Dougy Center “deconstructs” its arson-burned building

Find out why this nonprofit organization that helps grieving kids and adults cope with death chose to salvage their ruined building, instead of bringing in the wrecking ball …

By now, There’s nothing left of the stately three-story Colonial home that once occupied this lot on S.E. 52nd Avenue, in the Creston-Kenilworth Neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As we’ve been reporting, the colonnaded East Portland home on SE 52nd Avenue just south of Foster Road, that housed the Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families, was left in ruins by an arson fire in June, 2009.

“As we get ready to rebuild,” explained their Executive Director, Donna Schuurman, “We contracted with Portland’s DeConstruction Services to remove the remains of the charred structure in July.”

Donna Schuurman, Executive Director of the Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families, and Shawn Crowe, a deconstructionist with DeConstruction Services, look at the rubble that remains in the basement of what once was their main building.

In addition to being more ecologically sound than simply demolishing the decades-old house and dumping an estimated 19,639 cubic feet of reusable building materials into a landfill, Schuurman said there also were philosophical reasons.

“This crime – the arson – left the staff, volunteers, and some of the clients feeling victimized. But, knowing a lot of the building materials will be reused – both in our new building, and other places – helps temper the pain of having it burned down,” Schuurman mused. “Even though that criminal hasn’t been caught, at least in this way something good can happen from something that’s really a bad thing.”

This old-growth lumber, salvaged from the deconstructed building, will be incorporated in the Dougy Center’s new home.

Deconstruction uncovers superb building materials
Shawn Crowe, deconstructionist with the ReBuilding Center’s DeConstruction Services – the organization that also salvaged materials from Marysville School – said older buildings are more difficult to deconstruct. “There are many layers of interior, exterior, and flooring material. We remove them, layer-after-layer. But there is a lot of good material here.”

Pointing out some of the splendid building materials saved during the deconstruction process, Crowe r added, “We were able to salvage about 75% of the building materials. For example, artists buy these single-pane sash windows. And, this rough-cut 2 x 10, old-growth, true dimensioned lumber is valuable. I’m told the Dougy Center is keeping it; they’ll build furniture, or perhaps a front door, out of it.”

Plywood sits in another pile, and wood flooring in another. “People snap up the used flooring like hotcakes – it’s got many uses,” Crowe informed. “And, we’ll scoop up the bricks; many of them will be reused, and others will be recycled.”

Shawn Crowe, of DeConstruction Services, checks over the old growth, true dimension 2 x 4s, 2 x 12s, and  6 x 6s taken out of the deconstructed former Dougy Center.

Mission continues while planning carefully for the future
Looking ahead, Schuurman said, they’ve been surveying volunteers and staff about how their new building might be designed. “By the end of September, we should be able to be able to give our teams of architects the information they can use to design a building that makes best use of our space.”

With temporary space they’ve rented on NE Glisan Street, the Dougy Center’s work continues. “Right now, we’re serving more children than ever – about 400 youngsters, and 275 adults,” the center’s director said.

Schuurman said they haven’t started a rebuilding fundraising campaign yet. “While the insurance settlement was fair, it likely won’t cover the vision of the new building we would like to have. But we probably won’t know the cost of the new building we envision until February or March.”

To learn more about this unique nonprofit organization, call them at (503) 775-5683; or see their website: CLICK HERE to view it.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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