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  • Ben Rathbun

The Transformative Magic of Ele's Place


As a child, I was never the beneficiary of services from any of the incredible nonprofits my father supported.

 

I was vaguely familiar with the organizations he helped champion. As I grew older, I was able to truly appreciate the work he was doing in the community. And learn about the organizations he was so passionate about.

 

Some nonprofits stood out. My dad served on the boards of several local community organizations, but I always remember him talking about Ele’s Place. And this incredible healing power they provided.

 

Paul had a way of inspiring me with his quiet significance. When I joined the family business full-time in 2014, I recall him telling me, “Don’t do what I did. Make a difference in your own way.”

 

I’m sure trying, pops.

 

But something we both have grown to love – Ele’s Place.

 

Ele's Place, with branches spanning Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Flint, and Lansing, serves as a beacon of hope for those navigating the complex emotions of loss. The organization operates weekly peer-to-peer bereavement support groups, offering solace to hundreds of individuals coping with the death of a parent, sibling, or someone close to them.

 

For Good Foundation's commitment to Ele's Place is rooted in a deep understanding of the profound impact the organization has on the lives it touches. Over the last two years, our foundation has contributed $10,000 to support Ele's Place—a contribution that has directly translated into sustaining and expanding their essential services.

 

When I first joined the family business and came aboard at the agency, I was looking for opportunities to give back. My father had always been talking about Ele’s Place so I decided to sign up for Support Group Facilitator training.

 

I heard the whole gamut of comments when I would tell friends I would be attending Ele’s Place one night a week to assist in running a support group for pre-kindergarten kids who had lost a loved one.


“How could you go somewhere with so much sadness every week?”

 

“Isn’t it so depressing talking about death all the time?”

 

Ele’s Place quickly became another home. A truly safe place. It didn’t matter what stress life was putting on me, getting to serve those kids every week left me counting my blessings each night after group. I made incredible friends with other facilitators who remain the most loving and empathetic people I have ever met.

 

I cannot describe the magic that is an Ele’s Place group.

 

Seeing a child who hasn’t spoken about their person who died come out of their shell because they feel seen.

 

Watching a five year old clearly articulate how sad it makes them cause mommy cries herself to sleep every night. And hearing five students chime in “me, too.”

 

Creating a funeral in a giant sandbox with kids who look forward to coming to Ele’s Place each and every week.

 

When my father died suddenly in 2021, Kristine Kuhnert was one of my first calls. She wasn’t just the Director of Ele’s Place Capital Region to me. That’s one of my people.

 

Paul died on a Saturday and first thing Monday morning I was crying on the couch at Ele’s Place. I had no idea what to do. But I knew where I needed to be.

 

I have transitioned into board service while still subbing in groups as needed at Ele’s Place. When the For Good Foundation was born in honor of my father, Ele’s Place was one of the first organizations we supported. That support has provided grief support for an entire year for over fifteen children.

 

I may not have been a participant in group, but I sure can’t say I was never the beneficiary of services from any of the incredible nonprofit organizations my father supported.

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