|Lil Burlingame (right) with her daughter Melissa at her farewell party at Kelly's on Main Street in Hyannis.|
If you were to throw a dart on a map, chances are you couldn’t get much further from Cape Cod than Guam.
That is where Lil Burlingame, a self-described gypsy who dedicated 22 years of her life to HAC’s Angel House shelter, is currently enjoying the temperate climate on the U.S. island located in the western Pacific.
She moved there for family; her daughter Melissa lives in Guam with her husband Harry and their three children Walker, 5, Ryder, 3 and Evan, 1.
“I’m happy,” said Melissa during a farewell party for Lil at Kelly’s on Main in Hyannis at the beginning of the summer. “She deserves to spend some time on a tropical beach and to relax.”
Melissa, whose husband is employed as a lawyer for the U.S. Navy, admitted it has been difficult living overseas – prior to Guam she lived in Japan – and not being able to see her mother. “Thank you for always taking care of my mother,” she told Lil’s coworkers in June.
Lil, who grew up in Long Island, arrived at HAC in 1993. By then she had lived in Florida, New York and California, eventually settling on Cape Cod, where her grandmother owned cottages, after giving birth to Melissa.
“I moved here permanently, year-round, in 1980 when I had my daughter. Then I couldn’t be a gypsy anymore,” she laughed. “I’ve said the gypsy in my blood has been put on hold for 35 years.”
|Lil with her fellow HAC and Angel House colleagues.|
After working as a substitute for a few months, Lil was hired full-time as the childcare coordinator in August 1993. For nearly the past eight years, Lil had served as the shelter’s house manager, respon-sible for purchasing everything from food to office supplies to planning menus and meals with clients.
Her favorite moments were the holidays, particularly Christmas, because they were so rewarding. “With the generosity of the community, we would make sure they had a Christmas like they had never had before,” Lil said.
Former shelter director Marnie Rieber recalled Lil’s dedication to the clients. “There are so many mothers and children that cried and you soothed on your shoulder,” she said. “The hours you put in to make sure every family experienced Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, the months of work you put into organizing Christmases so that these mothers and their children had the best Christmas they ever had. You are the most loyal, hardest working person I know.”
Lil was proud to play a role in impacting the lives of mothers at Angel House, stressing the importance of the shelter to those it serves. “Sometimes it is the first time they truly feel people out there care about them and they do matter,” Lil said. “Angel House teaches them they are valuable and how they can be good parents and enjoy a good life in sobriety.”
On her second-to-last day at HAC, she reflected on her time at the agency. “I have no regrets working here for all these years. We’ve done a lot of good,” she said. “It helped me become the person I am today. I was raised a Christian and believe you have to give back in this world and I definitely found that here at HAC.”