January 27, 2020 – West Bend, WI – LiFE OF HOPE, a West Bend-based nonprofit, has served the Washington County and surrounding areas since January 2015. The agency has provided free awareness, education, and support programs for the prevention of suicide attempt and loss.
Sadly, the organization will be closing with steps already in process to dissolve the 501(c)3 no later than Friday, March 13.
What started out as a proposal for positive change in the field of suicide prevention has made headlines, earned awards, and served more than 5,000 people in only five years. Most notably, the NEXT STEP Resources program, created by LiFE OF HOPE (LOH) Founder, Deeatra Kajfosz, played a significant role in the lives of 147 suicidal guests (clients). Each guest, ages nine to 72, came to LOH seeking relief from their psychological pain and suicidal ideation.
While some entered the program with no history of suicidal action, many had survived one or more previous attempts. Through the use of innovative tools, best practices, and peer-based support, participants reported having a greater understanding of their felt suffering. Further, they shared a sense of empowerment in their own recovery and greater desire for life. Most guests of NEXT STEP remained with the program between three to twelve months before stating they had achieved a sustainable state of wellness, free of chronic suicidal thoughts or desire to attempt suicide. Most remarkable, however, are the outcomes of guest participation. To date, of the 147 NEXT STEP guests, not a single life has been lost to suicide.
Statistics reported by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention state, for every 25 suicide attempts, one person dies. Based on conservative figures, it’s safe to say lives have been spared, both from premature death by suicide and the grief that follows by those left behind.
During a January 14 Special Meeting, Board of Directors members considered several options for keeping the doors open and programs free. Where organizations committed to continued support of the life-saving mission, a lack in grant funding set LiFE OF HOPE,on a course to a significant financial shortfall in the New Year.
The operating budget for 2020 was projected to be less than $300,000.
Dave Earhart, Board of Directors President, said the decision to close was based on fiscal sustainability.
Additional achievements of the nonprofit are numerous. With the dedication of qualified volunteers, over 1,200 individuals were certified in Question, Persuade, Refer, (QPR) an evidence-based course for successful intervention of a suicidal act. Four annual Community Education Forums attracted more than 1,300 attendees. Two HOPE Peer Support Groups were launched, providing peer-based meetings to over sixty people affected by suicide ideation themselves or through a loved one. A third HOPE Peer Support Group was dedicated to those having lost a loved one to suicide. And, through the tenacity of students and commitment of two West Bend High School teachers, the after school, Youth Impact Club, launched at the start of the 2019-2020 school year attracting more than 50 young adult leaders to their membership roster.
Kajfosz served as the Executive Director since the beginning. She said, “It’s important to consider the many lives that have been served and saved as well as the progress made for reducing the stigma of suicide. LiFE OF HOPE was more than a mission; it became a movement, powered by the collective efforts of those who believe suicide is preventable.”
The impact of the LiFE OF HOPE programs and mission will surely have a lasting effect for those served, with a ripple of unknown proportion. At this time, LOH staff and Board Executives are doing all they can to minimize the discomfort felt by their most at-risk guests by meeting one-on-one to create a safety and survival plan while matching each guest with additional resources. Having spoken with several other non-profit and county leaders, great consideration has been given to the challenges this closing will create for the community. The Executive Director and staff are working with the remaining time they have left, to preemptively overcome as many of these concerns as possible. This includes discussions with another area nonprofit to potentially incorporate one or more LOH developed programs into their existing service offerings.
For those who supported LiFE OF HOPE through financial contributions, donations, event attendance, volunteerism, program referrals, and prayer, the impact has been immeasurable.
Nonprofit law requires the liquidation of all physical assets before full dissolution can be filed. An office wide sale is scheduled for Friday, February 7, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the LiFE OF HOPE office located at 139 N. Main Street, Suite 104, West Bend, in the lower level of the Husar Building. Private showing appointments may be scheduled prior to the February 7 community open sale by calling (262) 429-1556.
If you or someone you know are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.