Shaunna Lamontagne is a self-described “mom of all trades” whose dedication to her community and family knows no bounds. The Rumford resident can be seen on any given day helping out with the after-school program at Regional School Unit 10, giving the weather report on community radio station WMPF 99.1, or running the River Valley Free Store in Mexico, the effort for which she is most known.

Lamontagne, 37, started the current iteration of the Free Store in 2018 with donations from her friends and family. She volunteered at the original store, where she fell in love with the job and its capacity to help others. When it closed, Shaunna vowed to start her own. After a few months of operating out of her basement, the store gained enough traction for the community board to notice, and she was given a space in the community center in Mexico. 

Through her Backpack Brigade program, Lamontagne provides backpacks for local children, as well as school supplies, clothes, books and toys. “I don’t want to see any child go without, and it won’t happen on my watch,” she said. 

Lamontagne has five children of her own who volunteer with her, whether it’s preparing gift baskets for Thanksgiving or working at the Rumford food pantry, where Lamontagne also serves on the board. Last year, Lamontagne was responsible for giving 23 families a turkey for Thanksgiving, something she plans on repeating this year through her capacity at the pantry.

“(There) were a lot of families that (were) helped that may not have had a Thanksgiving without Shaunna’s help,” said Brandon Touchette, a resident of Mexico and a volunteer at the Free Store. 

Positive engagement with the community allows for Lamontagne to set a positive example for the next generation. Her passion for people is what motivates her to give back to her community, she says, and she tries to instill that in her own children. She recalls her grandmother doing the same thing with her, taking her along to volunteer at their local soup kitchen.

“This isn’t me. I am the base of this, but this community, they (create the) solidarity. I just make it happen, but they continue to make it happen for each other.”

She says the close-knit sense of community has been a great tool in combating issues such as addiction. Her involvement in sports — formerly coaching cheerleading — and supporting teams in local schools sets an example for kids to get involved in something positive. “There’s nothing up here. There’s nothing to do, there’s no family-oriented things. We have great things for younger children, but once they get into their teenage years, unless you’re in sports, there’s nothing.” 

Her empathy for those in need comes from experience. “I’ve been there; it sucks. I know that feeling of worthlessness that’s like ‘What am I gonna do?’ (But) I’m not a single mom struggling anymore. I’m a single mom doing OK.” 

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