Jennifer King spoke with Beth Bailey, co-founder of The Hummingbird Centre of Hope, about her work with Capacity Waterloo Region and how her organization has been able to apply the help they've received. The Hummingbird Centre of Hope has now become an emergent non-profit focusing on the issue of young widowhood.
Two beautiful children each. Both with loving husbands and fathers. Young. Vibrant. And, suddenly, widows.
Beth Bailey's children were three years and 13 months old when her husband, Scott, died of brain cancer in 2006. Marny Williams Balodis' husband, Keith, died in 2002 of esophageal cancer, a short six weeks after being diagnosed. Her children were ages three years and three months.
Both Beth and Marny had lots of support and shoulders to lean on, but no one could truly understand what they were going through. They turned to bereavement services and groups. The groups helped, for a while. But both women imagined a further way to help others that had experienced similar devastating loss - help that lasted beyond the initial shock and adjustment of a spouse's death - help designed specifically for young parents facing extraordinary and ongoing hardships.
In 2009, they began a journey to create The Hummingbird Centre for Hope, a "second stage" non-profit program based on peer-to-peer support and the experience that comes from living through a similar loss.
Early last year, Beth and Marny began working with Capacity Waterloo Region and Cathy Brothers, the Executive Director in Residence, to help their idea take shape.
"Cathy just got it," says Beth. She adds that the story of what they're doing is something some people don't want to hear, and sometimes people simply shut down. "But that wasn't the case with Cathy. She was very intuitive and really heard what we were telling her. She got our mission right away and was able to pinpoint what might work for us. It was tailored advice, not a blanket answer and off you go. Cathy said 'I believe in what you're doing.'"
Cathy initially met with the two founders to talk about stages of development, strategic alliances for back-office needs, and fundraising. But with a new board that had not yet started to govern, she also saw the need for board development guidance and provided a training session with the new board.
"The board governance piece and the presentation were just phenomenal," says Beth. "It's not always an easy topic to talk about and Cathy made it feel as though it was. We're now using the information for the foundation of our own board policies. We couldn't have asked for a better way to develop this."
Cathy was told by a Hummingbird board member that he'd been on a lot of boards but he learned more in the three-hour session with Capacity Waterloo Region about what the other boards he has been on could be doing.
"Doing the governance training in advance, before the board got going, has impressed on them the importance of ongoing board development," says Cathy. "Volunteers don't automatically know how to govern. Their passion gets them to the table but how do they actually grow the work of the organization and enable the staff to do their work?"
The Hummingbird Centre for Hope is now up and running with its first peer support group. And Marny and Beth are taking their message on the road, speaking to audiences from Niagara to Myrtle Beach about young widowhood and the need for unique help.
"Capacity Waterloo Region and Cathy provided us with a huge amount of resources and information, guiding us to people and places we didn't know about," says Beth. "I personally don't know if we would be as far ahead as we are without that influence."