There’s a “circle room” with comfortable chairs for sitting together and talking.
There’s a room with art supplies and a room with books and games.
There’s a “volcano room,” with pads, a punching bag and large, soft stuffed animals.
There’s a room with a small hospital bed filled with teddy bears. Some of the bears have bandages.
When you walk into Cork’s Place Kids Grief Center, you immediately know that it’s all about finding ways to meet children where they are.
The facility, operated by Tri-Cities Chaplaincy, is the only one of its kind in the Tri-Cities.
It moved into a new physical home in Kennewick this past spring, but its mission remains the same: to help kids and their families deal with grief so they can live their best lives.
For children, “grief comes in waves,” said Tommi King, Chaplaincy’s bereavement coordinator. Cork’s Place uses art, music, conversation, play and more to help them ride those waves toward healing.
For years, Cork’s Place was based at 712 W. 19th Ave. in Kennewick, on a 1.42-acre property that included a 3,324-square-foot home with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a basement and more.
The property was donated to Chaplaincy by the family of the late Tri-City pharmacist Cork Simmelink.
Chaplaincy listed it earlier this year through Keller Williams Columbia Basin, with the Simmelink family’s blessing. It sold this month for about $470,000. The money will go back into Cork’s Place, which is supported by grants and donations. Cork’s Place costs about $300,000 a year to operate.
The grief center’s new home is at 2108 W. Entiat Ave., Kennewick, in the same building as Chaplaincy’s Hospice House. The move has allowed Chaplaincy to consolidate resources and create a more integrated and comprehensive support system, the organization’s leaders said in a statement.
“By sharing a building with our Hospice House, the bereavement team can better serve our community by offering a wider range of services under one roof,” the statement said.
Along with the location change, Cork’s Place also is using a new strategy that’s making its services available to far more children and families. The program used to run for a school year, serving about 100 kids total with a sizable wait list. But now five-week sessions are offered, along with one-day workshops. In the current five-week session, about 30 kids are enrolled, and the waitlist is gone.
Cork’s Place works with kids ages 5-18 and their grown-ups.
The kids and teens – who meet in small groups based on their ages – learn about understanding grief, coping skills, externalization and more. Their grown-ups learn ways to deal with their own grief and help their kids through the process of losing a loved one.
Kids and families can take part in more than one session if needed.
Although it’s centered around grief, Cork’s Place is filled with bright colors, with inspiring art – some of which was made by past participants – and with books, games and other activities that don’t look away from loss, but instead acknowledge and deal with it as part of life.
In our society, “we don’t normalize grief, we don’t normalize death,” King said. “Teaching kids the language of how to deal with death benefits entire generations.”
Laurie Jackson, Chaplaincy’s executive director, said Cork’s Place is “currently one of our community’s best-kept secrets.” But “we want it to be the most talked about program in our community because this is how, long term, this community thrives,” she said.
Learn more: tccbestlife.org/corks-place.
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