As Hope House closes, a different hope arises in Astoria

by | May 26, 2022 | Aging & Independent Living, Behavioral Health, Child Welfare, Family Support

Members of Peace First Lutheran Church are considering new uses for the building on the west end of church property, now that Hope House programs are ending.

LCSNW is marking the end of an era and celebrating the start of a new chapter in Astoria, Oregon. For 30 years, the agency has partnered with local Lutheran church members to operate Hope House. There, children and families in the coastal community found counseling and other services to promote healing and growth in the face of trauma.

Hope House will close in June because securing sustainable funding became so difficult. But LCSNW will remain involved in the community; President and CEO David Duea has identified Astoria as the first official site of the agency’s Santa for Seniors program outside Washington state. A $15 million gift from the William A. Looney Family Foundation this spring provides resources for Tacoma-based Santa for Seniors to expand to several states.

“We are not leaving Astoria,” David announced at Sunday church services on May 22 at Peace First Lutheran Church. “We are just changing what we do here.”

LCSNW President David Duea and Pastor Steve Kienberger at the May 22 “decommissioning” service at Peace First Lutheran Church.

The church service, described as a Hope House “decommissioning,” was in effect a “recommissioning” for members who have worked closely with LCSNW since the early 1990s. Pastor Steve Kienberger said Santa for Seniors can be a new avenue for the church’s Care Team. Santa for Seniors may be known for distributing gift bags – more than 4,200 last Christmas – but it’s really about making contact with isolated seniors, helping them feel remembered and getting them connected with social supports.

While the Hope House closure brings nostalgia and sorrow for its founders, there’s also a sense of accomplishment.  “My heart is warm knowing that so many lives were changed,” said long-time LCSNW Area Manager Judy Werner.

In the beginning, services focused on grief counseling for children coping with traumatic experiences, ranging from divorce to the death of family members in boating and fishing accidents, said Marian Soderberg, a retired school counselor and original member of the Hope House Advisory Council.

They had to make do in those early days. “When we first started, the office was in a basement of Peace Lutheran Church at the time, and it was next door to a room where they were teaching trumpet lessons,” Marian recalled.

Watercolor paintings of Hope House by local artist Phyllis Taylor were given as thank-you gifts to those who helped found the program 30 years ago.

Eventually Hope House moved into its current home donated by a family on the west end of Peace First Lutheran Church property. Programs have changed over the years to include individual and family counseling, court-mandated parenting classes and a “Family Find” program for children aging out of foster care. Since 2018, Hope House has offered more than 500 individual therapy sessions and other services.

Sheryl Redburn, Hope House Counselor and Community Manager, said she will walk away satisfied with all that Hope House has offered, and proud of the team behind it. “I like what LCSNW stands for. I like the way the church next door and the Lutherans in the area see our mission as their mission. They live their words instead of just saying them.”