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Updated: March 18, 2024 / 2024 Business Leaders of the Year

Business Leaders: At the Center for Grieving Children, Anne Heros has helped generations

Photo / Tim Greenway Anne Heros, the former executive director of the Center for Grieving Children.

Since 2001, Anne Heros has been at the helm of the Center for Grieving Children, leading the organization as executive director through programmatic and geographical growth and guiding the outreach for local and national grief services. This is why she has been named the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 1997, Heros started an intercultural program to address the needs of New Mainers who experienced war, natural disasters and loss in their home country. In 2011, Heros oversaw the expansion of bereavement support services into York County, with a satellite center established in Sanford.

Heros is also a founding member of America’s Camp, a national summer camp that built a network of grief-support “buddies” for children and siblings of first responders who died in the 9/11 attacks.

After 29 years with the Center of Grieving Children, including more than two decades at the helm, Heros recently handed the director reins to Gretchen Johnson. In retirement, Heros says she plans to relax, travel and visit family.

Mainebiz: How did you get your start and what led you to a career at the Center for Grieving Children?

Anne Heros: In 1992, my 10-year-old daughter died suddenly and I found out about the center through her school. I went to the center with my two sons, who were 11 and 8 at that point, and the center was in a warehouse. The center moved a lot in the first 10 years, so I have seen so much of the journey.

What was so important in my heart was what the volunteers were doing. I was blown away that they had volunteers who would give up their time and facilitate a group of people who were walking a walk similar to yourself, in terms of the loss of a child or the loss of a partner.

That is where the love started and I had that feeling when my boys no longer had to go to the center and I needed to leave the center as well; it didn’t have grief parent groups at that point. But, I had it in my mind that I would like to be strong enough one day to go back and volunteer. In 1995, I trained to be a volunteer and in 1997, I started on the staff and in 2001, I took over as executive director.

MB: What inspires you?

AH: The name Center for Grieving Children and our tagline — ‘Where Families find Hope and Love’ — is what really drives me because that is what helped me and so to me, that is as critical now as it was back when the center first started 36 years ago.

Supporting a family going through a crisis of a death or life-threatening illness or newly arrived to this country from a war-torn zone are areas where families need support. We don’t deal with one person in isolation; we want to deal with a whole family if we can.

Back 36 years ago, that wasn’t really getting the exposure and proof as a model that it is needed. There was a desire for education around children and grieving and parenting, having family members understand that and not be afraid to answer a child’s questions. Even today, I see it. It is the most natural thing to protect a child from something that is extremely sad.

Yet, if we don’t kind of keep them in the conversation and answer their questions honestly, they fill that void with something that could be more troubling.

MB: What do you hope for the future of the center?

AH: I hope it continues to meet the needs of the community but also it will keep the services free. That to me is huge.

MB: Name one valuable lesson you’ve learned during your many years with the center.

AH: Volunteerism, really. Part of the magic of the center is its volunteers because they are, I call it, unconditional love. They are present with families while they are going through a difficult time, and that restores your whole hope in society when you are trying to rebuild your own family after a crisis of some kind.

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