2020 TUSD Volunteer of the Year
Of the many non-profit organizations supporting the Turlock Unified School District community, Jessica’s House and the efforts of their outstanding staff and volunteer network truly rise to the top in providing invaluable service to countless children and families who have suffered from the loss of a loved one and find themselves in need of support. Jessica’s House began its mission in 2012 by helping one child. Under the umbrella of Emanuel Medical Center, Erin Nelson and a small group of parents, who could not find local resources to help children grieving due to the death of a sibling or family member, initiated the program which has brought comfort and compassion to thousands.
TUSD’s partnership with Jessica’s House is realized through school-based grief support-groups for students, with volunteers and trained facilitators assisting children from all walks of life as they navigate the path of grief and expression of feelings through methods such as art therapy, structured conversations, games, sports, and shared mealtime. Through the collaborative efforts of Erin Nelson, Nancy Daley, Melissa Ahlem, Brad Quillen, and the Jessica’s House team, students have the opportunity to share their feelings of grief with trained professionals and volunteers who care deeply about the children and families of Turlock.
The philosophy of Jessica’s House is, “Everyone grieves in their own way but shouldn’t do it alone.” Jessica’s House meets the needs of children facing grief in a variety of circumstances, including those who have lost parents, grandparents, and siblings to illness or unexpected deaths. During crisis situations, TUSD administrators have called on Erin and her colleagues to support students and staff following accidents or other tragedies. Every time they’ve received a call, the Jessica’s House response has been immediate and comprehensive, assuring the school administration and staff that the needs of the school community will be addressed with kindness and empathy. This resource is a true treasure to TUSD and appreciated by all.
Currently, the staff serves approximately 450 clients throughout Stanislaus and Merced counties, with this number expected to grow to 650 in the future. Thus, Jessica’s House has outgrown its current facility on Main Street in Turlock and has broken ground on a new and larger facility on Crowell Road in Turlock which is expected to open during spring, 2021.
TUSD is privileged to be in partnership with the staff at Jessica’s House and honored this evening to recognize Jessica’s House, namely, Erin Nelson, Nancy Daley, Melissa Ahlem, and Brad Quillen, as the 2020 TUSD Volunteers of the Year.