November 20, 2011

Boss goes extra step for mother of three

By Bill Nemitz

We hear a lot about job creators these days. But Drew Graham, president and founder of Ship-Right Solutions in South Portland, has taken that one big step farther.

He's a life saver.

"She's a terrific investment," Graham said Friday, sitting in his small conference room with receptionist Mary Plummer. "This is not a big company and I'm not a sit-in-the-ivory-tower president. I'm working -- and I know when somebody knows what's going on."

Plummer, 30, is a single mother of three -- Elizabeth, 5, Tyler, 3, and 1-year-old Emma. A resident of Maine since moving here from New Hampshire in 2005, she's worked a variety of temporary jobs in recent years because she's "a little bit prideful" about making it on her own without a Section 8 housing subsidy or other government benefits for which she undoubtedly would be eligible.

Last March, the job-placement firm Manpower dispatched Plummer to fill a temporary slot at Ship-Right Solutions, which warehouses and distributes products for mail order and online businesses and also provides an array of data management services to clients all over the country.

Plummer, who lived in Portland at the time, had no car.

But she somehow managed each morning to feed and dress the three kids and walk them to day care at the East End Children's Workshop at the bottom of Portland's Munjoy Hill. From there it was on to Monument Square, where she would catch a municipal bus for the ride over to her new workplace in the Rumery Industrial Park in South Portland.

Plummer liked Ship-Right Solutions from the start.

"It's a very tight-knit group and I think everyone here is very aware of each other," she said. "They look out for each other."

Plummer performed so well that by July, Graham made her the company's full-time receptionist and also began funneling some account-management work her way.

In other words, life was good. Not perfect -- Plummer and her kids' father have what she calls a good "working relationship" but live mostly separate lives -- but in this economy, things certainly could have been worse.

Then things got worse.

It started in October, when Plummer and her children had to move out of an apartment on Washington Avenue in Portland because the owner planned to renovate the building.

Scrambling as usual, Plummer located and leased a three-bedroom unit at 7 Montgomery St., just steps from the day-care center, from owner Sheldon Ashby.

What happened next is the fodder for two cases -- one initiated by Ashby, the other by Plummer -- now on file in Portland District Court.

At issue are two competing allegations.

Plummer says upon moving in, she discovered the apartment had a bedbug infestation so bad that she ended up bringing Emma, her baby, to Maine Medical Center for treatment of bites on her legs.

Ashby counters that he "personally (hasn't) seen any" bedbugs in the building in the 22 months since he bought it. But just in case, he said, he has a preventative maintenance contract with a local pest-control company to keep it bedbug-free.

Ashby, meanwhile, initiated eviction proceedings against Plummer on Nov. 3, alleging she was behind in her $350-per-week rent.

Not true, says Plummer, who says she was current on both the rent and her security deposit, which she was paying in increments until she reached an agreed-upon $2,100.

Bottom line, fearful of bedbugs biting her kids and faced with an eviction notice, Plummer found herself once again in a state of crisis. And when she showed up at work on the morning of Nov. 8, it showed.

"She beat me to work that morning -- on the bus," recalled Graham. "And she and some of the gals from the office were talking and she was crying -- and I never hear her complain and she always has a positive outlook. And then I'm hearing about her having spent the night in the emergency room (with Emma)."

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)