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News and Updates

Bert Ochterbeck - A Friend to All
Posted: 9/1/18 by Leslie Delp, MA (Founder and Bereavement Specialist)
The clock chimes hourly on the front desk in our office suite.  It reminds us of the time but also of a very special man, the man who built it!  Bert Ochterbeck was a treasured friend to the mission of Olivia’s House.  He came through the door within months of our opening.  Bert had made a beautiful piece of art for our center and was proudly donating it to us.  His wife, Judy, had lost her son, Bert’s stepson Kurt, and they both wanted to give back in remembrance of him.
Bert died recently and when Judy called to share the sad news, our mission stood still for a moment to remember the man who helped to make our house a home!

Bert created more than that one piece of stained glass art for Olivia’s House.  As a matter of fact, there are only a few rooms that do not have a “piece of Bert” in them!  Not only did he create art to be displayed in our center, but he created a piece to be auctioned off at the Olivian Gala, as well as an item for a special Christmas auction that served to pay for the children’s holiday shopping every year!

Bert was one of a kind.  He deserved every honor bestowed on him. We are proud to have nominated him for the Red Cross Hero Award.  When we accompanied him and his family to the awards dinner, he cried.  We were so proud that he was “our Bert,” having been nominated for the care he showed to the Amish families after the Schoolhouse Shooting.  His handmade stained glass angels were gifts from Bert to the families who lost their daughters.  Each child was buried with an angel in her casket, something never done before, breaking with the Amish tradition of simplicity.
Bert will always be remembered for his kindness, his love of children and his dedication to our mission. Our staff fondly recalls his love of long conversations!  Upon learning of Bert's death this summer, we mused that St. Peter would need to coax him through the gates of heaven before he held up the line! We love you and miss you, Bertie!   
When a Celebrity Completes Suicide
 Posted: 8/1/18 Julia Dunn, M.Ed. (Program Director)
Recently our nation (and beyond) took an emotional blow when both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain completed suicide within a week of each other. Many people were shocked that individuals so successful, celebrities who seem to “have it all,” would take their own lives. Part of our mission at Olivia’s House is to educate people about death, and with so many people questioning “Why?” it seemed like a good time for the conversation!


Celebrities are not immune from mental illness. Wealth and fame do not protect any of us from depression and other mood disorders. Depression can manifest in obvious ways: apathy, lack of interest in activities, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. But many times, people with depression are experts at hiding their illness. They present to the world as if everything is fine. They may even be what their loved ones consider a “beacon of light and happiness.”


Spade and Bourdain are individuals who brought a tremendous amount of light and joy to the world. It’s because of this ability to hide the illness that friends and family are so often caught off guard when someone they love completes suicide. The truth is, however, that these loved ones with mental illness may have used their small amounts of energy to give the illusion of joy to those around them.


It is crucial for any individual, but especially one with mental illness, to be surrounded by a strong support system. A support system is comprised of people who genuinely love us for who we are, unconditionally, and will even give us tough love when we need it. We often idolize celebrities to the point at which they no longer seem human; rather, we place them on a pedestal and fluctuate between obsessing over them and criticizing them. A celebrity with mental illness is constantly caught in the uncertainty of not knowing whether the people around them actually appreciate their fundamental humanness or merely admire them for their wealth and status. Because of this, celebrities often lack a strong support system and lack connectedness to others. Because they are emotionally isolated, their depression deepens.


It’s important to remember that no one is invincible. If we expect people at “the top of their game” to be immune to mental illness, we are placing unreasonable pressure on those who look up to us, namely our children, to be perfect. It is okay, and even beneficial, to use these notable suicides to start conversations with our children about mental health issues and the importance of developing coping skills and a strong emotional support system.

The Staff Retreat
  Posted: 7/2/18 by K.C. Delp (Executive Director)

“I could never work at Olivia’s House.” People regularly share this sentiment with us and, while we are always surprised (because we love our jobs), we are also very much aware that “compassion fatigue” is a very real part of our profession. As Executive Director, it is my job to ensure the well-being of our staff. It is not an easy job, and sometimes I am truly challenged to come up with creative solutions. Nevertheless, I take it very seriously.


