On New Year’s Eve, Lamar Austin of Pittsfield, N.H., had a decision to make: Should he attend the birth of his new son, Cainan, or show up for a shift at his new security guard job?
Because he had missed the births of his other three children, “it wasn’t that tough of a choice,” Lamar, 30, tells PEOPLE. “I told my boss that I wanted to be there for my wife when she had the baby — she was more important. I wanted to do good by my family.”
Lamar’s employer, though, didn’t see it that way. His supervisor at Salerno Protective Services in Manchester, N.H., where he’d started a part-time job three weeks earlier, told him that if he didn’t report to work by 8 a.m. the next morning, he would be fired, says Lamar.
“When they actually did it, I was stunned,” he tells PEOPLE. “But then I thought, ‘Okay, I’m not going to pass judgment on this man.’ I couldn’t be two places at once. I had to be at the place where I thought I was most needed — with my wife, Lindsay.”
Although the couple made headlines in New Hampshire for giving birth to the town’s first child at Concord Hospital in 2017, those stories were soon followed with the unhappy news about Lamar’s job loss. And then something heartwarming happened: The community rallied around the Austins through a GoFundMe account to help pay their bills, and flooded Lamar with new job offers.
“I was fortunate to have my husband with me for the birth of both our daughters, and we both had flexible schedules, which made all the difference,” Sara Pereschino, who started the account, tells PEOPLE. “I was so moved by their story. Nobody should have to choose between their family and their job. It’s been inspirational to see support coming in from across the world, including Scotland, Australia and Japan.”
Lamar is now sifting through nearly two-dozen local job offers, including one as an electrical apprentice.
“That would be a dream job for me, with a good future,” he says. “I’m thinking of taking them up on it. I’m at a loss for words to describe how touched I am. There are a lot of good people out there.”
Officials at his former employer didn’t respond to PEOPLE’s request for an interview, but in a statement posted on their website, a Salerno Protective Services spokesperson says, “Our silence is due to the fact that we have not had an exit interview with (Lamar). In no way did it have anything to do with his child’s birth. The timing of the termination was poor, but it was necessary for operation purposes. Salerno will be looking into revamping its termination policies to avoid such misunderstandings in the future.”
Says Lamar, “Hey, I’m not holding any grudges. They did what they felt they had to do, and I did what I felt I had to do. My family is my life.”
Originally from Newark, N.J., where he was the oldest of five children raised by a single mom, “I lived in a dangerous neighborhood and knew it wasn’t a place for me to stay when it came time to raise a family,” adds the former Army ammunition specialist.
After he met Lindsay, 26, on an online dating site and the couple married and moved to New Hampshire, Lamar spent several years shuttling back and forth to New Jersey to work until he took an assembly line job in New Hampshire.
In December, when he was hired by the security firm, “it seemed perfect, with flexible shifts and hours,” he says. “But if I have to choose, I’ll take my family, any day.”
For now, he’s enjoying some bonding time with Cainan, who at 7 pounds, 3 ounces, “was the best New Year’s gift we could ask for,” Lamar tells PEOPLE. “My children just love having a new little brother. We’re all very happy and grateful.”
“I might have lost my job,” he says, “but I gained something so much better.”