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GriefWorks recovers to remain vital resource in Auburn community

Auburn-based GriefWorks has been an important bereavement resource in the community since its inception in 1998. - Courtesy photo
Auburn-based GriefWorks has been an important bereavement resource in the community since its inception in 1998.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

As an important bereavement resource in the Auburn area, GriefWorks weathered a financial storm to remain open today.

Still, the nonprofit organization that provides grief counseling and support for children, teens and families relies heavily on the helpful hand of a compassionate partner.

Without donations and volunteers, the private company simply would not exist.

In a stricken economy, GriefWorks nearly dissolved last December.

"People were confused and thought we had gone away," said Michele Ray, a GriefWorks bereavement counselor. "But we lived through the trouble and came out on top."

But the agency, like other nonprofit organizations, continues to face the challenge of soliciting financial and volunteer support.

Under new direction, the agency wants the public to know that it is alive and well and moving forward.

"Exposure is a good word," said Gene Humphreys, Griefworks' new executive director. "Exposure in that we are here and still available and that we didn't go away. We did not fold. We figured out a way to stay in business."

Ray added: "We want to let the public know that a treasure in the community is still there … to meet the needs of the grieving community."

GriefWorks focuses on counseling and educational support. It provides training and support to those who confront grief regularly throughout the course of their work. The agency not only touches families and youth, but also reaches medical personnel, first-responders (police, fire and aid), teachers, school counselors and members of the clergy.

Since its inception 12 years ago, GriefWorks has served an estimated 10,000-12,000 people in the area.

Such a role in the community brought Humphreys to GriefWorks. He spent 25-plus years at Boeing before he was laid off. Looking for a manager, GriefWorks turned to him earlier this year.

Humphreys has since made a smooth transition into a fulfilling job.

"I had this dream … to give back to the community," he said.

GriefWorks might be small in staff, but big in heart as it helps soothe the sorrow of a community.

"The needs are just as great," Ray said.

And more help is needed to continue the work. Volunteers are wanted to help with fundraising and other functions. In-kind gifts and money are needed and graciously accepted.

"Is there anybody out there who has the passion to help people in this environment, with the grieving? We would love to have a phone call from them," Humphries said.

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BREAKFAST EVENT

• What: GriefWorks' Compassion Partners Breakfast

• When: 7-8:30 a.m. today

• Where: Auburn Senior Activity Center, Millennium Room, 808 9th Ave. SE.

• Forum: Audience will gain insight into related programs and services and have the chance to hear and speak with individuals who have experienced the agency's work. Keynote speaker is Dr. Bob Baugher, Highline Community College psychology professor, author and specialist in the field of thanatology.

• Information: 253-333-9420, www.griefworks.org.

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