Just six months ago, Amy Pinkham, her husband, Travis Dobson, and her daughter Emily Pinkham were bouncing between homeless shelters, hotel rooms and even their car. But this Christmas they will celebrate in their own home thanks to the help of Reverend Maureen “Mo” Ausbrook and members of the Waterville United Church of Christ.

In July, Amy and Emily Pinkham and Dobson were staying at the Budget-Host Airport Inn in Waterville when Dobson went to jail.

“We were over at Budget-Host. It was my daughter’s birthday the next day, and I was at my wits end,” Amy Pinkham said. “I was pregnant at the time, and I had recently had a heart attack. I didn’t know what to do. It was like nine at night, and we’re panhandling trying to get money for the hotel. We didn’t know where we were going to sleep, but we managed to get into the hotel for the night.”

The next day Amy and Emily Pinkham found the hope that they’d been searching for when they were introduced to Ausbrook.

“What happened is a woman who was working at the inn called the Waterville-Winslow Interfaith Council, and I was the clergy person on call that day,” Ausbrook said. “And she told me about this family that had been living on the streets and was in a bad situation. She said they had a little girl with them and had been homeless for quite a while so that’s how we met.”

“When we met Mo, what a blessing it was just at the right time,” Amy Pinkham said.

Soon after meeting, Amy and Emily Pinkham moved in with Ausbrook, who began working to get the family back on their feet.

Ausbrook helped the family file for government benefits and find an affordable place to live while the ministry at the United Church of Christ hired a private attorney to help Dobson with his legal troubles.

“She helped us jump over some of these hoops,” Amy said. “She helped us take right steps so now … we’re finally in a home.”

Through helping Amy and Emily Pinkham and Dobson, Ausbrook came up with an idea to broaden her reach and help other families in need.

“I decided in the middle of all of this that I have to have some sort of foundation,” Ausbrook said. “I needed to raise money. It’s an expensive proposition so I brought it into the church.”

From there, Ausbrook established Starfish Village, a program for homeless families that offers immediate and long-term help, advocacy and mentoring.

“I was getting overwhelmed with this, and I thought to myself, I’ll just deal with one family at a time,” Ausbrook said. “And I thought of this story I heard once: A kid is walking along the shore after a storm, and there’s millions of starfish washed up on the beach. And then the tide starts going out and the sun is coming up, and he realizes the starfish are going to die. So he picks up one starfish and puts it back in the ocean, picks up another one and puts it back in the ocean. And this man tells him that he can’t save all of them. It can’t possibly matter what you’re doing. So the kid picks up another one, threw it back in the water and said, ‘Well, it mattered to him.’

“So it was that concept and the village is that. It takes a village to do something. So the church and all the people in the church stepped up because it resonated with them to have one family to make a tangible difference for.”

Even with all the obstacles Amy and Emily Pinkham and Dobson have faced, they said their faith in God was what helped them make it through.

“We were losing our faith trying to fight through all of this,” Amy Pinkham said. “We bumped into Jamie at the hotel who connected us with Mo, all on the third of July. Everything was closed. It was going into a long weekend, so that right there I think was an act of God, being in the right place at the right time. And now that we’re on our feet, we can help spread the faith and show people that if they just have a little bit of faith, you can get anywhere.”

Amy and Emily Pinkham and Dobson will celebrate Christmas in their new home with their own Christmas tree, something Dobson said is a huge relief.

“It’s going to be a good Christmas,” Dobson said. “We don’t have to worry about being cold, not having a place to sleep. We can just enjoy the holiday.”

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