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A letter of gratitude – to all who make the Alliance of Hope possible

Dear fellow survivors,

My name is Melanie Kenderdine. I am the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Alliance of Hope, and like you, I am a survivor of suicide loss. I found the Alliance of Hope in 2009, after my dear brother Russell died by suicide. It almost sounds cliché – but the Alliance of Hope was my lifeline. For several years, I visited the forum every day. I formed connections and friendships with the only community that could take my hand, fathom my pain, and help me heal.

As I grew stronger, I looked to see how I could support the organization that put me and thousands of others on the road to healing. I became a donor, joined the board of directors, and started down a new path. I have been the board chair for the last four years. While it has been heartbreaking seeing so many other survivors come to our nonprofit for help, it has also been very meaningful to help this organization grow and begin its transition from a grassroots effort to an organization with professional staff, helping more and more survivors.

2020 was not an easy year – for any of us, and for many who lost a loved one to suicide, it served to compound their grief and isolation. The Alliance of Hope saw a 300% increase in requests for counseling, and every day, hundreds of you logged on to our forum – to connect, share your stories, and seek lifesaving and life-affirming support.

The pandemic has called on us to respond in new ways to new challenges. As more people have sought support from the Alliance of Hope, we have felt the urgent need to strengthen our infrastructure and expand our services, for all who need support now, and for all who are to yet come.

As we start this new year, I want to thank all who work so hard to make the Alliance of Hope what it has become. It takes special people to be able to be there in our times of greatest need, and these are some of the most wonderful, giving people I have ever known. I am proud of all they have accomplished this last year – they are tireless, selfless, and completely devoted to helping those of us who have experienced the devastation of suicide loss. Please join me in showing our gratitude for this spectacular team.

Our Executive Director and Founder, Ronnie Susan Walker, was honored by the American Association of Suicidology for her extraordinary contribution to survivors of suicide loss. She has worked tirelessly for 13 years – initially without any staff – to help survivors during their darkest hours. Last year, in addition to overseeing AOH’s survivor services and staff, Ronnie provided more than 300 consultations for new survivors, and connected with hundreds of others, to help them build a foundation for healing. I know she thinks about our community every day – always looking for more ways to help.

Our Forum Manager, Hazel Gaddes, does an outstanding job ensuring the culture of our forum remains safe and healing for all who arrive. Informed by her experience as a loss survivor and psychiatric nurse, Hazel empowers our moderators and handles challenges with sensitivity and grace. Last year, we welcomed an average of 10 new survivors to our forum each day. Our community now has more than 19,000 members.

Our Forum Moderators, Ano, bam, genesgirl, Graceinthemoment, Hope for Peace, johnsmom, Keep Breathing, MarianneS, Melinmc, MissingHim, MissU, montanamom, Shelby, Terry S., all understand firsthand the challenges faced by survivors. We often say they put the “Hope” in the Alliance of Hope. Each volunteers hundreds of hours in support of new loss survivors. Special thanks to Terry S. who manages our Forum Stewards Program, and to our stewards, who are so conscientious.

Our Director of Development & Communications, Heather Shadur, has worked alongside Ronnie since the Alliance’s founding 13 years ago. She is Ronnie’s daughter, and a talented public affairs professional. A true connector with a huge heart, Heather leads our strategic planning and organizational development efforts. Her efforts to raise awareness about the challenges loss survivors face, and raise funds to sustain our services, has enabled us to help more people and will be the foundation for the development of future programs.

Our new Operations Manager, Susan Reynolds, has been a wonderful addition to the Alliance of Hope team. She is helping us create a sustainable structure within our organization. Her insight and support in the areas of project management, human resources, training, and productivity and well-being are invaluable.

Our Website & Forum Tech Support Team, including the great Forum Developers at Audentio, our Website Development team at Technology Therapy, and our volunteer Tech Committee, led by Ed H and johnsmom, worked to strengthen the security and depth of resources we provide through our online infrastructure. A special thanks Jennifer Shadur, our Search Engine Marketing volunteer, who ensures people across the world find our site when they are searching for support.

Our part-time Administrative Support staff, Maura Junius, provided communications and management support to our organization. Last year she coordinated our board and committee meetings and managed more than 240 submissions to our Memorial Wall.

Our Programs & Services Committee, co-led by John McIntosh, Ph.D, and Ronnie Walker, formulated and piloted a new 8-session course for grieving fathers that we hope to expand in 2021. Special thanks to Steve Shannon, who led the first course. Steve lost his son Patrick to suicide 10 years ago. Like me, he was helped by the Alliance of Hope and later joined our board of directors.

Our Communications and Development Consultants, who empower us to communicate effectively about the work we do, and raise the funds we need to sustain and expand our services. Our fundraising advisors, Gina Lobaco and Sally Bixby, helped us develop campaigns that resulted in us exceeding our fundraising goals. Our communications advisor, Kevin Lampe, has helped our nonprofit grow from a point where we did not know if it would survive, to a time when it is thriving.

Our Graphic Designers, Pinckney Templeton and Valerie Gilzean, whose loss of their brothers and understanding of the suicide loss experience helped us develop social media awareness campaigns like the “Suicide is Complicated” campaign we undertook last year, that touched hundreds of thousands of people.

Our Financial and Legal Advisors, including Our CFO, Amy Ceisel CPA, and our accountant, Laura Wiley, who help us with our accounting and operations management, and Aaron Kase, Esq., our legal advisor, who helps us with our policies and legal affairs.

Our Board of Directors, John McIntosh, Ph.D., (Secretary), Ellen Karp (Treasurer), Don Belau, Ph.D., Jennifer Shadur, Steve Shannon, Donna Soule, and Ronnie Walker, whose ongoing governance and dedication to our mission is vital to our existence.

Last but certainly not least, a special thank you to all the Forum Members, who courageously share your experience and reach out so generously in support of one another, and to all who donate or raise funds to help make the work of the Alliance of Hope possible.

Sadly, we cannot bring our loved ones back, but we can join together to help one another heal. I hope you find this community and organization to be as loving and supportive as I did, and I wish you all prayers for your ongoing healing.

Sincerely,

Melanie Kenderdine
Russell’s Sister and Alliance of Hope Board Chair