I can’t speak for others, but retiring from The Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers is both exciting and very emotional — an end to more than four decades of work benefiting Maine families, children and the community as a whole.

At the start of 2016, I began a new chapter in my life and wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has been a part of my life’s work with this incredible organization.

I have served as the executive director for 23 years, but I started my career when the Teen Parent School — now one of the seven programs The Maine Children’s Home offers — was founded in 1974, and I have seen how the programs have grown, changed and, most importantly, helped people across the state.

Our community — how can I say how much I’ve appreciated your support over the years?

This multifaceted organization relies heavily on your private donations, and I have witnessed year after year how we have come together to raise the funds necessary for everything from our Christmas program, which provides clothing and gifts to more than 1,700 financially disadvantaged children, to our summer camp scholarships.

It is through the steadfast commitment of this wonderful community that The Maine Children’s Home has been able to grow from our humble beginnings in 1899, when The Maine Children’s Home helped house, feed and clothe a mere 28 children, to today, when we assist more than 2,000 families and children from throughout the state every year.

In 2001, as the need for our services continued to grow, we launched our first capital campaign in more than a century, and thanks to the generous support of Harold and Bibby Alfond, The Maine Children’s Home was able to purchase the former Criminal Justice Academy on 93 Silver St. in Waterville.

From our fantastic campus, we have significantly expanded our services. Our Hague-accredited adoption program, counseling services, accredited early childhood education program, Teen Parent School and others have become an integral part of many Maine residents’ lives.

In order to ensure we are providing aid in the areas where it is needed most, our services have evolved with the changing needs of families and children.

I am thankful to have been part of this organization and to have worked with the most caring and experienced staff and volunteers I could imagine. Our purpose has remained constant: to build and strengthen families and their children, creating hope for the future and a better quality of life. The Maine Children’s Home is a safety net for Maine’s most vulnerable people, providing a safe, healthy and respectful environment where they are encouraged to thrive. With loving guidance and nurturing, we help youth make responsible choices and instill positive values they can one day pass on to their own children.

I have seen time and time again the effects these programs have on families and I know Maine is a better place because of them. It is with a great deal of pride (and a fair amount of sadness) that I say goodbye to my friends and colleagues on Silver Street.

I am also thankful for Richard Dorian. After a nationwide search for a new executive director, our board has selected Richard to lead The Maine Children’s Home at the start of the new year and I am excited to see the organization continue its great work with him at the helm.

I will stay connected to The Maine Children’s Home by contracting to do adoption home studies and serving as an active Friends volunteer. I look forward to spending time in my retirement traveling and enjoying my grown children and my grandchildren.

Once again, thank you all for your support. I hope to see you around the community.

Sharon Abrams served as executive director of The Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers in Waterville for 23 years until her retirement at the end of 2015.

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