The COVID-19 pandemic has been emotionally challenging for teens and adolescents who thrive on social connections. Since the health crisis began, Eugene Pediatric Associates and pediatric clinics across the nation have seen increased anxiety and depression among youth.

Ophelia’s Place, a prevention-based nonprofit that offers support services to girls ages 10-18 in the Eugene-Springfield, Junction City and Albany areas, adapted quickly to the health crisis, to be sure its staff could still be available to those who are feeling isolated.

“What we do is help girls make healthy life choices,” says Ophelia’s Place Executive Director Verna Wise Matthews. “And that didn’t change because of the pandemic. What did change is how we reached girls.”

Virtual support
When Ophelia’s Place closed its after school drop-in sites in response to the pandemic, the organization quickly transitioned all of its programs and services to virtual platforms—offering meet ups, events and summer camps via Zoom—and began offering its therapy services through telehealth.

“Right now, we have a virtual morning drop-in and an afternoon drop-in, where girls can talk about things that are relevant to them,” says Program Director Laura Sanchez. “Much of the talk has been through the lens of the pandemic and how that’s impacted them, but really it’s just about creating opportunities to connect with kids in a way that they’re not getting through school.”

Ophelia’s Place provides a safe space for girls and girl-identified youth to feel accepted and empowered to become the best version of themselves.

“When my mom set me up for the first meeting, it was really fun. We play games, we chat, and we do all sorts of fun stuff,” says 10-year-old Aurora, who was first introduced to Ophelia’s Place at its annual Parent-Daughter GirlCon event at the Lane Events Center in 2019.

Aurora’s mom, Kara, says being involved with Ophelia’s Place has made a significant difference for her daughter during social distancing. “The social side has been a big concern for me through all of this because Aurora is very social. I knew that to keep her happy, I needed to find some sort of outlet where she was still able to talk to kids her own age.

Pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw says virtual access to programs and events through Ophelia’s Place is allowing even more girls to find connection.

“Because of the fact that a lot of interactions are now happening through screens, some young people who may have a lot of social anxiety in real groups are now finding avenues that they didn’t have available to them before. And even for kids who are highly social, in-person creatures, having some connection right now is much better than having very little connection.”

School partnerships
Ophelia’s Place also partners with several school districts in Lane County and the Greater Albany School District to provide classroom presentations, girl empowerment groups, and education opportunities for school faculties and parents. With distance learning planned for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, Ophelia’s Place is working to adapt its school programming, so it can continue to offer its services.

To learn more about programs and opportunities through Ophelia’s Place, call 541-284-4333, email, or go online.