The Story of Valerie's House
Valerie’s House opened its doors in January 2016, but it was a concept a long time in the making. Valerie Melvin was just 31-years-old when she lost her life in an automobile accident in Fort Myers in 1987. She left behind a loving husband and two small children, including Angela, then 10-years old.
After high school, Angela moved away to college and eventually became a journalist, living in various regions of the country. Upon returning to Fort Myers in 2013, she wanted to volunteer with grieving children like she once was, but noticed there were very few resources for those kids to connect and heal together.
Angela began to research what was available for grieving children in other areas of the country, and visited those non-profits to learn how best to impact children who often feel alone when they have had someone close to them die.
She began to share her story with friends and business leaders like Caryn Smith, and Sarah Owen, the CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. With perseverance, passion and plenty of prayers, Angela’s vision for a place solely to help children grieve began to come alive. With the help of many other friends and business owners, volunteers and funders, Southwest Florida has continued to support this growing organization ever since.
Among other services, Valerie’s House provides open-ended peer support groups and activities for children to heal after a significant loss in their life. Valerie's House is not a formal counseling center, it is a community and a platform for individuals to come together, and share and mentor one another through grief. There is nothing of this kind in Southwest Florida — Valerie’s House was the first organization between Tampa and Miami focused on supporting grieving children on an ongoing basis.
Although Valerie’s House is independently operated, Valerie's House is modeled on many of the concepts used at the nationally-recognized and acclaimed Dougy Center for Grieving Children in Portland, Oregon, which has been around for more than 30 years helping children grieve.