A Model for Compassion
Roberta’s House was founded in June of 2007 in memory of the late Julia Roberta March, by her children. Julia Roberta March, was the matriarch and co-founder of the March Funeral Homes in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband, William C. March, were successful business owners that began in 1957 and was well known for their compassion and giving spirit. Thousands of families were served out of their small row- house funeral home because of their commitment to providing dignified, affordable services to low income families.
Their small mom and pop business grew remarkably to become one of the largest African American, family owned and operated funeral services in the country. Under the leadership of the second and third generation, the funeral establishments have expanded in Baltimore, Prince Georges County, Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA. and operates one of the largest African American cemeteries in the country, King Memorial Park in Randalstown, Maryland.
Julia Roberta March, known as the heart of the business, counseled and comforted many who were bereaved. Her character and reputation for compassion was the model for providing sensitive death care and her legacy continues in the countless testimonies of the many families served. For her children, it was only fitting that a Bereavement Center be established to continue her spirit of healing and bear her name, Roberta’s House.
Giving Back to the Community
Bereavement care is not new to the March Family establishments. Free bereavement care has been an outreach of the March Funeral Homes’ since 1982. The March Family and Annette R. March-Grier, R.N., a bereavement facilitator, recognized a greater need to extend the support services to meet the needs of a broader community. Baltimore ranks the second most murderous city in the country. With a population of over 600,000, the city lacks the necessary resources to address the resulting emotional damage of unresolved grief. Unfortunately, children who have lost loved ones to homicide and suffer the trauma of an unexpected death go unnoticed and become secondary victims to crime. Providing a safe place for healing and restoring children and families to wholeness became a mission for the March Family.
A NonProfit Organization Established
Roberta’s House Inc., is an expansion of the existing bereavement program of the March Family Funeral Service into a 501(c) 3, community-based nonprofit corporation to better serve Baltimore children and families. Roberta’s House offers a comprehensive bereavement support program for healing the “hearts and minds” of children and their families emotionally, physically and spiritually. The program is governed by a board of directors and counseled by an advisory board, which provides linkages to a network of health providers and volunteers. Through peer and non-clinical support, education, empowerment, and community awareness, Roberta’s House offers free programs and services to low-income, school-age children and teens together with their families. The service is particularly focused on those who have experienced the death of a loved one; those who have family or friends that have been victims of homicide; those living in high crime areas of Baltimore as well as those under the supervision of juvenile correctional services. Counseling programs are designed to restore children and their families to a place of wholeness and provide support as they experience grieving the death of a family member, friend or significant person.
Roberta’s House has received support from federal grants and foundations to develop and conduct community programs to address the unresolved grief of children which can and often leads to violence later in their life. The children’s program, implemented in January of 2009, offers free peer support programs for school age children and their families year round. .
Roberta’s House has over 300 trained volunteers and professional staff that carry out the center’s mission and work to build a safe environment for grieving families. The March family, with the help of numerous community leaders and health care providers, are spearheading a $5 million capital campaign to build a state of the art center that will support their programs with art activity rooms, a library resource center, theatre, fitness room, an expression room and family counseling rooms. The center will be constructed on the site of the landmark row houses where the first March Funeral Home was established in 1957, a place where thousands of Baltimoreans memorialized their loved ones and a community shared its sacred memories to support each other. (See attached architectural design)