The amount of work that New Hope is able to accomplish is truly nothing short of a miracle. Despite what some may think New Hope only has three full time staff. However, our small staff is multiplied by the countless volunteers who dedicate their time, talents, and touch to the grieving families we serve. Each year we have over 50 volunteers who serve and care for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Without our dedicated volunteers our mission of brining hope and healing into the lives of grieving people would not survive.
For over a year we have been blessed with two wonderful volunteers, Sandy and Tammy, they truly embody the mission of New Hope. They both experienced the pain and loss of losing a husband, and each had to go through their own journey of grief.
Sandy and our Founder, Susan Beeney, met each other when their sons played on the same soccer team as children. Years later Sandy and Sue were reunited, Sue had shared that she started a non-profit for grieving people. Sue asked Sandy “Would you like to learn more and perhaps volunteer?” After learning more about the work New Hope did Sandy told Sue “I can’t help you as a volunteer, I don’t understand what grief is”. Five years later Sandy lost her husband Fred in May of 2010 after a battle with cancer. It was almost a year later, in March of 2011, that Sandy realized she wasn’t doing too well and slipping into a depression. Remembering New Hope, Sandy reached out to Sue asking for help. Sandy enrolled in an eight week grief support group not knowing what to expect. After a couple of groups Sandy told Sue, “Much to my amazement I felt at home and comfortable with the peers in my group, the group wasn’t terrible, it was good and brought me healing. I discovered that life after the death of someone you love does eventually transition and we find our “new normal”, a new and different normal.”
After Sandy finished her grief group she knew she wanted to give back to New Hope and become a volunteer. It was during her journey of grief that she realized she wanted to become a grief group facilitator and give back to others who were hurting. While training and volunteering at New Hope Sandy met Tammy.
Tammy, like Sandy lost her husband Jim to cancer in April 2007 after being married for 19 years. Tammy was a widow raising two daughters ages eleven and fourteen all while trying to cope with her grief “I was overwhelmed with grief and wanted to face it, but I did not know how to deal with it.” Time passed and she was still not adapting well to life without Jim, and her grief was not leaving her alone. Tammy was a woman of faith, one day at church she was speaking with her Pastor and he told her about New Hope. Tammy immediately reached out and enrolled in an eight week grief support group “The grief group was a great support and comfort to me. I learned that all of the feelings associated with my grief were normal and that although it felt like it, I was not going crazy.” Tammy learned that grief is a process and it takes time, grief cannot be rushed and if you don’t deal with it, it waits for you. A year after Tammy completed her grief group she wanted to give back to help others on their journey of grief. Having teenage daughters of her own, Tammy decided she wanted to become a grief group facilitator and lead groups for children and teenagers who had lost a loved one.
In September of this year Sandy and Tammy were given the wonderful opportunity to volunteer together at the National Guard Sunburst Youth Challenge Academy in Los Alamitos at the Joint Forces Training Base. The mission of the National Guard Youth Challenge Program is to intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16-18 year old high school dropouts, producing program graduates with the values, life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens.
With the volunteer leadership of Tammy and Sandy New Hope was able to provide 12 cadets at the academy with hope, healing, and the tools they need to successfully embrace their journey of grief. Many times the cadets are dealing with multiple losses in their life. For eight weeks Tammy and Sandy were able to bring their wisdom, grief expertise, and comfort into the lives of the cadets. From the first session to the last session grief, sorrow, love, hope, and even laughter was shared amongst the group. As the group was approaching the eighth week one of the cadets told Tammy and Sandy “This was so helpful for me, I have never been able to talk about my loss and how I felt until I met you two.”
Without the dedication of volunteers like Sandy and Tammy New Hope’s mission would not have been fulfilled in the lives of the cadets. After the group was completed Tammy shared, “Working with the cadets through the eight weeks is like watching a butterfly work its way through its cocoon and spreading its wings. There is a lot of beauty in each cadet; each one earns a special place in my heart.”
The story of Tammy and Sandy illustrates how New Hope not only provides hope and healing to grieving people, but it also is the catalyst for new friendships and opportunity. We asked Tammy to describe her friendship with Sandy and she said “We are now soul sisters best known as Thelma and Louise. Our partnership as grief group facilitators enhances the experience for everyone in the group as our styles and experiences bring out the best in each other. Sandy is a wise Godly woman with love in her heart for grieving people”. It brings such joy into the hearts of New Hope staff knowing that the work we do goes far beyond the four walls of our grief groups. To see friendships built and the combining of two hearts focused on one mission of serving others is beyond measure. May many more friendships ignite, lives touched, and people changed because of the work we do.