You might say that working with bricks, stone, and mud is in her blood. While growing up in New Gloucester, Laurie Thurston’s father was a brick mason. “Early on he taught me how to mix mud and lay brick. He was great at what he did. I learned from him and enjoyed it.”

Laurie spent many years honing her craft, refining her skills and learning from as many people as she could. She spent several years on the west coast, then returned to Maine in 1998 and was able to find work with local contractors. “I was a foreman in no time. I just love the work, working with the materials and the design.”

In 2004, Laurie found herself at a bit of a crossroads. She was 37 years old, had three children and a fourth on the way. “I needed a little more flexibility so I began looking into taking classes on how to run my own business. Through my research I learned about Women, Work, and Community.”

Women, Work, and Community offers both one-on-one assistance and classes in four program areas – Building Your Career, Starting Your Own Business, Managing Your Money, and Becoming a Leader. All programs offered at Women, Work and Community’s 18 centers across the state are free. Program descriptions are available on their Web site,

Shirley Hamilton, WWC’s Micro-enterprise Coordinator for the Lewiston-Auburn center, remembers meeting Laurie for the first time. “I met her at USM and she had two of her children with her at the time. She was committed and focused on using her talents to support her children.”

Students’ class time and assignments range from discussions about business plans and marketing to bookkeeping and accounting, touching on knowledge needed to start and operate a business. The curriculum includes learning to prepare business cards and other printed materials.

When asked about her experience with WWC, Laurie refers back to the personal relationship she had with the staff. “I remember feeling that they took the time to get to know me and my ambitions. They knew the chance I was taking, at 37 years old, going out on my own. They were great. I often wonder where I would be without them.”

Today, she is the owner of Thurston Masonry and Design. Based in Lewiston, Laurie delights in the fact that she is able to own a business doing exactly what she loves to do. Her work includes large masonry projects, including chimney work, sweeping and liners. She also has a passion for residential, restoration work, stone walls and retaining walls, pavers and fireplace design.

“I remember my first job as a business owner. It was 2006, the restoration of a 200 year old chimney. That was pretty interesting. I had to put a ladder into the chimney and work from the inside out and bottom up.”

Laurie recently learned that she would be one of 30 WWC graduates whose stories are included in Creating the Future: 30 Stories from the Maine Economy, to be published by WWC. “Honestly, before reading through the book, I didn’t realize the breadth of the programs that WWC has to offer. Reading the stories, WCC clearly has made a difference in the lives of so many men and women.”

Owning her own business also enables Laurie to keep up the tradition of working with family members. “My son, Will, works on some projects with me. He is 18 and I don’t think this is the path he will take for a career, but it’s great that we can have this time together.”

Registration has begun for late winter and spring WWC classes in Lewiston and South Paris. For more information, call 207-753-6622.

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