2012 was a year of major change for Helen Broom. That was the year she got married, moved over 800 miles to a new home in a new state, and got her three kids started back to school in that new state—all in the same week. Now, almost ten years later, she and her family are still here and firmly embedded into the community.
“It was kismet that everything worked out so well; it was almost by accident that we chose to live here and find ‘our people’!” she explained.
They fell in love with Eaton Rapids. The small-town atmosphere was very familiar to what Helen experienced in New England. To husband Gavin, however, it was quite a change from the big city environment that he came from in Scotland. The major draw was that it was close to where they both would be working, at Jackson National Life in Jackson. Gavin had worked for the parent company of Jackson National, Prudential, for over 30 years back in the UK. They both are still employed there and are working from home due to COVID-19. “American on Purpose” Gavin has as a tagline on his Facebook page.
“It’s good to be married to someone you can work with and raise kids with, and we are happy to be able to do it here.”
How did they end up in Eaton Rapids, when Helen is from Connecticut and Gavin is from Falkirk, Scotland? It’s a question they often are asked. Pre-2012 Helen and Gavin were part of an online writers’ group and often worked on projects together. Gavin started taking vacations to Connecticut to see Helen, eventually moved to the US, and they decided to marry.
Helen sells vintage items on Etsy. “My grandmother couldn’t drive past a garage sale without stopping, and that is probably how I got into buying and selling vintage items on Etsy,” Helen said. Her Etsy shop, vintagepoetic, is chock-full of mid-century housewares. She sells vintage décor, vintage glassware, retro clothing, melamine and Tupperware items, and more. She started selling it when she was clearing out her own belongings for her big move to Michigan, and it became something she really enjoyed doing and continues to do.
Broom also has politics and community service in her blood. As a child, she dreamed of being a veterinarian — or a diplomat. Her father was in the Navy and passed on a strong sense of civic duty, and representing her county was something that strongly appealed to her.
She channeled this passion into community involvement and serving on boards for the City of Eaton Rapids. She was on the Quality of Life Board, and was part of the group that started Oakridge Park, a joint project between the City of Eaton Rapids and Eaton Rapids Township.
She had to submit her resignation to both boards due to family health issues that she needed to take care of. “I felt bad leaving, but I feel very comfortable in the people that I left behind to carry out the plans,” she explained. “But it’s always family first.”
She also had an unsuccessful run for Eaton County Board of Commissioners, something she plans to try again in the future. “If I can’t help someone to solve a problem, I can point them in the right direction.”
Another part of her community involvement that is near and dear to her heart is being a leader of a girl scout troop. Helen is one of the leaders of the troop that provides the “Little Libraries” around town. “It’s a way to socialize for young girls,” Helen said. “They’ve done remote meetings all year.”
“Cookie season was hard, though, because of the pandemic.”
An accomplished writer, Helen has been working on a novel for several years. She hopes to be sending it out to agents soon. Her first book of poetry, Melons and Memory, is available on Amazon. She and Gavin started the Eaton Rapids Poetry Club, which has “Poetry in the Bar,” on Apple Podcasts. It’s recorded at an open mic poetry event on the third Sunday of every month at the Craft Company Restaurant.
They do two other podcasts. One features discussions about the British soap opera, “Coronation Street.” They were contacted and interviewed by the New York Times for input about Coronation Street when the show was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.