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All of the pieces are coming together for Mourning Hope’s move to a permanent home.

Lori Seibel, president and CEO of the Community Health Endowment, suggested a parcel in the West A neighborhood where she saw room for expanded services to support family wellness.

“I don’t think we would have found this site without CHE,” explained Mourning Hope Executive Director Carly Runestad.

In January, Mourning Hope finalized a city land purchase that makes it a neighbor to the Willard Community Center on South Folsom and West A streets. Willard’s Executive Director Janelle Soderling said she is excited about what is being called the creation of a “nonprofit campus,” as well as the opportunity to collaborate with Mourning Hope.

“I just see us doing so many things for the neighborhood, bringing people together for special events in the park,” Soderling said. Some examples include health fairs, theater in the park and neighborhood celebrations.

General contractor Hampton Construction recently informed Mourning Hope that it could save on building costs by moving ahead with construction before next fall as planned. So the nonprofit is redoubling its efforts to get the word out about its $4 million Make Room for Hope Capital Campaign, launched last fall.

Swanson Russell and Eagle Printing stepped up to provide campaign brochures for next to nothing, Runestad shared. Hampton Construction is offering its services at a significantly reduced cost, too.

Runestad is thankful to the capital campaign team and the community members who have already shown support for the project.

“It’s amazing and heartwarming to know that that many people care about it that much to step forward,” she said.

Eight donors have given a combined $2.2 million toward the project. That puts Mourning Hope about two-thirds of the way to its goal, but it needs 80 percent of the funds to break ground.

Donde Plowman, a mother of three who now gives annually to Mourning Hope and willingly agreed to serve on the capital campaign committee, is invested.

“I’m really drawn to their mission, because something like that would have really helped me,” she shared. Plowman’s oldest son, Christopher Ashmos, died at age 20 in a car accident 16 years ago.

Pam Fuhr Dinneen founded Mourning Hope in 1994 to help families learn coping skills to deal with the death of a loved one because she wanted to make sure that no child ever has to grieve alone.

“I’m just thankful people in Lincoln have this resource,” said Plowman, who relied heavily on books to help her and her two teenage sons put their lives back together.

Mourning Hope offers hope and healing to grieving families with no-cost bereavement services, including young adult and family grief support groups, survivors of suicide loss support groups, school-based grief support groups, summer activities, and programs like Holiday Hope. Advancement Director Kate Holman said the 10-week grief support groups fill up nearly a month prior to the start of a new session.

“We’re having to turn away families because there’s not enough room,” said Runestad. “That is not who we want to be.”

Grief support groups gather in the living/dining area of the Nebraska Wesleyan neighborhood rental home that currently houses the Mourning Hope Grief Center, but attendance is limited to about 60 people due to space. “We’re very limited on the programming we can offer based on the size of our building,” Runestad said.

Mourning Hope currently serves about 500 clients a year and would like to double that over the next five years as it moves to its nearly 15,000-square-foot space. “We’ll be able to serve more people and larger groups of people,” Runestad said.

The original timeline called for construction to be completed by the end of 2020.

“We’ve been working toward this for 25 years,” said longtime board member Terry Hansen. “Now we’re established enough we need more space. We want to build our program around our mission instead of the building size.”

A Legacy grant in the amount of $560,000 from the Community Health Endowment will expand the new building’s footprint by 2,000 square feet and allow space for additional community wellness services. “We wanted to focus on projects that would celebrate health in the community,” Seibel said.

A large multi-purpose room will provide space for yoga, parenting classes and related programs. Individual spaces for collaborating partners to help combat childhood stress are also part of the plan. “It’s still somewhat undefined,” Runestad said, adding that the services would be a natural flow for the clients that Mourning Hope serves as well as the general community.

Two-acre Schroeder/Willard Park, which lies between Willard Community Center and the Mourning Hope build site, will get an overhaul to facilitate more community gatherings thanks to a portion of the CHE grant. Plans call for adding half-court basketball courts, a play structure, shelter, and a berm with seating and walking paths.

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L Magazine editor

Mark Schwaninger is L magazine and Neighborhood Extra editor.

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