Andy Howell was 11 when his father died.
It had a "big impact," he said.
"Over the years, I've gradually worked things out," said Howell, now 70, of Pasco.
He's become a faithful volunteer for a Kennewick-based program designed to help children and families deal with the death of a loved one. Howell is one of 12 facilitators at Cork's Place, a program of The Chaplaincy.
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He works with two age groups -- kids 11 to 13, and teens. Like the other Cork's facilitators, he doesn't direct the kids or force conversations. He's there to help them find their own ways of dealing with their feelings.
"It's more providing them with an environment where they can learn to deal with their grief on their own terms and their own time. We're not telling them how to deal with it, we're just providing them the opportunity to dig into themselves and do the work themselves," he said.
Cork's Place this week is celebrating its 10th anniversary in its home on West 19th Avenue in Kennewick. The Oct. 2 event includes a presentation and tours.
As Cork's Place leaders are gearing up for the celebration, they're also hoping to recruit more people like Howell to consider helping.
Facilitators are asked to commit to volunteering for the school year -- Cork's Place groups run from September to June. And the volunteers need to have done enough of their own grief work -- dealing with losses they've experienced in their own lives -- that they're able to be present for the kids, said Heather Babler, coordinator.
The program offers four groups: Children ages 3 to 6, 7 to 10, 11 to 13 and the teens.
Each meets twice a month. During the 2013-14 school year, 46 kids were part of Cork's groups.
The kids and teens meet downstairs. Cork's Place provides plenty of opportunities for them to find ways of processing and expressing, with a large activity room, a room filled with art supplies, a dramatic play area, and a "volcano room" with mats and pads, where it's safe to let out anger.
While the kids and teens meet with their peers and facilitators, caregivers -- such as parents, grandparents, an older sibling -- also gather in their own support group at the site.
"It's a family systems model," Babler said, adding it's important for the kids and adults to work on their grief. "If just the children are coming and doing great grief work at Cork's Place and then going home to that same place that they left, it's not changing anything," she said.
Like Howell, Cindy Riggle also is a longtime Cork's Place facilitator. The Kennewick woman lost her oldest son in an accident 17 years ago.
"I had two other children -- two other boys. I know what it's like for a child to grieve something that devastating," she told the Herald.
When she heard about Cork's Place, "I knew God was leading me toward it. It was a way of taking that tragedy and giving back to others."
Riggle and Howell said the work is rewarding.
"I've seen (the program) work," Riggle told the Herald. "I think kids have the ability to heal if they're given the space and a safe place."
"Every kid that I've dealt with over a period of time has shown that they're learning how to deal with their grief," Howell said. "I've seen kids in there basically almost devastated over a period time, but they've blossomed out, getting back into things in a healthy manner."
The next facilitator training will run Friday evenings and Saturdays on Jan. 23-24, Feb. 6-7 and Feb. 20-21. Deadline to apply is Dec. 19.
For more information, call Babler at 509-783-7416, ext. 3000, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
A 10th anniversary event for Cork's Place in Kennewick is from 3 to 6 p.m. Oct. 2. The ceremony includes a presentation, tours and refreshments. Cork's Place is a program of The Chaplaincy. It's at 712 W. 19th Ave.
-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; email@example.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald