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The social activist: Social justice, in many forms

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Posted: Friday, September 28, 2012 10:08 am | Updated: 11:10 am, Wed Oct 3, 2012.

Rachelle Curran

35

Portland

Development and marketing manager, Environmental Health Strategy Center

preventharm.org, portlandfoodcoop.org

Portland resident Rachelle Curran believes our future lies in people holding respect and care for two crucial things – the environment and healthful foods – and she’s built a career around advocating for both.

By day, Curran is development and marketing manager for the Environmental Health Strategy Center, which has offices in Portland and Bangor. The nonprofit lobbies against the presence of toxic ingredients in common household products, especially those used by families, such as children’s sippy cups and playground equipment. Previously, she worked in environmental education capacities through Maine Audubon and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

“I’ve always been drawn to working for mission-driven organizations that are making social change, making the world a little better,” said the Gorham native, who is married and now expecting her first child.

But Curran is also a key player in Maine’s local food movement. Most notably, she helped develop the Portland Food Coop (and now sits on its board of directors), which is based on 56 Hampshire St., and has blossomed to roughly 350 “member-owners” in just about 2½ years.

The group works with a rotation of local farmers, as well as the Crown O’ Maine Organic Cooperative, and under its terms, “member-owners” have to pull a work shift along with getting their food. The group is now working on a five-year growth plan, she said.

“It’s a great way to feel really connected to Portland and to Maine, and to feel like I’m helping move Maine in more just and sustainable ways,” said Curran, who has degrees from the University of Maine and Humboldt State University in California.

A very different passion of hers, meanwhile, is Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine, where she serves on the nonprofit’s board.

But all told, she sees a common thread running across her vocation and community service activities, whether it’s about providing access to better food, ridding baby bottles of dangerous ingredients, or helping people leave toxic relationships: Social justice.

And now that she’s seven months pregnant, she’s even more dedicated to these causes – and also excited to be starting a family in Portland.

“It’s a pretty amazing small city,” she said, noting its variety of people, arts and cultural institutions, restaurants and shops.

And it’s this sense of place that drives Curran’s activist streak. Although she’s fiercely dedicated to advocating on the state and federal level, change truly happens in everyday encounters, she said, and in “engaging in relationships with people.”

“I feel like I’m making the most difference when I’m actively involved in things on a community level,” she said.

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