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To donate
Phone: 243-2466
Purpose: To provide support services for children, teens and their families who have suffered the death of a loved one.
Needs: Gift cards for merchandise, groceries, pizza, movies and gas; hand-held games or board games; prepackaged holiday treats; craft kits; children’s mittens and hats, DVDs and microwave popcorn; birthday candles; copy paper; bottled water; business-size and large mailing envelopes and stamps; paper products, plasticware and cups; sanitizing wipes; plastic gloves. Volunteers are especially needed.
Drop-off: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at 5670 YMCA Park Drive West, Fort Wayne
Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Kids burn off energy in the Volcano Room at Erin’s House for Grieving Children. The nonprofit provides support to children, teens and their families suffering from the death of a loved one.

Erin’s House keeps on giving

Former clients return to help other hurting children


Erin’s House for Grieving Children is reaching and helping to heal the clients it serves.

Proof of that is in the number of former clients who return, sometimes years later, to serve as volunteers, said Executive Director Debbie Meyer.

Meyer investigated the organization’s list of 97 volunteers and found that 21 had been served by Erin’s House at some point in their lives, she said.

The local nonprofit was started more than 20 years ago by Dave and Gail Farragh, whose daughter, Erin, died at just 5 years old.

After being inadequately housed in two shopping malls, Erin’s House moved into a new, $2.75 million building just south of St. Joe Center Road at 5670 YMCA Park Drive West six weeks ago.

Erin’s House is just one of many area nonprofits included in The Journal Gazette’s annual holiday charity giving list. The alphabetical listing of charities and their needs will continue in Saturday’s editions and a listing of animal-related charities will appear in Sunday’s Journal Gazette.

The staff of seven and about 100 volunteers are thrilled with their new surroundings – and even more thrilled that it looks like a home.

“Kids who were told they were going to visit Erin’s House always commented that it didn’t look like a house, it looked like a store,” Meyer said. “Children are very literal, but now when they come, it looks like a house.”

Erin’s House sits on 3 1/2 acres and is on the campus of a future YMCA facility, which will be a benefit for both, since both center around the well-being of children, Meyer said.

They serve about 450 individuals a month, she said.

The new house has a welcome room – cozy and warm, like a personal living room, Meyer said – as well as a volunteer training room and rooms for each age group of children – 3 to 5; 6 to 9; 10 to 13; and 13 and older.

Besides holding activities and get-togethers for children, the staff serves as a crisis response team and visits schools and churches throughout northeast Indiana, meeting with groups and individuals in times of tragedy.

Volunteers working directly with the children are required to have 20 hours of training, Meyer said.

The first time a child visits Erin’s House, there is a pizza and birthday cake party in that child’s honor.

“Many times children and important events like birthdays are forgotten in the aftermath of a death,” Meyer said. “Our goal is to start a new normal, to get them back on the track to living.”