“There’s no one right way to grieve,” says The Dougy Center’s executive director, Donna Schuurman.
That’s why this organization in Portland, Oregon, provides children, teens, and young adults with a safe place to process the loss of a close friend or family member. The Center allows participants to openly and honestly talk about how they feel about death, one of our culture’s most taboo subjects. Staff offers peer support groups and a variety of interactive activities — from art and music to exercise in the high-energy “volcano” room.
With several locations — including an administrative building, a training center, and two satellite offices — six program coordinators, a dozen full-time employees, and more than 50 ongoing peer groups, remarkable organization and clear communication have always been paramount to the center’s success.
But on the night of Father’s Day 2009, the efficiently run organization was dealt a heavy blow: an arson fire burned its 5,000 square foot administrative office to the ground. “It was a huge tragedy and the building was beyond repair,” says Schuurman of the converted 1920s wooden home. “Our lives changed overnight.”
Staff members salvaged what they could and quickly set up shop in what had been the primary training center. They recovered the Center’s servers, which had luckily been housed in the basement, while satellite offices in West and South Portland took on more trainings to compensate for the missing building.
“Scheduling meetings and sharing information can be a challenge for any organization, but after the fire, it became a nightmare for us,” says Schuurman. The question of who was where, when, became a constant hurdle. The situation was amplified by Schuurman’s busy travel schedule, who frequently leads offsite trainings around the globe.
But with challenges come opportunities. Staff recognized that upgrading the organization’s Microsoft Office Suite from 2003 to 2010 could help keep the Center running smoothly during the uncertainty of the fire’s aftermath. With the help of TechSoup, they made a donation request and planned for the software’s implementation and staff trainings.
“The new version of Office has made tracking the comings and goings of staff and coordinating meetings so much more manageable,” says Schuurman. “And the new, user-friendly features in Word and PowerPoint have made a huge difference in the creation of our fundraising presentations and training manuals.” Schuurman calls being able to outline these often-dense texts with a table of contents “nothing short of miraculous.”
After a year of back and forth with insurance companies, the organization broke ground on its new 11,000-square-foot facility on April 18, 2012. The administrative offices will be upstairs, while the bulk of programming and training will happen on the first floor. Schuurman hopes staff will be able to move in by the end of the year.
“Our Microsoft donations will continue to help us as we transition into our new space,” says Schuurman. “We have minimal technology needs, but having the right tools in place means being able to deliver even more programming to youth and their families in need — now and well in the future.”