Fred & Marilyn Durst
Since this story was written The Center moved to its current home at 555 Forest Avenue, featuring more accomadating space for larger groups, including the Volcano Room for children to be physically active.
I’ve been with The Center for almost 19 years. I knew Bill Hemmens (1945-1998), founder of The Center, and I was really impressed with his purpose and vision of the CGC. I talked to Marilyn, my wife, and we decided we would go through the training program. Jacob and Kristine Watson were the trainers back then. I told Jacob after the training was complete that is was really a life changing experience for me and indeed it was. Over the past years, I’ve been a facilitator, a Board member, and currently I’m the Team Coordinator (volunteer co-leader) on Tuesday nights. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some extraordinary people: facilitators, as well as children and families who come there every Tuesday night. It’s just an awesome experience. I wish I had the words to explain or try to explain what it has meant to me over the years.
I feel that the families that show up at The Center as part of every program, that these are people where the bright light of hope and truth really shines down upon them from The Center.
About 8 ½ years ago our son died of brain cancer and The Center was there to support Marilyn and myself and my daughter-in-law and our grandchildren. I would have never believed that when we started as volunteers so many years ago that The Center would be there to support us in our own journey and grief but they were and I’m grateful for that. We have something close to 70 souls who arrive there on Tuesday nights, and for 1 hour they are placed in small compartments where we do our group work, and miracles happen.
I’m 77 years old and my hope is that I can continue to do the work I do because it really fills my soul. I believe that the community is growing rapidly and as a result our services to the community are also growing. I want to be there when we move into that new home of ours.** That’s my story and that’s my wish.
I started out as Team Coordinator in 1988 but I missed working directly with the children so I didn’t do that for long. I’ve been a facilitator of the 3-5 and 6-10 yr olds, I’ve done intakes for new families, Multicultural Program work with refugee children and I’ve worked with the Tender Living Care Program; those who have a life-threatening illness of someone in the family. When my son Bob was diagnosed with brain cancer, his wife Lynn brought their three-year old son, Ben, to the Tender Living Care Program. Becca, their daughter, was only one. When Bob died, they went into the Bereavement Program. Becca joined that program when she was 3. I talk a lot about my son with the children because they didn’t have a chance to know him very long. Ben remembered a little bit after Bob’s death, but I think that has faded. It’s helpful to me as well as them, to keep his memory alive.
At The Center, we are short of space, there is no question about that. I look forward to the day when we have a room big enough for the whole group to gather in, be more physically active in the smaller rooms, and have more wall space to display the art work of children. They do beautiful work – not only paintings, but poems, quilts and memory collages. I also hope that when we are in the new building that we can work in a program to have each child plant a flower in our border, a memorial garden. I think that will be very meaningful to the children.
I think my grandchildren are well adjusted to such a tragic loss as any children could be. I don’t see any evidence of real trauma and since I’m a family therapist I think I would be alert to that. I’m grateful to the Board of Directors of The Center and the Staff and their ongoing work and all the wonderful people who are facilitators that I’ve had the opportunity to work with. Love ’em, every one.
Fred and Marilyn continue to be active volunteers in many Center programs. Fred, whose son Scott served in Iraq, was the catalyst for providing support groups to families facing military deployment through a partnership with the Maine National Guard Family Readiness Project.