A place to mourn – Expansion in works

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Coping with the death of a child, or helping a child cope with the death of a loved one, are among the toughest tasks anyone can face.

In Charlotte, thanks to a 23-year-old charity believed to be the only one of its kind in the United States, bereaved parents and grieving children have a place to mourn.

Founded in 1978 by Lucy Christopher after she lost a child and brother within a six-month period, Kinder-Mourn provides counseling and support for several hundred parents and 1,000 youngsters a year.

The group initially supported bereaved parents, but in the early 1990s began offering services for bereaved youngsters in response to calls from teachers and counselors seeking help for children who had lost a parent or family member.

This past year, through its “Helping the Hurt” program, Kinder-Mourn counseled 700 students in support groups lasting up to 10 weeks at 30 Charlotte-Mecklenburg public schools.

The organization works with another 300 children at its offices, which are being expanded in response to growing demand for services.

To finance the expansion, Kinder-Mourn has just completed a $1.3 million capital campaign that began a year ago.

Topped by gifts of $100,000 each from the First Union Foundation and Belk Family Foundation, and $75,000 from Bank of America, the campaign will pay for a 3,200-square-foot addition that will house Kinder-Mourn’s grieving children program.

The addition will replace a 350-square-foot room in the 1910 house that Kinder-Mourn purchased with $300,000 raised in a capital campaign in 1995 and 1995. Construction begins this month and should be completed early in 2002.

Funds from the just-completed campaign also will support Kinder-Mourn’s school-counseling effort, which was funded by the Junior League of Charlotte from 1993 to 1997, and by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem from 1997 through 2000.

The campaign also will add $200,000 to Kinder-Mourn’s $50,000 endowment.

Building its endowment through planned giving will be a big focus at Kinder-Mourn, which recently hired Deborah Huffman, former development director for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Education Foundation, as its development director.

*Kelly Hamilton, Kinder-Mourn’s executive director, says the endowment effort, which could include a future campaign, will focus on families who have been involved with Kinder-Mourn.

And the job of helping families rebuild their lives can be tough, she says.

“What we find is that you don’t get over the death of a child,” she says. “You get through it, and it takes months and years.”

Kinder-Mourn’s biggest challenges are to support itself financially and promote and advertise its services in the community, Hamilton said.

“We have a program here that most people don’t want to use and most people don’t want to know about,” she says. “Our goal is to make sure that the community is aware of our service and what we do.”

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