Profile of Karen Russell
, MA, HHC, CNHP
Gerontologist, Holistic Health Counselor & Certified Natural Healthcare Professional
Understanding Grief From Both Sides
Karen Russell’s life work has been as a leader and community organizer, tirelessly using her talents to give the elderly, the sick, and the grieving the love, compassion, and services that they deserve.
Russell’s parents, who were both social workers, planted the seed of service in her life. Her family’s example taught her that one person could make a difference in the world. Her first volunteer experience at a nursing home in Columbus,Ohio, came at age 12, as Russell found herself forgoing the usual delights of summer vacation for a more profound satisfaction.
Volunteer Service and Education
Russell’s numerous hours of volunteer service undoubtedly lightened the lives of many elders. However, the blank faces of the residents, lined up in front of televisions and granted little more activity than repetitious games of Bingo, haunted Russell long after she left the home for the aged. She continued her path of service in college and graduate school, earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work, gerontology and therapeutic recreation from Kent State University and Ohio State University.
Watching countless elders suffer from debilitating illnesses affected her deeply. The final turning point, which moved her to pursue postgraduate education in wellness, was health of her own beloved parents. Karen’s father lost his battle with heart disease, dementia and cancer; and her mother suffered a stroke and numerous debilitating illnesses. Russell wanted to save others from the fate of chronic illness, pain and grief.
Karen is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition
which is affiliated with Columbia University. She is nationally certified through the Association of Drugless Practitioners, and continually pursues post graduate education in Natural Health.
Additionally, Russell is a certified Grief Recovery specialist, through the Grief Recovery Institute in Los Angeles.
She added the title, CNHP (Certified Natural Healthcare Professional)
in October, 2008.
Karen has continues her holistic health education through Certified Natural Healthcare Professionals, Capstone, Apex Energetics, and ACAM (American College for Advancement in Medicine, Parker Seminars),
attending workshops and conferences. Current certification includes Body Systems, Iridology; Symptoms A-Z; Functional Blood Chemistry; ACAM, Arizona conference, including the Female Hormones full day workshop; Bach Flowers; Treating Health Crises with Nutrition; Korean Hand Acupressure; and Functional Endocrinology; Face, Tongue and Nail Analysis; Enzymes (Beginning and Advanced Levels); Body Works; and Muscle Testing, Practicum; Energy Work and more.
Community Organizing & Career Achievement
Russell became even more determined to change conditions for seniors. Outside the classroom, for an undergraduate internship, Russell single-handedly crafted a full-scale city recreation program for older adults.
One of Russell’s many career achievements was the “Time of Your Life Expo,” which perfectly aggregated her organizational skills with her passion to serve seniors. Russell brought hundreds of exhibitors, teachers, celebrities, and speakers toLos Angeles to offer their products, services, programs, and inspiration to older adults under one roof.
The exposition was an unprecedented success, serving 50,000 seniors each year. It became an annual program of Opportunities and Services for Seniors, a nonprofit, charitable information and referral organization that Russell founded and directed. Russell won a prestigious SAGE Award for “Best Marketing to Older Adults” for her efforts, and the expo served as a model for programs as far away as Japan.
Russell continued melding her love of service with her knack for rallying communities together – from directing social service and community programs for Alzheimer’s patients, families, children and seniors, to founding the nonprofit, Activity Source for Seniors, which educated and assisted activity professionals serving the elderly. She went on to found the Alzheimer’s Task Force of California’s San Gabriel Valley, which united healthcare professionals, care-giving facilities, social workers, and organizations.
On a Personal Note
Behind the bustling activity of her public life, however, Russell was grieving for the man who had been her childhood sweetheart and first husband. His sudden, senseless death, caused by a drunk driver, left
her determined to turn profound pain into something meaningful and positive. Russell saw no better way to honor his memory than to help others who were suffering from loss in their lives. It was at this time that she began what would become National Grief Support Services.
The Vision Becomes Reality
Since 1994, Russell has put years of research and a lifetime of experience into National Grief Support Services, at www.GriefSupportServices.org.
The Web site offers both peer support and professional services to those who are suffering from grief brought on by a variety of life situations. Those who are faced with the loss of loved ones, life-threatening or dementing illnesses, divorce or relationship problems, military service related grief, depression, the death of treasured pets, alcoholism or substance abuse, suicide, and domestic violence are just some of the individuals who can benefit from the site’s extensive resources.
“My belief is that when people are grieving they need to concentrate on caring for themselves and others,” says Russell. “National Grief Support Services offers them the support and resources they need to heal and move forward, so they don’t have to spend countless hours searching for answers.”
In addition to serving as Executive Director for Grief Support Services,
Karen has founded Healthy Life Advisors, with the goal of assisting others to lead vibrant, healthy, happy, long lives. She is also available for corporate wellness programs.
Throughout her career, Russell has touched thousands of lives, giving strength to the aged, the ill, the overlooked, and the grieving. In her own life, Russell finds personal strength in her family. She hopes that just as her parents planted that initial seed of service in her own life, so will her example be a living legacy of love to her two sons.
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