Remarks of Mrs. Marcelle Leahy At Lund’s 125th Birthday Bash Waterworks, Winooski, Vermont

Good evening. Patrick and I are delighted to be here with you all tonight.  I am honored and proud to serve as the Honorary Chair for this celebration of the 125 years of help and support Lund has given to women, children, and families across Vermont.

One hundred and twenty-five years. Lund has been helping Vermont families longer than any of us in this room have had the honor of supporting it.  The original founders of the Home for Friendless Women – including Elizabeth Lund, by whose name we now call this organization – sought to provide a safe and supportive home for pregnant women abandoned or unsupported by the father of their baby or their own families.  Lund gave these women a dignified place to have their babies, and found forever families for these blessed children.

That was then – 125 years ago.  Over time, more mothers came to Lund needing a safe place to have their children, but not always with plans for adoption.  And Lund responded – providing parenting education, childcare, high school completion programs and job training to young mothers, all while maintaining an award-winning adoption program.  The Lund Home became the Lund Family Center, and today, you help support mothers and children – and fathers, grandparents, brothers, and sisters – to become successful families.  And that is what makes Lund so special to Vermont.  You treat women as the complete people they are – mothers, wives, sisters, students, professionals, and caretakers.  As a nurse, I know it is important to treat the whole person, not just a part of them.  At Lund, you understand this.

For years, too, Lund has been at the forefront of treating substance abuse here in Vermont.  In 2000, Lund began to offer family-centered treatment, and is currently the only place in Vermont and the region where a mom can stay with her child while she receives treatment for substance abuse and addiction.  I am a mom.  I have five beautiful grandchildren.  I cannot imagine how difficult it is for these young mothers, struggling with addiction and wanting to find help, but not wanting to leave or give up their child to do so.  At Lund, women don’t have to make that choice.  Lund’s residential treatment program is home to 26 moms and their children, living together and leaning on each other as they work to overcome addiction.  It is truly inspiring, and a model that should be replicated far and wide.

Patrick and I are heartbroken with the stories we have heard around Vermont – and from across the country – of the raging opioid and heroin epidemic.  More and more children are being removed from their parents’ care because of the ruinous effects of addiction on families. 

Patrick and I believe there is no greater challenge we face in Vermont that curbing that tide of addiction.  And Vermonters are coming together to find innovative ways to do just that.  You have heard Patrick say this, and I agree – we will not arrest our way out of this problem.  We must educate, we must treat, and we must address the root problems of addiction.  For too long, substance abuse has been seen as a “big city” problem.  Here in Vermont, where our rural communities create additional hurdles to access to treatment and prevention programs, I am grateful that Lund is carrying an important role to help women and families receive the treatment they need.  You open your doors and your hearts to these moms and their children.  It is inspiring.

And of course, Lund continues its original mission, and continues to find adoptive homes for children.  One hundred and twenty-five years.  Over 9000 adoptions.  Countless more lives impacted.  Lund continues to prove that there is no greater gift than the life of a child.

Times have changed since 1890, when the original founders of Lund could not have imaged the challenges families face in 2016.  Through the generous support of the community, of Vermonters who believe that young moms and their kids should be supported, through partnerships and collaborations with state agencies and other organizations, Lund continues to provide hope and opportunity.  You build families.  You change lives.

And Patrick and I could not be more proud.  Thank you, all of you, for continuing to believe in Lund, just as we do.

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