PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Miracles happen all around us, every day, at the hands of men, women, adults, children. For one Maine woman, the miracle arrived just in time.
She and her three children will be able to celebrate Christmas with presents, but it has not been an easy journey.
Heather Lunt has been on a positive trajectory in recovery to get sober, she's been working at jobs she's gotten through the incredible temp agency MaineWorks, making money, building up her self-confidence. But around Thanksgiving, her world spun out of control.
She lost her license, her freedom and custody of her three children. Now, each day, Heather Lunt is fighting for her sobriety.
"There's been so many people in the past couple of years that have been sober that I was close with that they're just not here anymore and you think that it can't happen to certain people it can," Lunt said. "It happens to anybody."
She is living in a sober house in Maine; for the first time in her life, she is concentrating on herself and making improvements. She knows it's the only way she can save herself and her family.
"My kids are my main drive right now, I mean, who would have thought I could have been a better person?" she said. "I didn't think I could live like this, I didn't think I could, I didn't think I'd be sitting here, having so many people care."
"Here" is MaineWorks, a company started by Margo Walsh. She puts the so-called "unhireable" — those recently released from jail, recovering addicts, immigrants to work by connecting them with construction and landscaping companies.
Most are men. Then there are women like Heather.
"They're very hard-working, strong physically, willing and able to work long hours outside, because we don't do a lot of indoor work or traditionally more women-oriented work so it's predicated on being able to show up in industrial construction or landscaping, so Heather, no problem for either of those," Walsh said.
Lunt understands that Walsh has taken a chance on her. She has high expectations that Lunt will stay sober.
"She believes in everybody. She believes in giving people chances, which is like one of the biggest points about her that I absolutely adore, you know?" Walsh said. "There's no judgment there."
But when Lunt's youngest child developed a troubling cough, all of her paying jobs were put on hold. It was leukemia.
Day and night, Lunt has stayed by her daughter's side. Christmas? That would have to wait.
Lunt walks into the main lobby of MaineWorks on Portland's Forest Avenue to a surprise she didn't anticipate. It takes a few moments to register: The pile of gifts is actually for her and her kids.
"Oh my gosh. I can't believe this," she says, tears streaming down her cheeks.
The Maine chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), which selects hard-working women to receive Christmas on them, selected Lunt.
"It's all need-based, for starts, and nine times out of 10 it's somebody who knows somebody who recommends somebody in the construction industry," said NAWIC Maine President Heather Berlinski.
Their timing couldn't be better: They didn't even know Heather's daughter was ill.
"We found out just after we had decided to take her on as our Christmas family that her daughter was in the hospital," Bethany Mawson of NAWIC said. "It made for a little extra push to make it a little extra special, cause it's tough to have a little one in the hospital at this time of year."
Gifts, beautifully wrapped, for Lunt and all three of her children.
Everyone in the room is transfixed on what is happening. Walsh thinks about what the gifts will mean to Lunt's kids on Christmas morning.
"For those kids to walk down the stairs and have sparse few a couple of gifts would have been the reality," Walsh said, "and to now walk down and have this magical pile of presents. It is Christmas.”
And it is truly a miracle for this mom.
"I didn't realize that people were so giving and wanted to help so much. I've just never had that in my life."
And just to make this miracle even better, just hours after receiving her surprise Christmas, the holiday actually arrived for Lunt. Doctors at The Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center released her youngest child from the hospital.
She will need monthly chomo treatments, but she is home with her family for Christmas, and thanks to some special elves, there are presents to unwrap.
To learn more about MaineWorks — an innovative employment company with a social mission: to dignify the experience for people who face real barriers to workforce re-entry, including people recovering from substance use disorder and people with felony convictions — go here: https://www.maineworks.us/