h.o.m.e. history


Sr. Lucy

“Many things occur to people when they see H.O.M.E.  When you see that complex on Route One, it's large and impressive.  But you need to remember that it was built by people who had no professional credentials, who were often too young, or too old, or too unskilled.  Many people studying it have said that to run it you need professionals.  A famous management consultant studied us once for several days and, at the end, he said his experience proved we couldn't exist--that if the government or a philanthropy ran H.O.M.E. it would cost millions of dollars.


            "But H.O.M.E. hasn't grown that way. It has grown out of needs that people have had and that other people have seen and said, ‘Let's do something about it.’ …
That seems to have worked, and that seems to be what we ought to do:  respond to people.”

— Lucy Poulin, H.O.M.E.'s founder

Reprinted from THIS TIME, the H.O.M.E. newsletter, 1988



H.O.M.E. started as a crafters' cooperative in 1970.  Since then it has expanded in many directions to address the unmet needs of low-income rural Mainers, but, nearly forty years later, the craft store and the craft workshops remain as perhaps the most visible public face of H.O.M.E.

At the blinking yellow light atop a hill on Route One, a few miles east of Bucksport, two signs draw the attention of passing tourists and other motorists en route to Bar Harbor and other points in the "Downeast" region of coastal Maine:  "Handcrafts at H.O.M.E." and "Welcome, H.O.M.E. Co-Op."

Today H.O.M.E. has artisans in residence who work in various media:  pottery, stained glass, leathercraft, woodworking, weaving, and fabric.  Their goods are sold in the H.O.M.E. craftstore along with a wide variety of items made by other Maine crafters, who offer their work through H.O.M.E on a consignment basis.  They continue in the tradition of the original crafters who came together under the leadership of Lucy Poulin to form "Homeworkers Organized for More Employment" -- H.O.M.E.

1970:  Begin at the Beginning

In 1970, there were still a number of federal programs in place to help low-income people. These programs had been initiated in President Lyndon Johnson's administration (1963-1968) as part of his "War on Poverty," and the "Great Society". The Office of Economic Opportunity had created a vast bureaucracy which ate up tax dollars in staffing and administration costs with few real dollars left over to deliver the promised jobs, training, education and community programs.

Many Mainers, in the independent Yankee tradition, preferred to live from the work of their own hands, and many of these were women working out of their homes, stitching for the shoe manufacturers. This saved the shoe companies money, since they were not required to pay the homeworkers benefits, and it also allowed the women to save on transportation and childcare costs. Among those employed as homeworkers by the shoe industry were also the Carmelite sisters in a small hermitage then located in Orland, including Sister Lucy Poulin.

But the lack of protective tariffs hurt the shoe industry greatly.  To cut costs, the first workers let go were the homeworkers. So they were desperate for a means to replace their lost income.
Lucy recalls:

“I remember answering the doorbell… and a woman coming in and asking me if I could help her sell her quilts.  Her name was Mrs. Arsenault… Out of Mrs. Arsenault’s question about selling quilts we arranged a meeting at the Public Safety Building in Bucksport. Quite a large group showed up, about 35 people,  that’s how we began – selling crafts.

"After the meeting we got a little farm on Route One – first we rented it, then, eventually, we bought it.  It was the old Dorr Farm. The Dorrs were an old Maine family, very good people.  They sold us their farm with 23 acres.  We originally used the farm house for everything—sales, retail, offices, inventory.  We were really cramped!

"It was a success from the start and as we sold crafts, more people brought more crafts to sell.  At that time, in 1970, there weren’t many outlets for Maine-made crafts using the old skills, the cottage industries that had been handed down from mother to daughter, from father to son.  So when H.O.M.E. first began, it was one of the first attempts to help people earn their living in their homes doing crafts that had been a part of their family history.”

—  Lucy Poulin, interviewed in IF WINTER COMES...  H.O.M.E. COOKING by Pat Smith,
St. Francis Press, East Orland, ME, 1987


M/M Ames HOME1972 New barn Youth group
Mr. and Mrs. Merrill Ames, the first
proprietors of the H.O.M.E. craft store
in the Dorr House, were known
to the community as
"Captain Ames" and "Mother Ames."
The original Dorr House with an addition.
The small "barn" under construction in 1972
now houses the leather shop
and the stained glass studio.

Closeup of barn construction
Youth group stands in front of the
southwest corner of the Dorr House,
now the Men's Shelter
The photos above are reprinted from the first two issues of the H.O.M.E. newsletter, then called THE H.O.M.E. CO-OP NEWS  (1972.)

1978:   Covenant Community Land Trust

The Covenant Community Land Trust was started by H.O.M.E. in 1978. A land trust is an alternative way of providing homes for homeless and low-income families. It is an organization created to hold the land in perpetuity, not as public or private property, but in trust, thus removing it from market forces. Together the houses are built by volunteers, H.O.M.E. staff and the future homeowners. The houses are then purchased by families or individuals.

1987:   Emmaus International
At the Annual Meeting in 1987, the general membership of H.O.M.E. voted to become members of the International Emmaus Movement, and in October of that year, Emmaus delegates from 27 countries met in executive session fro a week at H.O.M.E. From its founding in Paris in 1947 by Abbe Pierre, Emmaus has grown worldwide into a movement for social and economic justice, with communities in Europe, Africa, India, and Central and South America.
H.O.M.E. in Orland, and the St. Francis Community in East Orland, are the only communities in North America.

1994:   Emmaus Guatemala

San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala is the home of H.O.M.E.’s sister community. During the Guatemalan Civil War, refugees among the Cakchiquel Maya, indigenous people were displaced in large numbers.
 A number of those people reached Maine and eventually reached H.O.M.E. \
When violence subsided and they returned to their homeland, they took with them the goal of starting an Emmaus community there. Now this goal is closer to a reality.
With H.O.M.E.'s help land was purchased, and in 2002 the roof of a four room building was finished to house Emmaus, Guatemala medical clinic, weaving outlet, and second hand store, as well as a shelter.
H.O.M.E. provides ongoing support to the Comalapa community, by direct aid, selling their weavings in the Craft Store and by sponsoring annual exchange missions. Today this relationship is alive more than ever.

2017:   Sr. Lucy retires as Executive Director

Lucy in her Office  Sr. Lucy in her office
It is with great confidence that Sister Lucy Poulin, founder and leader of HOME Inc since 1970, announces her transition into retirement. Lucy will
continue to have a daily presence at HOME and looks forward to working with HOME's Board and staff during the transition. Long time employee
and current assistant director, Tracey Hair, has stepped into the role of executive director. Tracey brings more than a decade of experience
working at HOME. Joining Tracey, is the newly formed
Management Team which consists of assistant director, Rosa Moore
and Bookkeeping Supervisor, Mary Mahan.
Lucy & Tracey
Sr. Lucy with newly appointed Executive Director,
Tracey Hair.

Links to many more h.o.m.e. pages and related sites

H.O.M.E. / Emmaus