Outstanding Woman – Betty Rice

Betty Rice served as the first Executive Director of Helping Other People Evolve (H.O.P.E.) a support group that assists recently widowed men and women of all ages in redefining themselves as they go through the various stages of grief. The non-denominational organization has been in existence since 1979 and currently operates 11 chapters in six counties throughout Southern New Jersey.

Betty’s husband of 20 years, died in 1973 at the age of 42. A mother of four, Betty enrolled in Camden County College in 1974. After two years, she transferred to Rutgers University to pursue a degree in Social Work.

While in her third year at Rutgers, Betty attended a campaign rally for Bruce MacNaul, an attorney who was running for Surrogate
of Camden County. She learned of Mr. MacNaul’s interest in conducting a series of workshops for widowed men and women. As a widow of five years, Betty knew how little support was available for these men and women. Finding no available support programs, she knew how needed this was, so she offered to assist Mr. MacNaul in this effort.

Once elected, Mr. MacNaul offered Betty the opportunity to develop the Camden County Widowed Support Program. Betty was assisted by her colleague Dolores Hodges and Deputy Surrogate Brenda Lee Eutsler. In the beginning, the program included 12 weekly group meetings. The first four weeks  addressed practical  topics such as probating a will and handling insurance issues; the second four weeks addressed emotional challenges including  dealing with loneliness and lifestyle changes; and the last four weeks focused on planning for future concerns such as job seeking and life as a single person.  Over time, the group members preferred discussing their feelings rather than participating in a formal program. In 1984, the program evolved to meet this need and became a 10-week support group.  

Since 1979, H.O.P.E. has helped more than 9,000 widowed people deal with the loss of a spouse and move on with their lives. “Through H.O.P.E.,” says Betty, “widowed persons are truly able to evolve into their new selves with confidence, skills, and the emotional strength to deal with the changes and challenges facing them.” 

For more information on H.O.P.E., please visit


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