Building Donated to McClean Fletcher Center

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

With a heartfelt "Merry Christmas," Don Fortenberry, President of the Hospice Ministries Executive Board, presented Isabel Cordua, Executive Director of the McClean Fletcher Center, and Mary Ann Lefoldt, Advisory Board President, with a small gift wrapped package. Inside, resting on a puff of cotton, was a bright future. Pulling a key out of the box with a puzzled look on her face, Lefoldt turned to Fortenberry for an explanation.

 "While working with you last year as honorary chairman of the Heartstrings Gala benefiting the McClean Fletcher Center, Gerald Cotton, Executive Vice-President of Baptist Health Systems, heard you express a need to relocate your office to a larger facility to better meet the needs of your clients. Baptist Health Systems is pleased to make that dream come true by donating a 4000 square foot building located at 12 Northtowne Drive to Hospice Ministries with the intent that it be used by the McClean Fletcher Center," he said with a grin.

"Although the building requires renovation, it is the hope of the administrators at Baptist Health Systems that this will allow you to relatively quickly expand the grief support services you provide to children, adolescents, and their families who have experienced the death of a loved one."

That was two years ago. The Harrell Contracting Group in Ridgeland, MS volunteered its services as the contractor on the improvement under the supervision of the project manager Thad Crosby. Finding subcontractors for the project was not difficult, said Tom Black, vice President of Harrell Contracting Group. Many have offered help because of their personal experiences. Others felt it was just the right thing to do, even in a recession, Black said.

"The outreach has been beyond our expectations in these tough economic times, " he said. Adco Electric of Jackson donated all the electrical work on the building, said Andy Hardin, company vice President. "It is probably the scariest thing a kid can think of…losing a parent," he said.

His family has not been touched by the type of grief that those at the center have, he said. But it made sense for Adco's owners to help. "We're just in the same boat everyone else is (economically), he said. "You feel strongly in giving back to people that need it."

The McClean Fletcher Center helps an average of 100 children each year and has more than 30 volunteers. The new two story building will offer counseling rooms, a game room, a playroom and gathering place for adult caregivers. The Center now also has a new kitchen and dining area. "The center feeds the children while they are there, and the kitchen will really help. Food is comfort, said Isabel Cordua, the McClean Fletcher Center Director. The McClean Fletcher Center, a subsidiary of Hospice Ministries, began offering grief support for children, adolescents, and adult caregivers in November of 1999. Support groups are led by staff and trained volunteers.

"Our role is to companion and walk beside them as they go through the grieving process," Cordua explained. "By placing those that are grieving with others their own age that are experiencing similar situations they realize they are not alone. This environment encourages age appropriate expression of their feelings," Cordua said.

Physical expression of feelings is also encouraged. "We have a tornado room that is padded for those that just want to hit something," Cordua continued, "or other outlets of expression are available through art, puppets, a game room, or even a "hidey-hole" where a child can just be alone with his or her thoughts." Each group meets bi-weekly, and requires 5 to 6 volunteer facilitators.

"Due to limited space, our services are sometimes limited," Lefoldt said. With this very generous gift from Baptist Health Systems we can serve more clients and expand the activities we are able to make available to them."

Lefoldt noted that a support group has recently been formed in Indianola. The McClean Fletcher Center is based in Jackson. Other services provided include educational in-services on children and grief, crisis intervention as requested by organizations, businesses or schools, support groups within schools, churches, or other offsite locations, and educational materials. All services are free of charge.

"We are so appreciative of this very generous gift that will allow us to expand our work," Cordua said. "The greater Jackson area has been tremendously supportive, and we hope that will continue. Our annual fundraiser, Heartstrings Gala, is scheduled for Thursday, February 18th at the home of Jordan and David Goodwin located in beautiful Woodland Hills. The fundraiser will, as always, feature delicious food, drink, music, and a fabulous silent auction. For more information about the services provided by the McClean Fletcher Center or the Heartstrings Gala call 601-206-5525.

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