One way our staff takes care of ourselves is our annual staff retreat. The staff retreat began when a donor bequeathed us her estate with the caveat to “take care of yourselves too.” Our Board of Directors encouraged the staff to get out of town, take time away from the grief center, enjoy each other’s company, gain perspective and be inspired. 


At the end of July, we will be closing the grief center for a few days, so we can “retreat” to Washington, D.C. We are excited to see the sights, take in some history, and converse over delicious food at trendy restaurants! I am looking forward to spending a day at Arlington National Cemetery. While solemn and full of reverence, nothing exemplifies the need for our mission quite like standing at the Tomb of the Unknowns or witnessing the changing of the guard at the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame. I feel that all the hard work that our staff does each day will be validated in those moments!


We hope you can understand our need to close the center for a few days, to turn inward, reflect on the work we do, and take the opportunity for renewal and refreshment.  When we return from Washington, we'll look forward to reporting back on our Facebook and Instagram with the lessons we learned, the fresh ideas we discussed, and the great food we sampled!

Social Media Takeover
 Posted: 6/1/18 by Michelle Fox (Administrative Director) 

The world of social media has taken over, and at this point, it is almost unavoidable. The popularity of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and others ensures that they are here to stay.  In fact, social media can be very useful to Olivia's House as a tool to stay connected with our program families, volunteers, and the community. Currently, Olivia’s House has a Facebook, Twitter and NOW an Instagram account. The staff makes it a priority to post every day so the community is constantly involved with what we are doing and how their support is making a difference in the lives of the children we serve.


Our mission will always put the children first, and spending money on advertising is something that we do not always see as a good use of the community’s dollars. We would rather see a donation help to purchase craft supplies for the program or snacks for the kiddos. Therefore, we have found social media to be a great no-cost way for us to help promote our Walk to Remember, Olivian Gala, current programs, and so much more.


With the recent addition of our Instagram account, we are excited to share with our followers some “behind the scenes” features about Olivia’s House. We plan to share photos of projects we are working on, upcoming event reveals, and just as important, pictures of Hazel!


Interacting on social media is a great way for Olivia's House to keep up with our friends and supporters, and we appreciate that so many of you faithfully take time to follow along. Please join us on all our social media platforms as we continue to share news of our mission! Give us a thumbs up, leave us a comment, or send us a message letting us know what you would like to see more of.

End of Life Planning
Posted: 5/1/18 by Leslie Delp, MA (Founder and Bereavement Specialist)

DNR: Do NOT Resuscitate. Those letters are ominous when you are sitting bedside with someone you love, inside the walls of a hospital. Recently, I was facing this dilemma with my husband as he was preparing for serious surgery. The doctor would not perform the surgery without specifically recorded end of life care and a DNR directive, should anything go awry during the surgical procedure and/or recovery. Luckily, we had met with our dear friend and attorney, Jeff Bellomo, to plan our estate early last year. Part of the estate planning process is the creation of a will. Part of creating a will is to prepare advance directives, medical power of attorney and end of life care. Making those decisions with a sound mind, in the comfort of Jeff's office, where we could bounce ideas around and come up with a precise plan to carry out our end of life wishes, was so important. 


Many people don’t think about these vital conversations until they are faced with them at the hospital or in the ER, where cooler heads don’t always prevail. Jeff's expertise was invaluable as he helped to explain everything, leaving us feeling very secure in our decisions. Everything we discussed was then put into writing, making it official and legal. When the day came for the surgery, we simply pulled out our "Blue Bellomo Folder” and handed it to the nurse so the hospital could record our wishes to be followed to the "t" should that be necessary. What a relief and what a gift!  


Thank you, Jeff, for making a very difficult time in our lives a little more manageable. For more information on end of life care and estate planning, contact Olivia’s House. We can help you take the fear out of this essential task and move forward to put your wishes in place for the future.