Kelly Ocampo: Hope For Bereaved Helps Those Who’ve Lost a Loved One

By Mary Beth Roach

As the new executive director of Hope for Bereaved, Kelly Ocampo plans to build on the legacy of founder Therese Schoeneck, who created the organization in 1978 following the death of her daughter, Mary.

Assuming the leadership position in the 45-year-old group in October, Ocampo said, “I’m going to do my best to follow in her footsteps, but nobody can. My goal is to get them set up for the next 45.”

Hope for Bereaved is peer grief counseling, with one-on-one counseling and support groups to help those who have lost a loved one grieve. The counselors and facilitators have lived experience, having been through loss themselves. For example, the ones leading the Hope for Bereaved Parents group have lost a child as well.

Among her objectives moving forward, Ocampo would like to expand services and programming; enhance the nonprofit’s online presence; diversify its fundraising efforts; further promote the Butterfly Garden on the shores of Onondaga Lake in Liverpool and continue to build relationships within the organization and in the community.

A native of Central New York with nearly 20 years of experience with area nonprofits, Ocampo has developed many connections.

“I pride myself on being a bridge builder and that could be the linkages between the staff and the volunteers, staff to staff, the community to us,” she said. “People want to feel like they’re a part of what’s happening around them.”

She would like to create a support group for those who have lost a loved one through a violent crime or murder and she plans to reach out to organizations in the area directly tied to those situations and partner with them. In addition, she would like to reach out to Syracuse University, OCC, Bryant and Stratton and OnPoint for College to create internships in marketing, social media, event planning and administrative assistance in the office.

By the end of 2023, Hope for Bereaved is on track to host more than 100 support groups for nine types of grief; provide more than 13,500 monthly newsletters to community members; counsel over 2,600 times to 442 different clients and receive 480 new referrals. These services have been provided by a team of 10 staffers and well more than 100 volunteers.

However, the numbers only tell part of Hope’s story. Ocampo explained that those volunteers and staff are the backbone of Hope for Bereaved. At one point, those counselors and facilitators have used the services at Hope when they were going through some of their hardest times and now they want to give back, she said.

“I think that’s part of the magic we do here,” she said. “The person that’s talking to you has been through it. They can empathize in a different way from someone else.”

During these sessions, she explained further, the bereaved are able to talk without being judged and to see people who are like them and not to feel alone.

“I’ve heard multiple times ‘Hope saved my life.’ I’ve heard that Hope has saved marriages,” she noted. “It gives them the opportunity to see people who were in their shoes six months ago, a year ago and allows them to dream and to hope to get to that place where they’re OK. That’s what it does.”