Has the Good Will-Hinckley Home for Boys & Girls “turned a corner” and reaffirmed its “historic mission,” as the vice chairwoman of its board of directors said recently?

Or have the board and the home’s administrators merely stalled for time and delayed the inevitable by developing a “framework” for survival that they only hope will restore this historic Maine institution to its former glory?

We can’t answer those questions, and neither can the folks who run the home. But one thing seems certain: Good Will-Hinckley’s chances of surviving and perhaps thriving look much better today than they did last summer, when most of the core services at the home’s 2,450-acre campus in the Hinckley section of Fairfield were shut down in a devastating round of budget cuts.


Founded in 1889 by the Rev. George Walter Hinckley, the home has long been part of the moral and cultural fabric of the local community and, in fact, the entire state. Until the summer shutdown, the facility had provided educational opportunities and a place to live for young people who were in trouble or at risk.

Now, the home’s traditional residential and educational services are suspended, maybe forever; the only facilities still operating are the Glenn Stratton Learning Center for special-needs students and the L.C. Bates museum.

Good Will-Hinckley has been living off its endowment in recent months after receiving permission from the state’s attorney general to use that money for day-to-day expenses. In return, the home’s operators agreed to formulate a strategic business plan with the goal of restoring financial stability and redefining Good Will-Hinckley’s approach to serving young people. Here’s what reporter Scott Monroe wrote about the plan after its release this month:

“But even as Good Will released a broad outline of its future intentions, most details of the organization’s future remain undetermined. Chief among them: whether Good Will shall once again operate as a residential school.”

It’s the one question, the one “detail,” that raises the most concern among those who treasure Good Will-Hinckley and its legacy: Will the Good Will-Hinckley Home for Boys & Girls ever again be a home for boys and girls?

The vague responses coming from officials are not encouraging. References to a more “contemporary” vision and “governance changes” seem to hint at a vastly different role for Good Will-Hinckley.

“We’re not updating the mission,” interim executive director Natalie Jones told Monroe. “The mission is the mission.”

And yet, the mission described so long ago by the Rev. Hinckley — “to provide a home for the reception and support of needy boys and girls” — seems very much in jeopardy. The announced framework for financial stability, after all, discusses the possibility of selling campus real estate and establishing “a foundation that would finance programs for at-risk youth across the state.”


The sprawling campus, once the heart and soul of Good Will-Hinckley’s services, seems destined to become a memory.

Maybe, in these economic times, when profit-conscious businesses and even nonprofit organizations such as Good Will-Hinckley see owning real estate as a burden and outsourcing as a financial necessity, maintaining a residential school for needy kids is just too extravagant an idea to contemplate. Maybe George Hinckley’s dream has outlived our society’s capacity to support it. If so, it’s a shame.

But we’re not quite ready to post a “rest in peace” placard over the door at Good Will-Hinckley. There still may be a chance — an outside chance, but a chance nonetheless — that as the home’s survival plan is fleshed out, the details will point the way toward a future that can somehow recapture the past.


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