It’s taken more than three years – but, see how the staff, volunteers, and affected families have come together, and have again created an inviting space to heal from grief. You’re invited to their dedication on February 2 …
Now rebuilt after being ravaged by an arsonist’s fire, The Dougy Center provides a home-like atmosphere for youngsters who are grieving the death of a loved one.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When a yet-unidentified arsonist, after several tries, set The Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families ablaze in 2009, some wondered if this non-profit organization could recover from the loss of their main meeting building.
> To the story about this fire: CLICK HERE.
That fateful night, the light of the blazing fire illuminated the face of Dr. Donna Schuurman, PhD, The Dougy Center’s Executive Director, as she watched the building of the organization to which she’d devoted more than two decades of her life go up in flames.
Dougy Center Executive Director Dr. Donna Schuurman, PhD says their new building does “feel like home.”
But, in January of 2013, Dr. Schuurman spoke with East Portland News, while sitting in the spacious foyer of the newly-designed and rebuilt Center.
“We were in the old building for 22 years,” Schuurman began. “It was a great old 1922 former farmhouse, with a lot of charm and good character. It was a little short on closet space – but it had a warm, welcoming feeling about it.
“The morning after the fire, I came back early in the day and saw some of our families who’d come because they’d seen it on the news,” continued Schuurman. “They were looking up at the building, with tears streaming down their faces, saying ‘We will rebuild! We will rebuild!’”
Looking around the new lobby, filled with young children who’d just completed a session, Schuurman reflected, “It’s pretty cool, now, to be thinking that we’ve actually done it – thanks to the support of the community, individuals, companies, and foundations, who all helped us get back on our feet.”
The craft room is one of the many spaces in which Dougy Center therapists can help young people deal with their experiences with death.
But, in the intervening 3½ years, the families and our staff had to use a rental space she described as “adequate” – but, located miles away, in the Broadway district.
“In a way, rebuilding the Center has parallels to what our families go through after the death of a loved one. Everyone’s eager to get them back on their feet, and feel better. You have to feel the pain first. You can’t rush dealing with grief – and you can’t rush replacing a building like this.”
Taking a steady, measured approach to rebuilding has paid off, Schuurman said. “We asked our families what elements of the original Center they best liked. They told us they wanted it to ‘feel like home’, not a clinic. I believe we’ve met that goal.”
The staff gathers in one of the comfortably-appointed rooms, also used for group client sessions.
She paused and thought for a moment. “Interestingly, we broke ground on April 2, and we opened our doors to new families on January 2, exactly 9 months later. We ‘birthed a building’ in nine months!”
In the new building, The Dougy Center will continue their work, providing support for families who are grieving the death of a loved one – serving three-year-olds up to young adults.
When in use, this room, complete with stuffed animals, provides a hospitable, caring space for very young children to deal with grief.
Along with the staff, volunteers and Board of Directors, Schuurman said they were delighted to “introduce the new Center to the community”. The dedication open house is set for Saturday, February 2, from 2 until 5 p.m.
The Dougy Center is located at 3909 SE 52nd Avenue, just south of Foster Road. For more information, call (503) 775-5683, or see their website: CLICK HERE.
© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News