Grieving parents create a community of hope
Posted December 19, 2018 4:26 p.m. EST
Updated December 20, 2018 6:40 p.m. EST
Steve and Julie Bailey flip through a family photo book of their three boys.
"Josh was an adventurer," Julie said while looking at a picture of her son Josh Bailey, grinning widely and holding a picture of a giant fish.
Talking about Josh in the past tense is tough for the Baileys. You can hear the long pauses and a noticeable lump in the throat. It's been this way since Josh was murdered in 2008 in Chapel Hill.
"You have to do something with the grief," Julie said.
The need for action is what led Steve and Julie to begin Josh's Hope. It's a nonprofit in Hillsborough that provides life and work skills to young adults dealing with mental illness.
Josh Bailey suffered from mental illness and was 20 years old when he died. He was murdered by a group of people he'd hoped would be his friends. They took him into the woods and shot him in the head. Several people involved with the murder are now serving prison sentences.
"We feel like a program like we have now, if we'd had that when Josh was alive, he would've stayed engaged, he would've had employment and he would not have had the opportunity to be out on the streets meeting people who could harm him," said Julie.
Steve said his son was actively looking for a group like this before he died and he had a hard time finding a place to fit in.
"They just want to go along and have a friend and that really can, and especially in Josh's case, result in some very hard tragic endings," Steve said.
Josh's Hope is meant to fill the gap between high school and adulthood. The organization provides many services to its participants, including a woodworking class called "Tools for Hope." It allows the young men and women to learn about crafting and painting. They work on projects and learn about tools. The idea is to get them prepared for a potential job at a hardware store.
"This gives our participants something that they can be proud of, too," said Steve. "I am getting training too. I'm working with my hands."
Josh's Hope also provides cooking training and group therapy sessions for young adults and for their parents.
"It's like a joy box is opened up and answers are there and it's not just answers, it's people who are willing to hold your hand and help you," said Jen Midkiff, who has twins who participate in classes at Josh's Hope.
Midkiff said there is a gap for people dealing with mental health challenges and Josh's hope is helping to fill that gap.
"Past school, it's vital for them to be able to learn skills for them to have an independent life and to feel like they are adults and they can contribute to the community," she said.
Diana, who didn't want to use her last name, agrees. She is 21 and has autism.
"I feel like it's a safe place where you don't feel like you're left out," she said.
Steve and Julie Bailey started Josh's Hope two years after Josh died. The headquarters sits on acres of picturesque land. There's a lake for fishing and boating and a large garage area that serves as the wood shop. The land was acquired from another nonprofit, which donated it to Josh's Hope.
The organization has helped countless young adults find work and find a purpose. It's something the Baileys are proud of, but this is not a life they ever imagined.
"We would give it all up to get Josh back," said Steve.
"But that ain't gonna happen," said Julie looking back at her husband.