Jefferson Award Winner Co-Founded Josie's PlaceBy Sharon Chin

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) Pat Murphy knows the heartbreak of a child who has lost a parent. So 11 years ago, she co-founded Josie’s Place for Bereaved Youth and Families. Murphy named the San Francisco based organization after her mom and step-mom. Both women were named Josephine, and both passed away when Murphy was young.

“There really wasn’t support available,” recalled Murphy. “And I felt like I had to deal with it on my own, and it was too much to handle at times.”

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Murphy worked through her grief in therapy. Inspired by that process, she began to volunteer helping other families and young children through the grieving process.

At Josie’s Place, the certified life coach has given families free grief support, in a rented part of San Francisco’s St. Anne’s Church, and in several public schools. Her non-profit is one of a few in the Bay Area that serves both adults and children. Murphy says serving both ages is crucial since each processes grief differently. So while children are meeting in their own room at the church, their parents are meeting with their own support group in a room next door.

Ten year old Ixchel Quezada came to Josie’s Place after her Dad died of cancer. Ixchel was anxious and emotional, but her mom, Lorena Melgarejo, says she responded to the art therapy, play, and empathy Murphy’s program offered.

“She needed to sit in a room and see and feel and hear others who were in the same space,” explained Melgarejo.

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For Ixchel, Murphy quickly became like family.

“She helped me make new friends,” said Ixchel. “She helped me learn that I wasn’t alone.”

Murphy has touched the lives of many other hurting families, and even the volunteer facilitators she has trained, like Emily Adams. Adams has had her own experience with grief, as she also lost a parent at a very young age. She has also come to rely on Murphy’s guidance and support.

“There’s something really comforting,” said Adams. “And welcoming about Pat that I appreciate.”

Josie’s Place is funded with individual and corporate donations and private grants. Many of the volunteers are therapists or studying the field.

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So for helping young people and their caregivers grieve, heal, and grow, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Pat Murphy.