This story was written prior to The Center moving into its current home at 555 Forest Avenue.
I’ve been volunteering at The Center for a little over 5 years now. I started working with the 7-9 year old group in our Bereavement Program and now have moved up to the Team Coordinator role on Tuesday nights. Over time, I have had a great opportunity to see the service that The Center provides in full force.
I’ve seen families & participants come in their rawest states & leave months or years later in a much, much better place.
It really speaks to the service that The Center provides and the facility where the work is done. I am seeing an increase in the number of people coming here; there is just a greater awareness of what is going on at The Center, leading to greater participation from the community. And we are now bulging at the seams.
We provide a great service, but The Center is definitely taxed for space. The prospect of a new space is just glorious, something I just cannot wait to have happen. We will be able to serve the community at a level significantly up from what we are able to do now. We do a lot of varied & different projects. The Volcano Room (a room designed to accommodate the expression of big emotions with soft, padded walls, a water-filled punching bag, and other tools for safe physical expression) is key; the energy that is released there is enormous. But a lot of kids express their feelings in other ways; art projects, group games, or just chatting are just as powerful. And the more we can develop our palette of tools, for the kids & the families to use, the better off we are going to be. The better off the community is going to be.
It’s a really great prospect to have this on the horizon for us. There are a million reasons to get into a new place, but you can just feel the sort of closeness, because we are jammed into space that is half the size of what we need. We volunteer at The Center because we see the power of what happens here. A lot of the volunteers stay more than the minimum year required because we love these families. The Center can only provide that love in an ongoing way in a new facility that is affordable and will allow us to grow to meet the needs of the community.
Bathrooms are a real issue in the current facility. Believe it or not, it is a huge endeavor to go to the bathroom here. We never leave a participant unattended. We never leave them with one facilitator. We always leave them with two adults. So to take one child out of a room to go to the bathroom requires two people. Currently the bathrooms are outside the Center, in a public space, shared with a coffee house/bar.
When people come to The Center for the first time, they are very frightened and uncertain, so the last thing you want them to have to do is worry about where the children are going to be taken care of. That concern takes us away from the other important work we are here for. The families and volunteers would feel a lot safer if we could have everything contained in one building that we are the sole guardian of.
It is all about safety at The Center, emotional as well as physical safety.
Safety and love.
Paul Attardo is an Architect at Van Dam Architecture & Design and is the current Tuesday Night Bereavement Program Volunteer Team Coordinator.
He also has volunteered hundreds of hours to train new Center volunteers, participate in America’s Camp, a weeklong camp experience supported by Center volunteers and staff for surviving children of 9/11.
Paul is the lead volunteer on a special outreach project to provide onsite peer support groups for incarcerated youth at Longcreek Youth Development Center in South Portland, Maine.