Olivia's House VIRTUAL Holiday Programs
Posted: 12/1/20 by Julia Dunn, M.Ed., LPC (Program Director)
When the pandemic first hit the news in early spring of 2020, the world optimistically hoped that the chaos would calm within weeks; none of us dreamed that the winter holidays would be affected by COVID-19. As the months of spring and summer went by, the staff at Olivia’s House did what we do best – planned ahead! We were busy little elves working tirelessly to make our holiday celebrations JUST as special as they had always been, even though we couldn’t meet in person. In 2020, our two favorite holiday WINGS events – holiday shopping and the annual Holly Jolly event – went virtual!
Holiday shopping is a much looked-forward-to event! During a typical holiday season, we gather our alumni at the Target in Hanover to shop for a loved one who might be missing a gift this year due to a death in the family. For example, if a child’s father has died, they may not have anyone to take them shopping for a gift for Mom. Though we could not gather in a group of 100, we still provided all of our alumni children the opportunity to purchase gifts, . . . only this time it was on Zoom! Over the course of two days, Program Director Julia Dunn met individually on Zoom with nearly 30 children as they shopped together on Amazon Prime. The cost of every gift that a child picked out was covered by Olivia’s House, then each gift was wrapped by our volunteers to hand out to the children. We are so grateful to the Christmas for Kids organization for funding this WINGS event, which always brings smiles to many faces during the holiday season!
Our OTHER favorite Holiday WINGS event is our annual Holly Jolly party! In years past we have graduated from hosting this event in our beautiful garden at Olivia’s House to moving into the ice-skating rink and party room at Heritage Hills Resort. Once again, COVID threw a wrench into our usual plans, but that just gave us the opportunity to get creative! In that vein, we were thrilled to introduce our very first Holly Jolly on Wheels WINGS event! Thanks to the generous support from Yazoo Mills, Olivia’s House covered the cost for almost 50 families to travel to Hershey, PA, to view the drive-thru Sweet Lights display! And for an extra surprise, we provided each family with a Goodie Bag filled with treats to make their night even better: a gift card to Dunkin’ to get some creamy hot chocolate, crafts on-the-go to keep everyone occupied during the drive, a collection of sweet treats, some Olivia’s House swag, and a scavenger hunt, to keep everyone’s eyes peeled for that special holiday magic!
We feel blessed to have partners in the community who allow us to create these special events for our families, and we are even more grateful for our alumni families who have made the long-term commitment to healing!
A Quarantine Shift
Posted: 11/1/20 by K.C. Delp (Executive Director)
During the Covid-19 quarantine, Olivia’s House has been challenged to adapt and change. We are proud of the many ways we have continued to support our community, and nation, despite the landscape of the telehealth picture. With daily activity at the grief center to a minimum, there is one immense change that has gone relatively unnoticed. Our Founder and Bereavement Specialist, Leslie Delp (a.k.a. my mother), no longer has an office at Olivia’s House.
How can this be, what happened?! Don’t worry, no need to sound the alarm just yet. Mom is still very much guiding our mission and healing hearts. Like many businesses, we have found an incredible balance in the remote workplace world. She has simply taken this opportunity to shift her work entirely from her home office. We are keeping her busier than ever! Mom still attends staff meetings (sometimes in her jammies), she continues to counsel clients, and she has even been teaching the parents group during our virtual programs.
Just because this transition made perfect sense logically, didn’t mean that it wasn’t difficult emotionally. As I sat in Mom’s office (now mine) for the first time, I couldn’t help but remember the day my friends and I rented a U-Haul truck to pick up the very desk I was now sitting at. We transported it to York, disassembled it, carried it to the third floor of the grief center and then reassembled it. As I turned to say, “Mom do you remember when…”, I realized she wasn’t there, and reality sunk in hard. That day, Mom and I had many FaceTime calls filled with tears, laughter, doubts, reassurances and most importantly love. Despite changing our décor and shifting our offices around, the grief center just felt “weird.” The staff was encountering this life-cycle loss, even though Mom was only a phone call away. And like any loss, we had to feel it, to heal it! We didn’t only lose Leslie but Hazel no longer made her daily visits to the office, so the addition of Libby to our staff was one very helpful distraction.
One way that I have managed to find comfort in an office that didn’t necessarily feel like mine, was to keep some of Mom’s things. Many of her books, her paperweight, her Dunkin’ Donuts Hero award, and various pieces of art now adorn my office, reflecting her Olivia’s House history. When I removed her oversized birch tree painting, so it could hang in her home office, Mom had an extra special idea. She began teaching herself watercolor painting during the quarantine and challenged herself to create a replacement birch tree painting for me. When the world allows, I invite you all to stop by and “critique” her piece that has now made the office mine!
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!