The new home for Erin's House for Grieving Children had its official ground breaking Thursday afternoon, appropriately on National Children's Grief Awareness Day.
Debbie Meyer, executive director of the organization, spoke at the dedication, and gave the history of Erin Farragh, a girl who died just before her 5th birthday and for whom the agency is named. Her two siblings had their world turned upside down when she died. A friend of the family heard about their search for healing and the Junior League of Fort Wayne found an example of a house for grieving children, in Ohio, and then conducted a feasibility study to see if such a nonprofit organization would work in the Fort Wayne. In 1994 they started with four families; now they have 90 families per month with six program nights and have served more than 15,000 children whose siblings have died.
The site for the new building was chosen based off the 20-year-old feasibility study. Reading from the former study, Meyer said it needed to be a neutral site where there were no negative memories of the dead. It needed to be warm with a feel good atmosphere and must reflect life and hope. Meyer and the board of Erin's House believe they have found just that in the northeast Fort Wayne location. Meyer said the board starting work on the project two and a half years ago and looked at 57 different options before choosing the current location.
“Our kids love Erin's House. One little boy told us 'it is the happiest sad place you ever have to be,' ” Meyer said.
Gail Farragh, Erin's mother, spoke to the gathering and thanks them for their purpose of healing hearts.
“It is your outreach that makes Fort Wayne very special, in my eyes very special,” Farragh said adding, “Today I am full of appreciation for the fact that Erin's House's purpose has been affectionately nurtured and financially strengthened the past 19 years.”
The new facility will have 14,500 square feet, almost double its current 7,323 square foot space, along with a memory gardens on the grounds. The new structure will have 13 program rooms, a recreation room, a craft room, a gathering room, atrium, and administrative offices with a training room. The facility is located next to the new YMCA project, off St Joe Center Road.
The project will cost $2.75 million to complete. The agency has already received extensive contributions from foundations and businesses in the area and is now taking public contributions.