“We must realize the truth of ourselves — we are one human family. One a part of the other. My old work horse Teddy and the fancy registered horse visiting us had no trouble eating out of the same dish. We must discover the same.”
Sister Lucy Poulin was the founder and driving force behind H.O.M.E. (Homeworkers Organized for More Employment), a co-op in Orland, Maine. Born in Fairfield, Maine, Lucy joined a Carmelite order in 1957. One of her assignments while she belonged to the convent was to help local women find markets for their handiwork. H.O.M.E. evolved from this project and led to her leaving the convent to become the group’s full-time director in the mid-70s, a position she held until 2016.
H.O.M.E. continues to provide employment, training, and opportunities to residents in a rural and economically poor area of Hancock County. The 23 acre site includes a retail store which sells hand-crafted work by H.O.M.E. participants, a free health clinic, soup kitchen, food bank, homeless shelter, greenhouse and farmer’s market, a sawmill, and a shingle mill. Sister Lucy championed what she called “self-development economics,” providing educational opportunities at H.O.M.E. such as literacy and General Education Degree tutoring, alternative high school and college level programs, and job training.
In addition, H.O.M.E. has built more than 50 single-family homes which are sold to families who otherwise would not be able to afford a house. The families who purchase the houses are engaged as active participants in the building process.
Poulin’s commitment to helping the disadvantaged went beyond her local community; she took in homeless refugees. She established a cultural exchange between Orland and a small rural town in Guatemala which she visited yearly. The mission was the same: to raise the dignity and self sufficiency of the disadvantaged; to develop creative solutions for fighting rural poverty; and to build a cooperative community.
As remarkable as her accomplishments were, her spirituality and grace kept her grounded: “I gather my strength from the life I lead. It’s a privilege to live with extraordinarily good people, to plant gardens and build houses and teach others how to live on a farm. Farm life gives life to everyone.”
Sister Lucy was always working to change the status quo – to provide jobs and housing and to make poor people active participants in bettering their conditions. And her mission lives on.
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