Steven and James Hinesely

Steven Hinesely stands with his son, James, on a hike near Percy Priest Lake in November 2014.

When Steven and Sue Hinesley were seeking a way to best memorialize their son who died a little more than two years ago, they didn’t have to look far.

The answer was just beyond the backyard of their Ladd Park home in Franklin. It’s property on Long Lane that will eventually become the new home for the Refuge Center for Counselinga faith-based counseling facility offering a variety of mental health care services that is currently located on Forrest Crossing Boulevard in Franklin.

James Hinesely

James Hinesely

Steven Hinesely said it’s the ideal way to honor his son, James Hinesely, who took his own life at the age of 18 on Oct. 7, 2018. The Hinesely family — parents Steven and Sue and sisters Mary and Molly — recently launched the James Hinesley Memorial Fund through a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $20,000 that would go toward part of the Refuge Center’s new facility.

“We wanted to do something for James,” Hinesley said, “and [the new Refuge Center property] is right in our backyard. … It’s right across from where he grew up, and I just couldn’t think of a better set of circumstances."

“We couldn’t have a better neighbor. The purpose they serve and what they’re trying to do, especially now with COVID and social isolation, is invaluable.”

Hinesely pointed out that Long Lane is the road James would take on his way to Page High School each day. He thinks of how any future teenagers with mental health issues will drive that same route and perhaps find help from passing by the future Refuge Center. 

“If just one teenager on the way to Page High on that same route sees the building, sees the sign, and decides to reach out for help, it will be worth it,” Hinesley said.

The Refuge Center for Counseling, which was founded 15 years ago by Amy Alexander and Jennifer Gillett, bought the property last year and is now in the process of raising $2.2 million to build a 15,000-square-foot facility. 

Money raised through the James Hinesely Memorial Fund will specifically go toward the facility playground, which is designed as a relaxing place for siblings and parents to use while a family member is in session. Hinesley said it’s a fitting designation because James would usually find a playground to enjoy while his older sisters were at some activity or another.

“I think what the Hinesley family is doing is extraordinarily brave,” Alexander said. “When you suffer a loss and a tragedy such as this, it can be so easy to want to keep that private and that is completely understandable. The Hinesley family has decided to talk more about their loss and to create visibility around mental health awareness and suicide, and in elevating the conversation, it destigmatizes it and allows people to hopefully get support earlier.

“We’re so glad for their desire to start a conversation, and we’re exceedingly grateful that they want people to know the Refuge Center exists and it’s a place to get help, and of course their generosity is remarkable. It’s a sacred gift.”

Hinesely said that by supporting the Refuge Center through the family’s memorial to James, it can perhaps make a difference in the lives of families who are seeking help and hope.

“It all seemed to come together,” Hinesley said. “I can’t stress enough the need for mental health counseling.”

The GoFundMe campaign had raised just over $10,000 as of Sunday night. Click here to learn more and to donate.