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There's a new building in Ft Myers built to help heal thousands of families

Posted at 12:17 AM, Mar 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-15 00:17:37-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Thanks to the generosity of the community and strategic partnerships, including a symbolic $1-a-year lease agreement with the City of Fort Myers, a new $3 million facility now serves as a home for grieving families.

Valerie's House has woven itself into the fabric of Southwest Florida over the past nine years, offering a sanctuary for families grappling with a loss of a loved one.

It's a place where stories of pain and resilience intermingle, like that of Kari Cardisco. With her voice trembling with emotion, the Valerie House mentor told her Ft Myers Community Correspondent Anvar Ruziev how she suddenly found herself on the other side, as a grieving mother.

"Unfortunately, we got the news almost exactly three years ago that his dad died, and he was fourteen at the time. That news rocked our world," Cardisco recounted as she stood next to her son.

But Valerie's House was there to help Cardisco, and it has helped more than five thousand children and families across Southwest Florida, like Jacqueline Virtue, who has left her mark on the very walls of the new facility.

Virtue, who painted a large mural inside, told me, "It's therapy for grieving children, and so as their caregivers, we benefit because we get therapy and we know how to help our grieving child so within that, we all get help. The benefit affects the whole family."

In Florida, one in eleven children face the loss of a sibling or parent before they turn 18, according to Childhood Bereavement Estimation Models.

Angela Melvin-Churchill, the Founder and CEO of Valerie's House, described the importance of community awareness. "We have a lot of families that learn about us through the school system," she said, highlighting how schools play a crucial role in connecting families to Valerie's House during their time of need.

As Valerie's House looks to the future, plans are already underway to expand the facility to offer even more support to families.