BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Whether it’s in Stamford, Norwalk or now in Bridgeport, Lucy Freeman has dedicated her professional career to helping families find their way in Fairfield County.
In her new position as executive director of Caroline House in Bridgeport, the Trumbull resident is extending her outreach to immigrant families, helping them acquire the knowledge and skills to improve their lives along with their children.
“It may sound cliche and corny, but when you can help a person get to the next stage of improving theirs lives, it’s totally worth it,’’ said Freeman, who took over her new job in September. “Sometimes you have knowledge they don’t have. If I share that with them, and it helps them get out of a shelter and into secure housing, I’m happy. If people don’t have the finances and I’m able to offer them something to hold on to, and give them hope, that’s the best feeling in the world.”
Freeman has spent most of the past two decades supporting families in Fairfield County. She worked as a program director of homeless programs in Stamford, and later moved to Laurel House in Stamford, where she worked as the director of quality assurance. Laurel House provides mental health resources to people, and their families, coping with mental illness. She spent the past four years as the executive director at Norwalk’s Malta House, which helps new and expectant mothers find temporary and permanent housing solutions.
“I wanted to give back to this community,’’ said Freeman, who recently moved from Norwalk to Trumbull. “The commute was a factor. I always looked at what other organizations were doing and how they were doing it. I saw the need here. There was a tremendous need for women who don’t speak English to get the help that they need.”
Caroline House volunteers and staff teach English as a Second Language and life skills to help women adjust to life in a new culture, and become confident and contributing members of their communities. Caroline House also offers citizenship classes, preschool programs, after school programs, summer enrichment classes and support services to help women find affordable medical care, housing, food, clothing donation and resources to pursue educational advancement.
“I can see we have a very dedicated staff and volunteers,’’ Freeman said. “There are teachers who are very committed. You can ask them to do a little extra and they’re open to the idea. There’s a lot of gratitude from our students.They want to help in any way they can. If a room needs to be cleaned, they’ll pick up a broom and just start sweeping.”
Freeman’s goals at Caroline House are to bring more structure and professionalism across the board. “They’ve operated and focused for so long on helping people,’’ Freeman said of the agency that opened in 1995. “The programs are great. My goal is to implement some policies, put them into writing and look at our sustainability.”
Single mothers, and immigrant families, face an uphill climb in Fairfield County. The region has a severe shortage of affordable housing, and quality, good paying jobs are had to find even for people with educational degrees and skills.
“Women who come to Caroline House are not necessarily single,’’ Freeman said. “But they don’t have the jobs to be a little more self sufficient. That’s always been my greatest concern. I’d love for them to live a little more contently.”
Freeman’s role at Caroline House seems like the perfect marriage of skills she has acquired over the past three decades working in the nonprofit sector. Freeman’s educational career started at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she earned a degree in Deviant Behavior and Social Control. She later acquired her Masters degree in Human Services Administration from New Hampshire College. “In my youth, for a hot minute I thought about becoming a detective,’’ Freeman said. "Then perhaps working in the field of child psychology, but working with teenagers was a little bit more than I had hoped for. I then started to take on different jobs in social services.”
She faces a space challenge at Caroline House, which operates out of a former home at 574 Stillman St. in Bridgeport. Rooms are crunched, and Freeman said Caroline House currently has about 50 people on its waiting list. “I want people to learn with dignity. Our average class size is 12-15. We’re looking at ways to better utilize space.'' Freeman said.
Outside of work, Freeman enjoys time with her husband, Levon, two daughters and Grace Community Church in New Canaan, where she is an elder. During the workday, however, her heart and her passion is in assisting families new to the county.
“I really love working with families,’’ Freeman said. “ Helping families seem to where I keep gravitating.”
The School Sisters of Notre Dame in Wilton opened Caroline House in November 1995 to educate and empower underserved women and children.
Click here to learn more about Caroline House.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.