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Updated: February 29, 2024

Longtime leader of Center for Grieving Children is stepping down, successor named

The longtime leader of the Center of Grieving Children, Anne Heros, will be handing its reins to Gretchen Johnson to lead the Portland-based nonprofit starting on March 4. 

Courtesy / Center for Grieving Children
Gretchen Johnson

Last summer, the organization said, Heros notified its board of directors that it was time to pass the torch, saying she was ready to retire after many years of dedicated service.

Johnson brings more than 18 years of professional experience and leadership. She has a long history with the center, having served as a volunteer facilitator for five years before becoming a board member in 2013 for six years.  

Johnson spent the first decade of her professional life working with children and families after traumatic events brought them into the criminal justice system. Upon moving to Maine in 2005, she immersed herself in Maine's business community as a marketing and business development professional.

For three years, she was the director of strategic partnerships and spearheaded an attorney business development coaching program at Preti Flaherty, a Portland-based law firm. She previously worked for 14 years at another Maine firm, Verrill, where she grew and led the marketing department.

The Cape Elizabeth resident serves as a trustee for the Portland Symphony Orchestra and as a board member of the Maine Women's Lobby Education Fund. 

About Anne Heros

Heros joined the Portland-based nonprofit when her family needed grief and support following the sudden loss of a child in 1991, dedicating her life’s work to the center’s mission of offering support, resilience and healing.

Anne Heros, Executive Director

Since 2001, Heros has been at the helm as the center’s executive director, leading the organization through programmatic and geographical growth and guiding the outreach for local and national grief services.

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 tragedy.

“As Anne hands over the reins, we have the comfort of knowing that the Center is on a rock-solid foundation with a talented staff and wonderful volunteers fully committed to being present for our families,” said Doug Currier, the Center for Grieving Children’s board president.

“I am confident that the Center is well prepared for this transition and will continue to be successful as a strong and supportive presence for our grieving community.”

The Center for Grieving Children was founded in 1987 by Portland resident Bill Hemmens following his sister's death. 

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