Donor Spotlight: The Ouellette Family and Sharon Parent

The campaign to raise funding for our River Bend Farm project brings forth the opportunity for special people to be honored by family and friends through gifts in their name. The places at River Bend Farm that have been (and continue to be!) named hold heartfelt stories of people and businesses whose life's mission or business promise is to preserve our natural resources and promote their conservation through educational programming. In several instances our supporters have been inspired to raise funds from friends and family in honor of someone they hold dear. We look forward to this opportunity to share the intimate purpose of many gifts with all of you in The Ecology School community!

Written by Bryan Matluk, Development Director

In the summer of 2012, a young 8-year-old girl, Laura Ouellette, attended a week-long garden camp at The Ecology School. At the end of her first day Laura exclaimed, "we get to stay outside all day and eat new foods!” A budding scientist, Laura had a remarkable time, inspiring her parents, Amy and Lucien, to make a small annual gift to the school. There was little time for much else over the next few years with their busy family life and medical careers. That is, until October 2017, when they received a letter requesting their participation in a Campaign Planning Study. They considered whether or not they should participate, but ultimately passed on this opportunity; Amy's mother, Sharon Parent, had passed away only a few months before and much time and energy centered around this loss.

Again, The Ecology School slipped out of Amy's mind until she was contacted a month later with an invitation to attend one of our Lunch and Learn events for the public to experience our engaging, fun, and educational skits and songs in person. “At this point, I felt like something was driving me towards The Ecology School," says Amy. “With the loss of my mother, my deck was completely reshuffled. While I couldn't put my finger on it, I knew that if I kept myself open, my next path would present itself."

For those that joined her on her first Lunch and Learn, the only word which could describe Amy would be "whirlwind!" Amy asked questions about everything, spoke a hundred miles a minute, didn't stop for punctuation or to take a breath, commented on everything, and volunteered to scrub the toilets or stamp letters. We thought "WOW! That was amazing!" Little did we know just how amazing Amy's involvement would become. Within two months Amy had joined our Board of Directors. That April her family opened up their beautiful home and invited all of their friends to celebrate Earth Day with a fundraising party on behalf of the school.

However, Amy's story is not only about Amy. It includes her beloved family, husband, children, and, just as importantly, her dear mother Sharon. Sharon graduated from the Mercy Hospital of Nursing and was a dedicated and caring nurse for over 30 years. She was the first K-8 School Nurse in Augusta (helping to establish the program with the Maine Department of Health and Department of Education) and took a personal interest in the welfare of her students. “I'd get home from school and would be missing a hat, my brother would be missing a pair of boots, and the other a jacket. When we'd ask mom she'd simply say, 'Oh, I gave those away to some students that needed them more.' That's the way she was."

During that first Lunch and Learn with Amy we didn't know any of this as she attentively watched students sharing food, friends, and the natural world in a way so relaxed that it reminded her of her mother. “It was at that moment that I remembered my mother with indescribable happiness: it was clear that the values of The Ecology School were her values." Once Amy joined our Capital Campaign Committee, she saw our River Bend Farm project as a way to honor her mother's memory.

“It was at that moment that I remembered my mother with indescribable happiness: it was clear that the values of The Ecology School were her values.”
— Amy Ouellette

Over 42 individuals and families have donated more than $74,000 to the Sharon Parent Memorial Porch which is situated to the rear of the Dining Commons overlooking the meadows and Saco River below. The Ecology School is honored to be entrusted as part of Sharon's legacy. We would like to thank Reg Parent, Amy and Lucien Ouellette, Scott and Craig Parent and Wendy Parent, Craig and Mary Parent, Michael and Linda Parent, Mark and Claire Parent, and the many family and friends who are helping make a vision for this legacy donation a reality.

Sharon Parent in her Nursing school graduation portrait.

Sharon Parent in her Nursing school graduation portrait.

The Ouellette Family (Left to Right): Laura, Pippa, Amy, Armand, and Lucien.

The Ouellette Family (Left to Right): Laura, Pippa, Amy, Armand, and Lucien.

Pictured Left to Right: Scott Parent, Michael Parent, Amy Ouellette, Sharon Parent, Reg Parent, Mark Parent, and Craig Parent

Pictured Left to Right: Scott Parent, Michael Parent, Amy Ouellette, Sharon Parent, Reg Parent, Mark Parent, and Craig Parent

From dorm rooms to outdoor pathways, each thoughtfully designed feature of the River Bend Farm project models sustainable construction and ecological practices and serves as a teaching resource for our program participants. If you would like to learn more about naming opportunities at River Bend Farm, please contact Development Director, Bryan Matluk at (207) 283-9951 or bryan@theecologyschool.org.