Lory’s Place welcomes Stephanie Kohler to the role of director, following the retirement of Lisa Bartoszek.
The first time Stephanie Kohler walked into Lory’s Place in 2004, it was as a participant dealing with her own significant grief. On January 2nd, 2018, she entered the building as a director.
Stephanie's connection to Lory's Place is deeply personal. In the span of 18 months, her infant son, Simon; husband, Matthew; and father, Leo, had all died. Stephanie was left with two young sons, Jacob and Noah.
“The deaths of my family members brought me to Lory’s Place,” said Stephanie. “The healing my sons and I received in so many ways kept me here.”
Stephanie feels her sons’ involvement in Lory’s Place as participants and later as teen facilitators contributed to their growth into successful young adults living on their own. In fact, Jacob shared his story at the Lory’s Place 2017 Reflections Dinner Auction last July. Her family’s transformative experiences as participants led Stephanie to train in July 2005 as a volunteer facilitator to help others working through their own grief journey. The St. Joseph resident holds a bachelor’s degree in general studies with a communications concentration and a certificate in thanatology from the National Center for Death Education at Mt. Ida College. When a staff opening occurred in 2007, she joined as a family services coordinator, a post she held until 2016, when she became family services coordinator leader.
“It has been an absolute blessing to witness the impact and success of Lory’s Place since the beginning,” said Stephanie. “I have seen it through the eyes of participant after my own significant loss, volunteer, and staff member for over ten years. We have walked alongside thousands of children, teens and adults since the doors opened in November of 2004. These stories, mine included, grace the walls and remind all of us of the courage it takes to walk in and choose to do grief work. It doesn’t matter where you live, the kind of car you pull up in or how much money you have in the bank, grief, is what we all have in common. It is the place where we start and work toward finding hope again, as well as a new normal.”
Stephanie has facilitated both adult and children peer support groups at Lory’s Place as well as peer outreach groups in some of the 50 schools throughout Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren Counties that comprise its service area. In addition to overall program responsibility, she will continue to administer several groups, as well as lead community collaborations with The Readiness Center, Catholic Community Center, and Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor.
“Healing in our grief, gaining the tools to mourn in a healthy way and finding that safe space to be with others who understand is the cornerstone that Lory’s Place stands on,” said Stephanie. “We have been working diligently to educate communities about how to support others who are grieving, and to find community partners who believe as we do, that every person deserves every opportunity to tell their story.”
Lory’s Place services are provided at no cost by a staff of six and a team of volunteer facilitators. Educational opportunities called Grief 101s are presented to school, business and community groups. Additionally, Lory’s Place supports the community in times of crisis, whether within school systems, businesses, or other agencies.
“It is with the support of our advisory board, crew of volunteers and facilitators, that we can accomplish all of our work,” said Stephanie. “We cannot thank our community enough for their ongoing support of our mission, which allows us to provide all of our services free of charge.”
For more information on Lory’s Place and the services offered call (269) 983-2707