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Dougy Centers new home on S.E. 52nd exudes warmth and charm

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Now rebuilt on S.E. 52nd, after being ravaged by an arsonist€sˇÃ„ôs fire, the Dougy Center provides a home-like atmosphere for youngsters who are grieving the death of a loved one.When an as-yet-unidentified arsonist, after several tries, burned down The Dougy Center for Grieving Children and Families in 2009, some wondered if this nonprofit organization could recover from the devastating loss of their main meeting building.

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 go up in flames.

But, in January of 2013, Dr. Schuurman spoke again with THE BEE – while sitting in the spacious foyer of the newly-designed and fully-rebuilt Center.

“We were in the old building for 22 years,” Schuurman reflected. “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,” she said. “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 commented, “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, all of whom helped us get back on our feet.”

But, in the intervening 3½ years, the families and 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 have gone through after the death of a loved one. Everyone’s eager to get back on their feet, and to feel better. But 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 liked best. They told us they wanted it to ‘feel like home’, not a clinic. I believe we’ve met that goal.”

She paused and thought for a moment. “Interestingly, we broke ground for this on April 2nd, and we opened our doors to new families on January 2nd, exactly nine months later. We ‘birthed a building’ in nine months!”

In its new building, The Dougy Center will continue its work, providing support for families who are grieving the death of a loved one – serving three-year-olds up to young adults.

The Dougy Center is located at 3909 S.E. 52nd Avenue, just south of Foster Road. For more information, call 503/775-5683, or go online to their website: www.dougy.org