Highlighting National Non-Profit Day and National Grief Awareness Day
This is the first in a series we’ve been inspired to do, highlighting non-profit organizations in our communities doing amazing things. From here, we plan to feature an organization monthly, sharing information and celebrating all the good that is done in and around the Southside.
Grief and loss are things we all deal with at some point in our lives. But when we have unexpected loss or untimely loss due to accidents or other traumatic experiences, it can be very difficult on the whole family. Cornerstone of Hope is a non-profit organization located in Independence, OH that provides support to families who are dealing with all types of grief and loss. One of only maybe 10 organizations like it in the country, Cornerstone is unique in what it offers to the community.
Born out of loss, the organization was developed by Mark and Christi Tripodi after they lost their three-year old son, Bobby to bacterial meningitis in May of 2000. After struggling through their own grief and seeking out support from every resource they could find, they discovered that what was available to families wasn’t enough and it was costly. They decided to create a place where families could get the kind of support they needed regardless of their finances.
Cornerstone has seen the community through evolutions in grief and loss, too. In recent years, there has been an increase in death due to suicide and drug overdose.
“There’s so much more trauma now that comes with loss,” said Julia Ellifritt, LISW-S, executive director of Cornerstone. “About 70 percent of our clients are now dealing with suicide, overdose or murder.”
And most recently, due to the impact of COVID-19, families have experienced a lack of closure with loss. “Being able to say goodbye to people is part of the grief process, and so many people have not had the chance to do that because of COVID,” Ellifritt said.
So Cornerstone provides services that help through grief, trauma and lack of closure. They provide summer camps, group counseling and individual counseling as well as some special events. The camps are especially near and dear to their hearts because they help children process grief.
“You might be the only 7th grader you know that lost your dad, so that can feel very lonely,” Ellifritt said. “But when you come to camp, you’re going to meet other kids who have lost their dad and that’s important for healing.”
Support groups are created based on type of loss, too, so that members feel like they can relate to each other’s experiences and feel safe expressing their perspectives. Both group and camp services are completely free.
Individual counseling is the only thing that does come at a cost, but Ellifritt said the organization is moving to an insurance-based billing model now and otherwise fees are nominal and based on what clients can afford.
The facility is always growing and changing, too. They have special rooms designed for the kids for therapy, such as the “Steam Room,” where the kids can punch and throw things to let off steam in a safe place. They also provide a basketball area so teens can play and relax while talking. A few years ago, they commissioned Tree House Masters, an Animal Planet show to come and build a treehouse on the property as yet another space where kids and clients can be while processing their feelings. And now they’re preparing to double the size of their grief center.
Support for Cornerstone comes by way of grants, an annual fund, a yearly gala and golf outings. The community has been extremely supportive, Ellifritt said.
And, Cornerstone provides events for their clients as well because it helps to celebrate life and find positive ways to honor the lives that were lost. So they provide holiday candle lightings and ornament making events, a butterfly release in June, and a Mother’s Day tea for mothers who have lost children.
“When you’ve lost a baby, it’s important for someone to tell you that you’re still a mother,” Ellifritt said. “And our tea is an opportunity to do that for our mothers.”
If you’ve experienced a loss and need support, you can contact Cornerstone of Hope at
216-524-HOPE (4673) or firstname.lastname@example.org
They provide three locations: Cleveland, Lima and Columbus
And their website provides reading materials, resources and information on their different services. Go to www.cornerstoneofhope.org
Their goal is to “Create a world where no grieving person journeys alone.”