By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY —
Susan Parr was serving a graduate internship at Charter Hospital in Louisville when she was handed a case. But it was no ordinary case.
This one planted a seed that has helped 3,400 families and provided more than $2 million in professional counseling services to Southern Indiana residents in the past two decades.
The case Parr was given was that of a 15-year-old who had witnessed his father kill his mother. She knew the boy needed more than the approved number of counseling sessions the state allowed. She said he needed someone to work with him on a regular basis to help him overcome the anger and grief he was feeling.
Parr was determined to do something about helping teens and families get through tough times. She fostered her idea to open a counseling center in an abandoned house owned by her church, DePauw Memorial United Methodist Church, in July 1993. In October, after months of hard work to refurbish the structure, Brandon’s House opened its doors at 1816 Beeler St.
“A door I walked through told me to work with teens,” Parr said. “I like working with teens. They are spontaneous and I like their passion and honesty.”
Parr continues to be the driving force behind Brandon’s House, although she has cut back on her hours. The center will celebrate its 20th anniversary from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 20 at DePauw United Methodist Church, 925 Vincennes St.
The counseling center got its name after Brandon Dukes, a 17-year-old member of DePauw, died suddenly of a heart attack in July 1993. His parents, who are still active at the church and members of Brandon’s House board of directors, agreed to allow their son’s name to be used on the counseling center.
“In the 17 short years that Brandon lived, he taught me more about the preciousness of life than I ever knew,” Larry Dukes wrote on the Brandon’s House website. “Brandon possessed such a gentle soul. I know that as he watches from heaven he is pleased that such a loving and helpful counseling center for teenagers bears his name.”
Brandon’s House has survived for two decades through grants, donations and fundraisers. Parr said the center operates on a budget of $100,000 a year and has 16 counselors on staff who all work part-time. There is also a second site now at the Boys and Girls Club in Corydon open a few hours each week.
“The funding has always been there. I believed this community would support us and they have,” Parr said. “It’s a very caring and generous community. I never worried about the funding.
“When we needed it, the community always came through. It’s phenomenal.”
Parr said she had no idea the center would be open for 20 years.
“I didn’t think that far ahead,” she said.
Brandon’s House helps about 200 families each year. While some offer a donation, they are never asked for payment. Counseling is given to teens, families and some marriage counseling is provided.
Some teens come to Brandon’s House with a new set of problems these days thanks to society’s technology advancements.
“The Internet can be a potential disaster for teenagers,” Parr said. “Drug and alcohol addictions have always been there. Some people deny just how bad the drug problem is.”
Parr said she doesn’t know another facility in the state like Brandon’s House and said she is proud of what the facility has provided those in need.
For more information on counseling services or to make a donation to Brandon’s House, call 812-949-2499 or go to brandonshousein.com