Home Faith and Family Valerie’s House New Location Supports Grieving Families

Valerie’s House New Location Supports Grieving Families

Valerie’s House Founders, Angela Melvin (left) Crista Brandt (right)

When a friend of mine invited me to attend Valerie House’s open house Friday, April 21 I had no idea who Valerie was or what her mission was, but hearing the passion in my friend’s voice I knew I wanted to learn more.

Advertisement

Walking into 904 East Gadsden Street, I immediately knew I was part of something special. The cozy, historic home was full of people from all walks of life — children and adults who are either already part of the Valerie House story, or would like to be in some shape, way or form.

On arrival, I was greeted by the ‘why’ of Valerie’s House and their names are Angela Melvin and Crista Brandt. Valerie’s House was founded by Angela whose mother, Valerie, died in a car accident in 1987 when Angela was just 10 years old. Crista’s mother passed away when she was just 11 years old.

Angela and Crista bonded over their losses and shared experiences. One being the lack of resources when it came to managing their grief as children. As a result, Valerie’s House was born.

The mission of Valerie’s House is to help children and families work through the loss of a loved one together and go on to live fulfilling lives. Their vision is that No Child Will Grieve Alone. It’s a safe place for children, teens and adults to work through their feelings with other individuals their age who have experienced something similar.

Among their 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, share, and mentor each other through their grief.

The new Pensacola location serves around 100 families in our area, hosting an average of 50 individuals on group nights. Groups meet twice a month for dinner before breaking off into separate peer groups to discuss feelings, struggles, healing, and how they move through school and life with their loss. Many activities rely on the use of art and music to help youth identify, express, and process their grief. While the adult/parent room is often accompanied by a licensed therapist.

The new location on Gadsden Street was made possible by a local Pensacola family foundation. In December 2022, The Chadbourne Foundation donated $500,000 for the purchase of the new Valerie’s House.

After touring the home and meeting many families and people who have been impacted by this organization, I was able to take away something very important.

Grief is not linear — it has no timelines, progression forward, or definitive time frame of when you’re going to ‘be healed.’ Some days you’re okay and some days you’re not. Valerie’s House provides a space for both of those days and we are fortunate to have such an incredible space to support members of our community who are going through such loss.

For more information and to learn how to get involved with Valerie’s House visit https://valerieshouse.org. Currently some of their biggest needs are meal donations on peer nights, male volunteers, and a contractor to help them build out their kitchen.