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Abbey and Avianna
By: Dawna Hilton
May 24, 2016

May 12, 2016

“Most of my customers [at a Hannaford branch in South Portland], they love me. So I hope they feel the same way here,” said Abbey, 34, about the Rockland Hannaford, riding in the Hospitality House van to her first day at work as a cashier.

Deaf but able to read lips and fitted with a hearing aid, she added, “I’m not nervous because I have so much experience with Hannaford. But everyone is different with their reaction to my disability.”

Her khaki pants and brightly-colored running shoes (“My other shoes are ripped up.”) were courtesy of the government program Aspire and her rhinestone heart earrings a rare, $5 treat (My money goes to my kids. My older one is always growing. She’s 6 feet tall!”)

Avianna is now a year old and when Abbey was pregnant, even working full-time, she could not get ahead of her bills. (“I am always broke, all the time. Cable, electricity, and my food stamps don’t come until the 13th [of the month]). She moved to the Midcoast to help her mother and fell behind even further.

“I never thought I would be in a shelter,” she said. “I thought I could keep everything together.” She said that on her way to the Hospitality House, “I was nervous about me and my baby’s safety. I thought there would be a lot of alcoholics and drug addicts, like I’ve seen in Portland.” Instead, “I felt a lot of love. They are good people who make you feel comfortable, safe, like you’re family. If there is anything you need they make sure you are taken care of.”

Abbey’s shelter caseworker, Amy Meserole, is helping her to get her GED and a voucher for subsidized housing. She is on a higher seasonal pay rate at her new job, and with the shelter van donated by Darling’s in Bangor saves on taxi fare with free rides to and from work, with stops to drop off and pick up Avianna. After Abbey is in her own apartment, the van service will continue to be available to her.

Abbey quickly texted her teenage daughter that she loves her as the van driver Elaine pulled into the Hannaford parking lot. Abbey said her new bosses, “don’t know I am at the shelter. The reason I don’t tell people is I don’t want their sympathy.”

Photograph and story by Patrisha McLean.

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