"This may be the only place in their lives, when they walk in the door, they know everybody there has had somebody significant to them die," said Swolsky, who has volunteered as a support group facilitator for nearly nine years.
Brooke's Place for Grieving Young People offers free twice-monthly support groups for children of all ages, as well as the adults in their households. The groups attract about 300 people a month.
This fall, Brooke's Place used a $100,000 gift from the Levin Living Trust to start individual counseling.
Swolsky's husband Michael is co-trustee of the Levin trust, which was established by his uncle and aunt, Willard and Anne Levin of the Los Angeles area.
"When I heard about this program, my uncle was still living," Michael Swolsky said. "In the last couple of years before he died, he felt bereavement counseling was very important."
Michael Swolsky said his aunt and uncle lost their son to suicide at age 21. "At that time, there were no programs," he said. "It was a sticking point in their lives."
Swolsky is in the process of converting the trust to a foundation and plans to make future gifts that would allow Brooke's Place to offer more free counseling for families that can't afford it.
Three contracted therapists began individual counseling through Brooke's Place in October and are serving 16 people, President Kelley Romweber said. Fees are on a sliding scale.
Marcia Swolsky, who also serves on the board of directors, said the idea of launching individual, fee-based counseling appealed to her because it might someday generate enough revenue to cover the core mission of Brooke's Place: free support groups.
"I loved that idea," she said. "It's hard," she said of annual fund raising. "There's only so many areas we're going to be able to tap. Death is a hard sell. Even though it happens to everybody, it's a hard sell."
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