Partnerships bring focus to community grief and loss

Empath Health, the NAACP and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority are teaming up with other community organizations for a Collective Community Grief event from 5:30-8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4, at Lake Vista Recreation Center in St. Petersburg. Left, Lisa Brody, president of the St. Petersburg Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, (right) and NAACP Chapter President Esther Matthews


BY KAREN DAVIS-PRITCHETT M.ED., Empath Health Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

PINELLAS COUNTY — When Lisa Brody talks about the benefits of grief counseling, she speaks from personal experience.

Brody, an attorney and president of the St. Petersburg Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., suffered the COVID-related death of her father last September. She sought support from Suncoast Hospice Grief Counseling.

“Coupling the hospice grief counseling with my own spirituality is really what got me through,” Brody said. “I saw what it was able to do in my life, so that’s why I wanted to bridge that gap in our organization.”

Brody said several members of her AKA chapter, Zeta Upsilon Omega, experienced loss during the pandemic. Two members lost their fathers during the same week.

So, Brody reached out to Empath Health, the parent company of Suncoast Hospice, to discuss a partnership to share information and resources about grief counseling.

“Specifically, within the African-American community, the importance of recognizing there are resources out there for mental health and starting to bridge the community to those resources is important,” Brody said. “During COVID, many of our members suffered losses back-to-back. We reached out to Empath at that time to see what we could do to help our members coping with grief and loss.”

Empath Community Partnership Specialist Keosha Simmons attended a women’s empowerment event for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. members earlier this month. And Empath Health, the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Alpha Kappa Alpha are teaming up with other community organizations for a Collective Community Grief event from 5:30-8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4 at Lake Vista Recreation Center in St. Petersburg.

The free event has dual purposes: to celebrate the lives of community leaders who died recently and to commemorate those who were special to those who attend. Among the prominent St. Petersburg residents who passed away were Urban League President and CEO Rev. Watson Haynes II, long-term NAACP board members Frank Scruggs, Ph.D., Bernard Wright and Rev. Shawn Thomas.

An Empath Health staff member will speak at the event, and participants will receive information about available group support and individual counseling opportunities.

NAACP Chapter President Esther Matthews, MSW, agrees with Brody that a partnership with Empath Health helps people in need of support.

“I believe it’s vitally important because of the role Empath plays in the community and in the lives of the individuals of the community,” Matthews said. “One of our six Game Changers (focus of NAACP efforts) is tied to the health and well-being of the individuals we serve. Oftentimes, grief and loss are a forgotten health and well-being need.”

Empath Health employs a team of community partnership specialists to ensure all community members understand their services. Through community events, webinars, and partnerships with various community organizations, churches, schools and community centers, Empath creates opportunities to share information about its services and programs and foster community engagement.

“The idea of our continued partnership with organizations such as the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and the NAACP is all about awareness and making sure they know there are resources readily available and within reach in their own community 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Simmons said. “We are really focusing on making sure they are heard, that they feel included. We are always a phone call away, an email away, a visit away.”

To learn more about Suncoast Hospice Grief Counseling and Empath Health Community Counseling, visit

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