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Located at 1301 Whippoorwill Lane on the Naples Avow campus, Aunt Janet's House is a donation by area philanthropist Janet Cohen, who inspired the name and provided the financial support for the renovation of an existing house on the Avow campus.
"I value the grief process and believe in a supportive environment for children who have experienced loss," Cohen said. "It's so important to provide a cozy home-like place to help with healing, as well as provide opportunities for music and art therapies."
Avow Kids has been providing bereavement services for children ages 5-17 for 36 years with professionally trained staff. Aunt Janet's House will allow more after-school options for children, more teen interventions and day camps and events that can accommodate more participants. All Avow Kids services are offered without charge.
"This is going to be a comfortable, safe space for families to come," said Natalie Gonzalez, Manager of Supportive Care. The house will have additional play space, with a game room and outdoor area. "We know kids express and learn by playing. They will be able to get out and express and move and feel like their feelings can more around too."
Before Aunt Janet's House, children's services were provided in a wing of the Lyon Center on the Avow campus and in Avow's Ispiri community center. The new children's center will allow multiple services to take place at one time, for example an art therapy group simultaneous with family grief support in another room. The Avow Kids area in the Lyon Center will be repurposed for adult bereavement programs.
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Aunt Janet's House has rooms dedicated for art and music therapy. "It will be OK to have drums on the floor, jingle bells in the corner," Gonzalez said. "It will take some of the stress off the kids and the counselors to keep everything tidy." With a kitchen, Avow Kids can host family dinners, where families can share meals followed by breakout sessions for parents and children. "It will make the dinners feel like gathering around the table at home and give a sense of normalcy," Gonzalez said.
The grief cave, a successful treatment tool that allowed children to express their feelings in writing used in the Lyon Center, will be bigger in Aunt Janet's House, with enough room for families to share together.
In addition to Cohen's donation, a portion of the architectural services were donated by David Corban and team of Corban Architecture/Planning/Sustainability. Interior design services, carpet and baseboards were donated by Vanessa Pena of Studio+. Other businesses and individuals that donated materials and services include: Daltile, Milliken, Naples Shutter, Spartan Surfaces, Studio+, Formica, PPG, and Kevin Vaughan/Encore Garage.
Additional items are needed to furnish and equip Aunt Janet's House. To purchase needed items, visit the Amazon.com wish list (https://amzn.to/2R8nHXc).
In 2018, Avow provided 1,259 bereavement visits to children between the ages of five through 17 in the Avow Kids program. The program includes art and music therapies, as well as group and family counseling and support to children who are grieving the loss of a parent, sibling, friend, or relative through illness, accident, suicide or homicide. Avow also helps children process other types of loss including divorce, loss of a friend, instability in the foster care system, or deployed or incarcerated parents and family members. Support is in the form of in-school workshops, individual sessions, family groups, day and overnight camps and special activities. It costs close to $500,000 a year to operate the children's bereavement programs, which are supported in part by grants from the Community Foundation of Collier County and the Naples Children and Education Foundation.
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Avow is a community-focused, not-for-profit organization, serving its friends, families and neighbors living in Collier County, Fla. since 1983. Avow provides specialized end-of-life care to those living with a life-threatening illness and offers support to those who are caring for them. The Avow interdisciplinary care team provides medical care, pain management and complementary therapies. Avow cares for patients wherever they live. In addition, Avow has the only hospice house in Collier County (for in-patient acute care and respite). Avow also offers grief and bereavement support to the families and friends of patients as well as anyone in the community who has experienced a loss. Avow relies on community donations to help fund patient care and programs for the community. The phone number to call for any Avow service is 239-261-4404 or visit www.avowcares.org.
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