Story by Jack Garner
Founded in 2019, Dustin’s Place fills a vital need in Marshall County by offering free grief services to children and their families after a family tragedy.
Co-founder and Executive Director Viki Brown experienced first-hand the lack of grief counseling available in Marshall County after her husband, Dustin Cullen, passed away in a car accident in 2016. Looking for support, Brown and her three kids visited a children's grief center in Goshen.
“After the first night, my daughter Lili, she just loved it,” said Brown. “She didn’t stop talking about how great this place was.” Brown’s son Caythan also connected with a young boy his age whose father had died.
Seeing the benefits of a grief community in a neighboring county, Brown felt motivated to bring that desperately needed support network to Marshall County.
“We don’t have this. We need this in our community,” said Brown. “A year later, God just placed that on my heart.”
Dustin’s Place has already proven instrumental in the lives of a number of families in northern Indiana, some from over an hour away. Families may come and go from grief support groups as needed, with many opting to come every month, while some come more sporadically.
No matter who shows up and when, Brown says they are always welcomed with open arms and a hot meal.
“Serving the entire family, always having a hot meal… it relieves the burden of preparing dinner on the family… but families also miss the full dinner table after the loss of a loved one,” said Brown.
The family meal combined with the age-specific group sessions fashions a warm atmosphere that helps struggling families find peace in community.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dustin’s Place briefly transitioned its services to a virtual format, providing grieving families the chance to connect in a period of isolation.
But now, Dustin’s Place is operating in-person once again at their improved facility in Plymouth. In order to make these improvements and provide their services free of charge, Dustin’s Place relies on donations and grant funding.
The United Way of Marshall County is proud to support Dustin’s Place through grant work supported by donations to the United Way Campaign.
“Upstairs we were able to build a wall and create an extra group room. We were able to change our check-in system from hand-written to electronic, allowing us to be open during COVID,” said Brown about the changes United Way grants helped Dustin’s Place to make.
Dustin’s Place is always looking for dedicated volunteers. Numerous service opportunities exist, from leading a support group to adopting a meal on group night. To get connected and learn more, visit www.dustinsplace.org.