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Local author, homeless advocate Richard LeMieux has found his.
“A place called home full of safety and security. Don’t we all deserve a place called home.”
Those words, sung by Willow Foundation Executive Director Tina Boewe, reverberated not only through the Olympic College Theater on Nov. 7, but through the hearts of the students and others gathered to listen to “Breakfast at Sally’s” author Richard LeMieux, who wrote the book during a one-and-a-half-year period of homelessness.
During his early years, LeMieux rode a wave of professional success for three decades before it all came crashing down when his business failed, his wife of 17 years left him and he became homeless in Kitsap County.
Fortunately for LeMieux, his life didn’t end when he pondered jumping off the Tacoma Narrows Bridge on Christmas Day 2002, but rather his new life began when he arrived at the Salvation Army in Bremerton the next day.
“I’ve got another wonderful life,” LeMieux told the audience.
“I’m alive, I’m alive,” he yelled, adding that he’d always wanted to utter those timeless words like Bill Murray in the movie, “Scrooge.”
Although he had a vast amount of material things during his decades as a successful businessman, LeMieux said everything failed when his business failed.
“I had always been the person who had all the answers, and all of the sudden at that point I was lost and didn’t have all the answers,” he said.
In the past, his self-perception was largely based on what others thought of him. LeMieux explained what people can feel when they’re not wanted or welcomed even if those around them don’t say a single word.
That changed at the Salvation Army, where he not only got food, but “I felt wanted,” he said.
There he met the friends who are included in his book, which has garnered national recognition for its gripping illustrations of what it is to be homeless in America from a first-hand perspective.
“I have hope now. You’re a part of my family,” he told the audience. “It’s important for each of us to do something for the community.”
As a volunteer at Poulsbo’s North Kitsap Fishline, LeMieux asked the audience to get involved because everyone has the power to make a difference in someone’s life.
“You can make a difference, each of us is capable of doing something,” Boewe said.
The Willow Foundation, which is named after LeMieux’s poodle, who is always by his side, is a nonprofit organization created to raise awareness about the homeless and to help other service organizations assist the homeless with emergency housing, food and other necessities and services.
For more information on the foundation, visit www.willow-foundation.org.
To learn more about the book, visit www.breakfastatsallys.com.