When Hope Avenue opened its doors in 1991, Paulette Marseille was there, ready to care for new residents who now called ILA home. For some, the transition was challenging, particularly for Individuals who previously resided at Willowbrook and endured difficult living conditions at the former facility.
With a guiding hand and loving words of encouragement, Paulette provided comfort and support as Individuals began a new chapter at Hope Avenue. In her 30+ years as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) at the Agency, she has witnessed extraordinary growth and progress among ILA’s Individuals. Working with them will be what Paulette misses most, as she begins a new journey in her life: retirement.
At the time of this article, Paulette was preparing for her last day at ILA. As she reflected on an impressive career in the human services field, the warmth and nostalgia she felt immediately came through. “I was really excited when the house opened,” Paulette recalled. “Getting to know the Individuals and seeing them change and improve over the years has been a blessing.” Withdrawn and aggressive behaviors turned to cheerful, affectionate demeanors, as Individuals got to know staff and began to trust them. “When I returned from a day off, Individuals told me that they missed me,” Paulette remembered. They even asked about her children.
Motor skills and dining habits also improved. Paulette recalled, “When Individuals first arrived, many used their hands to eat. At Hope Avenue, we trained Individuals how to use a fork at mealtime. We made a difference with an activity that others might take for granted.” Helping Individuals strengthen their daily living skills is one of many hats Paulette has worn as a DSP. She’s also enjoyed shopping and cooking for Individuals, and has always made sure that pantries are filled with nutritious items.
Paulette’s nurturing demeanor is rooted in her desire to help others. Before joining ILA, she was a social worker at the South Beach Psychiatric Center. Keeping people safe and healthy has always been important to Paulette. “One time, I wanted to open my home to young people who were homeless to give them a place to gain stability and manage their medications,” she recalled. Instead, a close friend who was working at ILA’s New York Avenue residence, introduced Paulette to a different path. “My friend told me that, ‘if you want to do rewarding work, I know an agency that’s making a difference.’ I started at New York Avenue right away,” Paulette explained. (She worked there part time in addition to her job at the South Beach Psychiatric Center).
After working at New York Avenue, Paulette moved to 691 Madison, and then to Hope Avenue, where she became a full-time DSP. She embraced having more opportunities to make an impact in the lives of ILA’s Individuals, especially when it came to community inclusion and recreational outings. Apple picking trips and Lake George vacations are among some of her favorite memories with Hope Avenue. “I had so much with the Individuals that my kids got jealous!” Paulette said.
She fondly recalled one trip to New Jersey, where Individuals had the chance to see a live show. For one Individual, George, the show was particularly memorable. “George was a big fan of James Brown. When he watched a singer perform James Brown songs, George was dancing and full of joy,” Paulette remembered.
In more recent years, opportunities for trips and restaurant outings decreased due to the pandemic, but Paulette and the excellent team at Hope Avenue successfully helped Individuals combat their cabin fever. “It was very hard not being able to take them to different places, but our staff did a great job organizing indoor activities around the house,” she said. Paulette and her colleagues also ensured that all safety measures were followed, including coordinating different meal times for Individuals to maintain social distancing and help keep them safe.
These days, life at the dinner table has returned to normal, and even in retirement, there’s a good chance Pauline will make an appearance there once again. “Every Thanks giving, I always worked so I could make a lovely home-cooked meal for Individuals and staff. It gave me joy. I’m going to miss that terribly. I still hope to cook for Thanksgiving this year,” Paulette explained.
Paulette’s outstanding cooking skills will also be on display as a caterer – one of the many activities she has planned in retirement. She’s also looking forward to traveling and spending more time with her four-year-old granddaughter. But she won’t rule out a DSP shift or two to help lend a hand. “ILA becomes a part of your family. If Hope Avenue ever needs me, I will come,” Paulette said.
Thank you, Paulette, for your years of outstanding service at ILA, and best of luck in your retirement!