consultant and advocate
Paige Holmes grew up in Manchester, where she remembers an idyllic childhood of walking to school and bike riding around her neighborhood. She wants her two sons to grow up in just such a “peaceful and close-knit community.” A passion for that sense of community has led Holmes around the world – and ultimately back to Maine, where she is development director for the Public Theatre in Lewiston and a private consultant.
After graduating from Maranacook High School, where Holmes said she channeled all the “inevitable teenage angst and energy” by earning a black belt in martial arts and playing goalie for her high school field hockey and boys ice hockey teams, she attended Connecticut College. She had planned on majoring in Japanese.
“After my first year I switched to international relations. I became enthralled with the wider world and political and social structures and movements,” said Holmes, 35. “I spent the summer and first semester of my junior year in Costa Rica, soaking in the beauty of the land and culture.”
The following semester, Holmes participated in a peace and conflict resolution program at American University, which included a month in Northern Ireland. Holmes found these experiences life changing.
“Traveling and living abroad is one of the best things anyone can do, at any age. It opens your mind, and makes you see everything differently,” she said.
After college she came back to Maine, married “the boy next door,” and set out to find a way to use her degree.
“I stumbled my way through early jobs, like being a paralegal for the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, and a grassroots organizer for Family Planning Association of Maine,” said Holmes. “My passion for making change eventually led me to working on political campaigns, where I was indoctrinated into the blood, sweat, and tears of political fundraising.”
Holmes said she learned quickly that advancing any societal or political change requires resources. But fundraising was not something Holmes felt comfortable with.
“Money felt like such a personal and taboo thing to discuss. However, my experiences had proved to me that rewards come from pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. So I worked hard to overcome my fear of making solicitations,” she said.
Following her first state-wide campaign, Holmes was approached by nonprofits interested in her development skills. She decided to open a consulting business.
“I started Holmes Consulting and using the combination of my communications, fundraising, and government relations skills [helped] lift up some wonderful Maine nonprofits,” said Holmes. “The campaign world left me with a network of passionate and caring people who wanted to be part of moving Maine in a positive direction. I am in this wonderful position where I get to be a connector – I offer people the opportunity to put their time and resources to work for the things they care about. Development is about getting to know people and helping to articulate your organization’s impact so that prospective donors see it as a worthy place to invest.”
After the birth of her second son, Holmes felt the need to stay closer to home in Lewiston, instead of traveling around the state for her clients.
“Serendipitously, I was introduced to the Public Theatre, a hidden gem in Lewiston. In the unlikely setting of a former mill town, hit hard by economic downturns, it has developed a thriving patronage of 16,000 people a year attending top quality productions,” said Holmes. “What really hooked me was what you don’t see on stage: a robust education and outreach program that has served over 100,000 Maine students to date and thousands of disadvantaged adults. This place is all about making professional theatre accessible to all and becoming an incubator for inspiring young artists.”
Holmes said her passion for the theater has also spread to Lewiston/Auburn as a whole.
“Its strong sense of community, the downto-earth people who are working so hard to uplift the cities – it is all so compelling,” she said. “There is a real cultural renaissance happening here.”
Holmes also is on the board of the Maine Women’s Lobby. Through this association Holmes became involved in a study measuring the presence in the human body of a group of chemicals classified as phthalates. The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine organized the study and asked Holmes to participate.
“When I became pregnant with my first child, the threat of toxins and their impact on vulnerable, developing babies and young children really hit home. I tried to educate myself on the issue and how I could protect myself and my babies from Day 1. Sadly, these toxins are so prevalent that individual choices alone do not protect you,” said Holmes. “Despite all the actions and choices I made to proactively protect my growing family, the study unveiled that I had the highest overall level of phthalates of anyone in the study.”
Holmes said that under existing national policies there is no way to find out where her exposure is coming from.
“At the federal level our chemical safety system is based on an act that is 40 years out of date,” said Holmes. “Here in Maine the Department of Environmental Protection has the authority, under the Kids Safe Products Act, to put in place measures that will protect us. But for four years seven of the phthalates have sat idling on the Chemicals of High Concern List. As far as I’m concerned the Maine DEP is asleep at the wheel and needs to step up, acknowledge this problem, and take action.”
After the results of the study Holmes decided to testify before the Maine DEP, which took public comment on the issue through the end of September. Her involvement won’t end with her testimony.
“I am continuing to beat the drum on this wherever I go,” she said. “I plan to stay involved and active on this issue and any that involve the health and welfare of my family, our environment, or social and political empowerment. If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing – making you a victim to the whims of others. I want my boys to see what can be done when you couple caring with action.”