Lifted Up

Ashley Marston was at a low two years ago. Now she’s found her voice, her confidence and her independence, thanks to a boss who believed in her. She wrote to us about Jamie Cole and the story warmed our hearts, so we’re sharing her story, in Ashley’s own words, with you.

Two years ago I moved to Biddeford from Rumford with nothing—no money, not even a place to live. I was staying with my fiance and three kids in a room at his nana’s house. I felt at my worst. Nana told me about a job she thought I would really be good at: taking care of people like my aunt, who is disabled. The job was for a personal support specialist, and she told me to call Jamie Cole.

I was scared, but I called. Jamie asked me all kinds of questions and then said, “Ashley, I think you’re going to do great at a job like this.” She asked to meet the following week, so I took my last five bucks and put it in my gas tank and went to meet her. I walked in the room and there stood this tall, beautiful woman. She explained every little aspect of the job and took the time to answer every question I had. She blew me away with how smart and compassionate she was. I asked her why she got into this kind of work, and she told me about her sweet sister, who is disabled, and how her family worked hard to take care of her and how they wanted to see other people cared for who couldn’t get good help or couldn’t find a good PSS. She wanted to give everyone that opportunity. It struck me that this was going to be a great career opportunity and that working for someone who truly cared was where I wanted to be.

Jamie Cole, owner of Maine Home Care Solutions in Scarborough, and employee Ashley Marston go over paperwork at the company’s home office. Photo by Lauryn Hottinger

So I started the job caring for my aunt and great-gram, who also really needed good services. Between the work and getting my PSS certificate, which Jamie helped me get, I felt like I had accomplished so much. I felt like a strong and independent woman. I felt like I had a purpose. Jamie helped me do that. She helped me find answers to every question, and she helped me balance work and family. She would even answer my calls at 8 at night if I needed help. After a few months, I could afford my own place and got to buy a new car. I had things I worked hard for, and I had money to provide for my three kids and fiance. I felt so amazing.

A year after starting, I went to Nana’s house one morning to take care of my aunt and gram, as always (Nana did a lot of work herself providing for them), but on this morning, Nana wasn’t even able to get out of bed. Later that day she was rushed to the hospital.

For a week I stayed with my aunt and gram and did every little thing, working 70 hours and feeling tired and upset and not knowing if Nana was going to be okay. I called Jamie to let her know and she came right to the house to check on me and see if I needed any help. I had it under control and she saw that and made sure I knew what an amazing job I was doing. She made me feel like what I was doing was what Nana would want.

A week later, Nana passed away, leaving a very big hole in my heart.

That week, I went to get my check and I opened it. Jamie had paid me for every single minute of overtime. She gave me money to get my kids clothes for the funeral and she made sure that Nana had a giant bouquet  of roses at her funeral—all on her own dime, all out of her family’s pocket.

“She gave me a voice. And I have seen her do this for so many other women, giving them a chance and helping them reach their potential.”

Nothing to this day meant as much as that did to me.

After Nana passed away, we had to move my gram and my aunt to my uncle’s house and I continued my care for them there. And then another blow: Not even a month later, my gram passed away in her sleep. I felt so bad and hurt and mad because there was nothing I could do. I felt like I hadn’t done my job well, and I called Jamie. You know what she said? She told me that I made a huge impact in Gram’s life, and that I had done my job above and beyond and Gram passing at the age of 87 was such a full life. She made me feel so much better, and again she made sure my gram had beautiful flowers, too.

The night of the funeral, as I was coming home with tears rolling down my cheeks, a flower guy walks up to me and asks if I’m Ashley Marston. Jamie had sent me a bunch of beautiful plants and a card saying how sorry she was and how proud she was of me. I still have those plants, and when I look at them I see how much I have grown every day, thanks to an amazing lady who saw so much more in me than I did myself.

Six months after Gram passed, my aunt decided to go to a home, and I took a break for a few weeks. Jamie called me one day and said she would like me to help her more on the business end of things—doing intakes and home visits and helping to hire new personal support specialists, since she knew I would know what to look for. I was blown away. This smart, strong business woman wanted me to do an important job like hers? I said yes and started right away, learning how to fill out the paperwork and talk to new people. All my shyness went out the window. Jamie made me speak up and not let anyone question if I could do my job or not.

Photo by Lauryn Hottinger

I have been a supervisor for a year now. I have a title I am proud of, and I have so much more than I ever did. Jamie gave me wings. She gave me a voice. And I have seen her do this for so many other women, giving them a chance and helping them reach their potential. Every time I meet with one of our PSSs for the first time, their stories echo mine.

Jamie is the greatest boss I have ever had, but she’s also one of the greatest friends I could ask for (she also puts the foot down when needed!). She’s the strongest, most moral, most empowering woman I know, and I am so grateful to have her in my life.

Ashley Marston, 30, was born and raised in Maine. She lives with her three kids and fiance in Biddeford.

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