Announcing Julie’s Retirement and Jodie Sneller as our new Executive Director

Jodie and JulieJulie Lockhart and the WinterSpring Board are excited to announce our new Executive Director, Jodie Sneller.

PRESS RELEASE:

Medford, OR—WinterSpring announces the upcoming retirement of Julie Lockhart, who has been Executive Director since 2011, and has helped lead the organization through significant growth and increased stability.  We are pleased to announce that Jodie Sneller will be replacing her as Executive Director on October 2, 2017.

Jodie Sneller first came to WinterSpring through her own experience of loss.  She joined the Board of Directors, serving for two years, and also co-facilitated grief support groups as a volunteer. As the Board, Julie, and her staff got to know Jodie, it became clear that she would be an excellent choice to succeed Julie. Jodie has a clear passion for the mission, excellent leadership skills, and a clear vision for how the organization can grow stronger in our community. The Board of Directors voted unanimously for her to succeed Julie. Prior to Jodie’s association with WinterSpring, she was a practicing family law attorney in Portland, Oregon for eight years. She is a licensed attorney in the State of Oregon and Washington and became a named partner and shareholder in her firm in year three of her practice.  Jodie will be a wonderful new leader for WinterSpring, with a diverse set of skills to continue to build the organization’s support for the bereaved in our community.

WinterSpring, a local 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, helps children, teens and adults, who have experienced the pain of loss, to embrace life again.  Since 1989, WinterSpring has supported grieving people though a peer-to-peer companioning model.  Children’s Program supports grieving kids, ages 6-12, and their families. WinterSpring supports teens with groups in the local schools, and offers Camp WinterSpring in the summer. Adult programs are offered depending on the type of loss. In addition, WinterSpring educates school staff and other organizations affected by deep loss.

In memory of Paul Gibson

Paul_profile.jpg.scaled500The whole staff and board are very sad to share that our beloved Paul Gibson passed away last week from complications due to a blood clot.  Paul was an amazing gift to WinterSpring and our teen programs.  We wouldn’t be where we are in the growth of WinterSpring without Paul’s generous spirit and passion for our mission.  His funeral is: 10 am Monday, December 21, at Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Church in Ashland, 987 Hillview Dr. 

Paul walked into the office for the first time just about four years ago, soon after I started as Executive Director.  I had requested an intern from SOU’s Nonprofit Certificate Program and the faculty thought Paul would be a great fit. Little did they know that Paul would become an invaluable resource for our struggling organization.  Little did they know that he would become a beloved part of our WinterSpring family.

Paul jumped into the task of helping me with grants, and any other task I put him on. He was kind of my right-hand man as I tried to figure out how to build WinterSpring into a stable organization. We’d bounce fundraising ideas back and forth.  He had an endearing and humorous quirk of calling me “Boss” and “Chief.”  He was always such a “yes” person–with a big supportive grin on his face.  When it came time for his internship to be over, we asked him if he would join the staff on a very part-time basis.  I was seeing a critical need within WinterSpring to have someone specifically assigned to our teen programs in the schools.  It was a win-win, because we couldn’t afford very much, and he couldn’t be paid much because of disability income restrictions.  Most of the incredible work he did as a volunteer.

Needless to say, Paul took to the job like he was made for it.  He began going out to the schools and building relationships…and then facilitating the groups in the schools where he had made the connections.  The most successful group has been at Talent Middle School where we have had sometimes over 20 grieving kids come to groups.  Paul’s own grief story made him a credible and well-loved role model for the kids, especially the boys.  Paul is also responsible for building our reach into the rural Jackson County communities. And the kids loved his participation in our first Camp WinterSpring. This past June, Paul started a graduate program in Portland, and he proudly left us with a well-regarded and in much higher demand program for youth.

But our sadness at his untimely death is more than what Paul did.  It is who he was and who he became in the work at WinterSpring.  We watched Paul come into himself in a new way because of his work with grieving kids.  We watched his incredibly generous spirit blossom.  I’ve really never met anyone quite like Paul in his selfless giving to a cause he so believed in. And I deeply admired his dedication to his own well-being and personal growth, and the way he worked so hard to get in excellent shape. Paul became like a brother to me as we continued our important work together, and it often seemed there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me or for WinterSpring.  I felt the same way about him. He was there for me when life got tough, and I hope I was there for him in the same way. I always appreciated his quick wit, incredibly warm heart, and passion for helping the kids.  Paul’s big twinkling smile, little pranks and laughter, and boundless joy live on in our hearts as we work to build on his legacy with the grieving kids in the valley.

