The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier newspaper has an annual “Great Person Award” contest, inviting its readers to nominate local residents who enrich the community. This year’s winner, Mark Huot, has been a community support client in the Work Opportunities Unlimited (WOU) Saco office for more than a decade.
Mark was nominated for this award by Carol Grenier, who won the Great Person Award in 1995. In her nomination, Grenier said Mark is a “cut above the rest,” applauding his volunteerism.
Mark, 44, who has Down Syndrome, lives with his parents, Rachel and Roger, and has shown an unwavering dedication to volunteerism and his community.
“He has volunteered for various agencies with exceptional distinction. He is a long-time volunteer and advocate for our elderly and disabled population. He has spent most of his adult life telling everyone that he is a grown man and needs to work – that’s what real men and women do – they work and give back to the community. This of course, has been instilled in him by his parents and siblings. Mark has truly grasped what that means,” Grenier said.
“He rises early and gets ready to go to work (volunteering) at various agencies in our community. In the recent years he has volunteered for job opportunities, Goodwill, various adult day care and child care facilities and currently volunteers at Evergreen Manor and the Monarch Center, helping the elderly residents with their needs such as helping them do their grocery shopping,” Grenier continued.
A Biddeford High School graduate, Mark assists with Meals on Wheels, delivering meals to the disabled and elderly in the community. He takes care of his young niece, Addison, once a week while her mom works. When he’s not babysitting, he’s often helping his sister at her restaurant.
Mark has worked with WOU since 2002, and over the years, WOU has assisted Mark with becoming a more active, social member of his community.
When he started with WOU, he was part of the day habilitation program, where he volunteered at a local thrift store and was tasked with stocking the shelves. Over time, WOU has assisted Mark with volunteering at a variety of places, including the Monarch Center, Evergreen Manor, YMCA Daycare, senior shopping for SMAA, Meals on Wheels, the Ross Center, the YCCAC and St. Andre’s, where he led Bingo games for the residents.
WOU has also helped Mark develop his social skills by giving him the opportunity to befriend peers in the program. Prior to working with WOU, Mark’s social network was fairly limited, consisting only of his family and his familys’ friends. Now Mark has made friends of his own, and enjoys spending time with them – bowling, playing cards and going out to lunch. Some of these friendships have expanded beyond the WOU program activities. Now, he gets together with his friends on the weekends to play dominoes, go to the movies and attend dances. WOU has encouraged Mark to create his own social network, and these ongoing friendships have truly enhanced his life.
According to the WOU team, Mark is always very driven, eager and determined to do his best work.
“Mark gives back to the community without asking anything in return,” explained Christine Jury, a Team Leader at WOU. “Because of Mark’s various volunteer assignments, as well as his large social network, he’s quite well-known and liked in the community. Due to Mark’s family upbringing, as well as his experiences in the WOU community program, Mark has always been treated like any other individual in the community, and not as just someone with Down Syndrome.”
“He is truly remarkable, and this wonderful and very special human being should be recognized, for he has dedicated all of his adult life to our elderly and disabled and has demonstrated throughout his life a remarkable ability to touch people’s lives, inspiring them to also give of themselves,” Grenier added.
Grenier wasn’t the only one who nominated Mark. Biddeford residents Rita Daigneault, Lorraine Stevens and Lucienne Neault also sang Mark’s praises, recommending him for this prestigious award. The WOU team – employees and clients – rallied their support for Mark, voting for him to win the Great Person Award.