Volunteer Cathy Carey works on an art project Thursday at the Center for Wisdom’s Women in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Cathy Carey had a feeling that after she retired, she’d need something to replace the daily interactions and relationships she was used to. She’s since found it, and then some.

A few months before she was set to retire in 2016, she read an article in the Sun Journal about Klara Tammany, who was then the executive director of the Center for Wisdom’s Women. She became enthralled with the organization and its mission, which provides a drop-in center for women suffering from trauma — an open door for women in need.

In early 2017, at the invitation of another volunteer, Carey visited the center and was struck by the work that was taking place, as well as its vision for the future.

“As I got into it and met the women who dropped in, as well as the inspirational volunteers, I knew it was what I wanted to be doing,” she said. “I just felt like it was time to give back to women who have been less fortunate, and they have given me way more than I have given them I’m sure.”

Her day-to-day role is volunteering as a “companion” at the Center for Wisdom’s Women, seen as a mentor role for women recovering from various trauma. The women might stop in for a bite to eat, play a game, or do some crafts.

“We’re not counselors, we’re there to listen and just be a presence,” she said, adding that she’s established many meaningful friendships with people there. “The center has done a marvelous job of bringing women of all walks of life together.”

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When she first started, the organization was seeking grants toward what would eventually become Sophia’s House, a residential recovery community for women who have been incarcerated, or struggled with addiction or trafficking. The effort received its first major grant in early 2018, and Carey found herself on the steering committee for the new venture.

“It became obvious that it was going somewhere, and I was thrilled to be a part of it,” she said.

At a time when organizations nationwide have reported shortages of volunteers due to COVID-19, Carey has kept a consistent schedule throughout. Prior to the pandemic, she said there were at least a dozen volunteers, but since then it’s been “much tougher.”

Carey, who’s in her early 70s, said many volunteers were older than her, and understandably wanted to lay low.

Carey retired after some 40 years as an office manager at a dental practice in Leeds. When Sophia’s House finally opened in late 2019, Carey also got involved there too.

Because of her background, Carey has helped coordinate complimentary dental care for the women residents of Sophia’s House. When the project was nearing completion and in need of furniture, Carey was instrumental in finding donated items, spending hours thrift shopping at places such as Goodwill. She now serves on the operations committee.

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Sophia’s House is in the former Saint Patrick Convent building at 143 Blake St.

Carey raised four children in Leeds, and served on the SAD 52 board of directors. But she said Lewiston was always a hub for her family, with one of her sons and his family living in the city. Prior to the pandemic, she volunteered at Montello Elementary School, where her grandchildren are students.

Asked if she has any plans of slowing down, Carey said she’d “probably be forced to someday,” but has no plans to stop volunteering anytime soon.

Know someone with a deep well of unlimited public spirit? Someone who gives of their time to make their community a better place? Then nominate them for Kudos. Send their name and the place where they do their good deeds to reporter Andrew Rice at [email protected] and we’ll do the rest.


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