Our hearts go out to his young adult children, Megan and Ben, and to his Mom (whom he affectionately referred to as “Miss Daisy”), and to the rest of his wonderful family and friends.  Please know that we will do whatever we can to keep Paul’s incredible legacy to WinterSpring alive.

 

Resources for suicide loss

Hands Julie and Emma_Fotor

Sadly, we’ve heard that two Jackson County teens have taken their own lives in separate incidences this past week.  We have resources to help in the aftermath of such tragic losses.  We also wish to share what we can about how teens grieve — whole schools have been affected.  Our hearts go out to everyone involved.

http://winterspring.org/suicide-loss/

http://winterspring.org/teen-grief/

http://winterspring.org/specifically-for-teens-young-adults/

And from US News: Surviving a Loved One’s Suicide

 

Grieving a difficult relationship

IrisGrieving difficult relationshipsby Julie Lockhart, Executive Director, © WinterSpring

The writings about grief and loss so often speak to missing the person who is gone, and perhaps longing for their physical presence again—especially during birthdays, holidays and anniversaries.  Yet, more often than we might guess, a relationship may have been difficult.  For example, a parent might have been overly critical, and perhaps behaved badly at Thanksgiving dinners.  Difficult relationships bring complex and conflicting emotions to the surface, including shame for not feeling “what you are supposed to feel” about the person who died.  And especially as we go through special occasions, these difficult emotions may get in the way of simple pleasures.  Sometimes our grief isn’t as much about the death as it is about a relationship that will never be how we would have wanted it—a connection that never was loving and now that person is no longer here for us to find some reconciliation.

Writer Andrea Heeres shares that expressing the truth about difficult feelings in a safe setting can help the healing process.  “A journal is a safe place…you might write a letter to the person who has hurt you…” (Grieving the Difficult Relationship, Bereavement Magazine, January/February 2004).  She also suggests exercise, healthy eating and getting rest, because moving through the long-standing pain takes strength.

Participation in a WinterSpring support group can help individuals process such difficult emotions in a safe environment.  “I experienced such relief when my father died, because he was always so mean to my mother and me,” said a recent group participant, almost in a whisper because of her shame for feeling that way about her dad.  Her brave comment opened the way for others in the group to share similar difficult emotions.  The facilitators reported afterward that because of this honest sharing, the energy of each of these participants seemed brighter at the end of that group session.  Many of the participants expressed relief that they could share such heavy emotions.

If you have experienced difficult emotions around the death of a loved one, seek a safe place to share your truth.  And if you are supporting a bereaved person, be aware that the emotions they express may be unexpected, even shocking, as they grapple with the complexity of their grief.  Most important is kindness and compassion for yourself and others who have endured these difficult relationships with those we love.

The Value of Group Support

The Value of Group Support — From our Director

Ashland CreekMagic happens when a group of grieving people come together to share their stories.  Lots of research supports this, and years of WinterSpring experience also confirms the value of group work.  I got to appreciate this first-hand as a co-facilitator of a group on Aging and Loss.  After the scheduled eight weeks ended, we did what many groups do and gathered to reconnect over a meal.  As we came together over a potluck of yummy fall vegetable dishes, pasta, deviled eggs, and salads, I looked around at these dear faces and reflected on the changes over the two months since we’d first met.  What I noticed most is that the “heaviness” had lifted, for some more than others, but each in their own way glowed.  Glow is the best word I can find for what I saw, and I believe it’s from the telling of our stories and being heard and finding camaraderie in shared experiences.  Here are a couple of comments:

  • Thanks for the companionship as we build back to a new normal, if one can really use the word “normal” for what is left to us.  
  • We all have our own path to follow, but I feel much stronger with the bonds we have created.

I’m constantly amazed by the resiliency of the human spirit, and honored that these deeply hurting folks came every week and bared their souls with each other…and often left with a smile on their faces. I just started co-facilitating a new group today, and left feeling that same sense of awe at the resiliency the group members showed today. I am so blessed to be doing such important work.

Thank you to our community of volunteers and financial supporters!  We can continue this meaningful work of helping people learn to embrace life again after loss because of you.