to accommodate this, we are learning [that] the best way to commemorate our loved ones might have to be to use drive through services, much like fast food.” Can you imagine my reaction, as he went on to say that some funeral homes were planning to link a television camera into the service to broadcast the important final ritual for those loved ones living across the country who were not able to attend? In an industry that I had grown up in, one that thrived on the aspect of coming together to share an “emotional group hug” after a death, I was alarmed to think that technology may overtake even funerals, the most sacred of rituals. Twenty years went by and little was embraced of these innovative thoughts. . .that is, until we were all faced with the changes brought on by COVID-19.
I was among the many who celebrated the life of a deceased love one during the pandemic, and partook in my first-ever virtual funeral. I must say, though I was vehemently skeptical of the change in rituals before the virus altered our lives so drastically, I embraced the newness of the experience fully, and truly enjoyed my Aunt Vera’s VIRTUAL memorial service whole heartedly. She planned her service years ago, every detail marked with directions and specifics that would ease the pain for her daughter and grandchildren. Even though social distancing wasn’t included in her plans, the service was beautiful, just like Aunt Ve! We were able to utilize aspects of technology that allowed us to reach beyond our local friends and family, most of whom were foreign to video calls prior to March 2020.
While our hopes are high that the day will come that we all may gather in groups as large as we please, including to commemorate the end of a life at a funeral, that is not where the story ends. Using technology to assist in funerals was not a temporarily-placed bandage, holding us over until we could get “back to normal.” Rather, we have seen the beauty of a hybrid model, and how beneficial and inclusive technology can be in regards to funerals. As we move forward on this middle ground between the before and the after, we remember Alan Wolfelt’s wisdom. We are a transient society, but we are also a society that wants to connect, and if technology is yet another door that allows us connection, we are excited to keep that door wide open!
Self Care Exploration From Your Couch
Posted: 4/1/21 by Julia Dunn, M.Ed., LPC (Program Director)
The chances are good that you’ve seen the words “Self-Care” come across your radar recently. In this unprecedented year, “self-care” has become almost a mantra, a shield against the change and uncertainty that has been swirling around us. At Olivia’s House, we often relate self-care to the analogy of oxygen masks on an airplane: you must have your own oxygen mask on before you can assist anyone else. Self-care follows the same principle: in order to cope with life’s changes, be it a pandemic or the death of someone you love, you must begin by giving care to yourself, and only then can it radiate to those around you. Over the past year, Program Director Julia Dunn sought to do just that— find the self-care that was true to, well, herself.
Pre-pandemic, the website Airbnb was a favorite of Julia’s; she often dreamt of vacation spots and relaxing weekend trips. Traveling can be an excellent form of self-care, but when COVID-19 insisted that we stash our travel plans away, Julia knew that it was time to get creative with coping. Luckily, she didn’t have to look far, as she discovered that Airbnb offered online experiences hosted by people from all over the world! Staying inside suddenly didn’t feel so isolating, as Julia toured a Cat Café in Sacramento, practiced Buddhist meditation with a monk in Japan, created a collage of her cat with an artist in Barcelona, learned sign language from an instructor in Germany, and so much more. Julia even took a dance class with an actor from one of her favorite movies! Being face to face on Zoom made each experience feel even more special, as if they were actually taking place in person!
Julia practiced self-care by exploring new worlds, new cultures, new people, and new experiences. Along the way she found an extra perk that came with online events. By scheduling experiences in advance, Julia found she always had something to look forward to. Quite often, especially during the pandemic, we can find ourselves feeling stuck. Spontaneous self-care is wonderful, but never underestimate the power of putting something fun on the calendar. Many times, the anticipation of an event can be just as exciting as the event itself!
We knew our Program Director couldn’t be having this much fun without us! That’s why we are so happy that Julia is bringing our program families into the world of Airbnb Online Experiences. This spring, we will be hosting an Olivia’s House virtual WINGS event with our program alumni to invite them into the world of self-care and coping. But where will we be traveling to from the comfort of our couches? Stay tuned!
El Primer Funeral de Logan
Posted: 3/1/21 by K.C. Delp (Executive Director)
Throughout the pandemic, I have held safety precautions as my highest priority, so it was with hesitancy last summer that I accepted a lunch invitation from our beloved friend and InspirAngel, Vicki Friedman. She assured me that we would stay safe while dining outdoors and wearing masks, but she blew my own safety precautions out of the water when she pulled out her UV sanitizing lightwand!!!
Spending any amount of time with Vicki has always been a gift. Whether dueling over a scrabble board, strategizing a fundraiser, or simply catching up and laughing, our time together is always well spent. But for this lunch, I had an ulterior motive—we were celebrating! Olivia’s House’s first children’s book, Logan’s First Funeral (which was illustrated by Vicki), had officially been on the virtual book shelves for three months, and it was time to plan our next step. It was at this lunch that Vicki, Mom, and myself agreed to move forward on producing a Spanish translation!
Fast forward six months and countless emails, and we are proud to share that “El Primer Funeral de Logan” is officially available on Amazon.com. On this journey, we have had the most amazing collaborators, so we give our deepest gratitude to Crystal Strous, Hilda Bednarchik, and Brittany Haines for helping us to translate our original text. As you can imagine, this was not a simple task, as so many of the funeral industry terms do not have a direct translation, but our crew worked tirelessly to create an equally awesome resource! We also want to thank Demi Stevens at The Year of The Book for once again helping us to publish this important resource. We are beyond thrilled to provide this resource to the families we serve whose native language is Spanish!
Are You a Champion?!
Posted: 2/1/21 by Michelle Fox (Administrative Director)
If you’ve been present in the York community in the past few years, you may be familiar with “Give Local York,” a charitable event that takes place on the first Friday in May to support non-profits in our community. For the past several years, Olivia’s House has benefited from the generosity of this event, and we are so grateful that our community supports the hard work that we do. “Give Local York” is entering into its fourth year, and we need YOU to be a Champion in raising funds for Olivia’s House! Through navigating a global pandemic, hosting our programs online, holding our first-ever virtual Gala, and pivoting our annual holiday party to a “Holly Jolly on Wheels” celebration for our families. . . Olivia’s House has continued to serve our local community, and now, more than ever, we need your support!!!
You may be wondering, “How do I get involved with Give Local York and support my favorite organization?” Well, it’s easy. . .you become a Champion! A Champion is someone who raises money on behalf of our organization and encourages other to do the same! The Give Local York platform has made it easier than ever for you to become a Champion. Simply create a profile on the Give Local York homepage, where you can provide your very own testimonial describing why you are choosing to support Olivia’s House. You can also upload photos and videos to your Champion page, including your favorite photos of your special loved one to celebrate in their memory with your friends and family. The best part is, your personal Champion page will have a link that you can share on social media and with everyone you know, making it easy for them to donate directly to your Olivia’s House Champion fundraiser in memory of your loved one.
If any of this sounds confusing, not to worry! Olivia’s House is here to help you every step of the way. We will be sharing videos, tidbits and FAQ’s on our Facebook page leading up to the event with ideas for our Champions! The key is to have fun and be creative to get your family and friends to donate! Create a challenge that they can pass around (remember the ice bucket challenge?!), hold a pie eating contest, host a bake sale, or send letters to everyone in your address book asking to support Olivia’s House in memory of your loved one. The ideas are endless on how you can raise funds as a Champion, and the highest earner in donations will be honored by our mission! The question is, will you be the next Champion permanently placed on our Olivia’s House Grand Champion cup?