Rebecca Hatfield was introduced to me by another Maine Women’s Project impact maker. Not only do her grace and talent make her an ideal fit for this project, her expertise in housing intersects with the enormous crisis that many Mainers are facing right now from the devastating storms we've just had. Rebecca is the President and CEO of Avesta Housing, a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing in Northern New England. Like so many other states, affordable housing is one of the biggest issues facing our residents. With brilliance and compassion, Rebecca leads an organization that provides shelter to thousands of New Englanders. Here she is in her own words...
My name is Rebecca Hatfield. I am the President and CEO of Avesta Housing, the largest nonprofit affordable housing provider in Northern New England. We provide safe, affordable, quality homes to more than 4,400 people across Maine and New Hampshire.
What I'd like to be known for is very simple - I want to be known as a good and kind person. A person who is open-minded, compassionate, supportive, and who is making a positive difference in our world. I also want to be known as a great mother, wife, family member, friend, and colleague, and someone who has been there for all those who have been such an important part of my life.
The first word that comes to mind when I think of Maine is breathtaking. Maine is a picturesque place. When I drive various places in Maine, I am always in awe of the beauty and peacefulness of the landscape from the coastline to the mountains to the forests. It’s expansive and open, yet quaint and charming.
The Mainers who most inspire me are my husband and daughter – they are the reason I get up every day and want to make a difference in our world. My husband is my greatest supporter, a steadfast advocate, my best friend, and an amazing father. He has been by my side unconditionally – always encouraging me to stay strong and pursue my dreams. My daughter is my heart. As a young girl, she is a part of the next generation that is our future – Maine’s future – and she inspires me to be a strong example for young women. I want to be there for her as a role model, as her greatest champion, and as an ally in her life journey.
What is Maine's and Portland's biggest challenge?
Housing is by far the biggest challenge Maine faces – the housing need is unprecedented, and we are far from having the resources and solutions to address it. I have seen firsthand how the lack of housing impacts Maine’s communities, economy, and, most importantly, the people who make Maine what it is. Access to housing has been proven to be the seed to stability in people’s lives and it facilitates people’s ability to contribute and thrive in their communities. It is critical to economic growth and stability that are integral for the State’s future. Everybody needs and deserves a place to call home.
What is our greatest asset?
Maine’s greatest asset is its opportunity. I have lived in many places across the nation and when I look at Maine, I see so much potential. Maine provides a quality of life that very few places offer. It also has career opportunities, diverse and untapped resources, and people who are resilient. It is primed for a strong and prosperous future if we think innovatively and embrace and invest in positive transformation.
Five years from now, I would love to see progress toward embracing the growth and opportunity the state has. I hope there is more housing, population growth adding diversity and workforce, economic expansion, and investment in the many things that are critical to making Maine thrive.
What are some of your favorite spots?
There are so many great places in Maine that it is hard to pick a spot. I do love Wilson County BBQ – it’s right up my alley with good, down-home food. But, even more than that, I LOVE any local bakery that has an amazing freshly-baked cinnamon roll or irresistible chocolate chip cookie.
Hands down, my favorite outdoor spot is my backyard. As you can tell, home is where my heart is. I love sitting on the deck and looking into the trees. It is quiet, relaxing, and beautiful. In addition to my backyard, there are the many places on Maine’s coastline. Overlooking the ocean and taking in the coastline is one of my favorite things.
What makes women's leadership unique? How can we work together to create impact?
Women’s leadership is unique because of the journey women experience. Many women have achieved success despite the odds, the obstacles, and lack of equitable opportunity. This creates an inner strength and a diverse perspective that shape women’s leadership.
There are two things that women can do to create impact. The first is to lean in to camaraderie and support each other. When we stand together, we have powerful impact. The second is to develop and invest in the younger generation of women. We should be role models, create opportunities, and give tools and resources to young women leaders so they can succeed. They are our future.
How and why did you make Maine home?
My husband grew up in Maine and always wanted to come back. I had visited a few times in my life and it always felt like a place I could call home. After living in New York and San Francisco, my husband and I decided to move to Maine to seek a higher quality of life. We wanted more balance in our life, a community to raise children, and we hoped to find a home with our own backyard one day. I am incredibly grateful and proud to be a Mainer. Maine has given us all we dreamed for and more.