Much has changed during the last three years for Holly Butler, but oddly enough, a lot has remained the same.
Since she was the focus of a Grace cover story in February 2007, she has completed her undergraduate studies, earning a bachelor's degree in human services administration.
She's still baking and cooking, sharing treats with her family and colleagues, and working at Natchaug Hospital's Careplus after-school program in Groton.
Although she still worships at New Life Christian Church, Butler no longer volunteers at the Groton church's food center.
She recently had the rooms of her small yet tidy home painted, a hard thing for a person who "doesn't adapt to change too easily."
Her hair is different. Gone is the shiny bob and in its place a cropped 'do worn short on the sides and tapered in the back. The bubbly laugh and dimpled cheeks are still in evidence, however.
What is new is that Butler's learned it's OK to make time for herself.
"If my own well being is not taken care of, I feel like I can't take care of anyone else," she explains.
Part of that included scaling back her involvement in the numerous projects, boards and commissions that she works with.
While leaving her work at the food center, she realized an eight-year-old dream to join the NAACP.
"I wanted to join when my daughter was in high school, but ... time just went by. I joined during Black History Month, which was really important to me."
It was also a natural progression that she would be picked to serve on the alumni board at Eastern Connecticut State University, since she has been singing the school's praises since she first enrolled in courses.
"They really want you to succeed. All of my advisers were awesome," she says.
Butler's also adjusting to a newly empty nest. Now that her daughter, Sophia, is living and working in New Haven, also in the human services field, the 44-year-old single mom has a new addition to her home: Wentworth, a gray and white cat. She got him in early February and the adjustment curve to a new animal in her home has been pretty steep.
"I had a cat years ago, but I forgot that they sleep during the day and play all night," Butler explains. "So in the middle of the night I hear this 'thump' and he's on my face meowing in my ear. I need my sleep so I tell him there's nothing I can do for him!"
She enjoys weekend visits from her only child, who works with the LEAP program in the Elm City. Butler says she had an "Aha" moment during a recent conversation with her daughter.
"She said that I raised her wrong because she's too nice and people take advantage of her. But I would rather have that," says Butler, who regularly attended church with Sophia.
"I try to treat people the way that I would like to be treated. That's important for everyone. Why do we need to be mean, spiteful or hateful?"
Butler thrives on personal contact. She looks you in the eye when she talks and listens attentively when you speak.
She refuses to be a slave to modern technology. She doesn't have a cell phone, and if she did, would protest texting. She could care less about Facebook or any of the other social networking Web sites.
"I like to keep my life simple," she says.
Butler sees that as part of the problem with teens and young adults - they're too busy being "plugged in" instead of taking in their surroundings.
"Their world is so much different than what ours was. We didn't have all these gadgets, we just had good, clean fun," says Butler.