(pictured: Margie Michalewski with some of her students from Chongqing SanXia Xue Yaun ( Chongqing Three Gorges College) in Wanzhou, Chongqing Municipality, China.)
Throughout her life, Margie Michalewski has always made an effort to give back. From volunteer vacations across the world, to nature conservation projects, historical building preservation, and sending books and feminine hygiene products to African countries so that young girls can stay in school, her dedication to service knows no bounds.
Read more about the inspiring ways she embraces life and how she helps residents at Greencastle of Barrington (Barrington, IL) to do so in their own ways:
How were you first introduced to Embrace Living Communities the organization?
Well, I was in China with a Christian educational exchange program teaching English on college campuses for about ten years. When I came back [to the United States], I saw an ad in the paper for a position. When I applied for the job, I didn’t know where it was, but it happened to be here in Greencastle of Barrington. The minute the manager found out I spent so much time in China and I did speak some Chinese, he thought I would be the perfect candidate for the job since there was a growing Chinese population in our building. I’ve been here since August 2007.
Now that you’re the manager, what is your day-to-day like helping people at Greencastle of Barrington within that role?
I do a lot of paperwork, but I also do a lot of translation work because we do have a very large Chinese population. A lot of times the tenants come to me when they have issues and I have to try to figure out what they need. I walk around the building and meet with the residents and help them.
What things help the Greencastle of Barrington community embrace life?
We are one of the few communities that has a bus, which we share with our sister building in Palatine, so that allows for a lot of outings. It does help because residents don’t have to rely on public transportation, so we can take them shopping, we take them to local appointments, we take them out to eat once or twice a month. We have quite a few of our Chinese residents go to Xinlin, a Chinese senior center, and our Korean residents go to a Korean senior center. Other times residents go to the YMCA to use the pool. In the summertime, we’ve gone on special outings like Lake Geneva, Lincoln Park Zoo, and museums and stuff like that, which is fun.
What impact do these outings have? How do they help the residents?
I think it’s very important for the residents to get out and about and to interact with other people.
The more they interact with other people, the healthier they are. What kind of existence is it to sit in the apartment and be lonely and sad? You have to go out and have interaction with other people, so I think it’s very important for them to have activities to do.
What types of engaging social opportunities exist for the residents?
We do have various things happening in the building, including volunteer opportunities. The other day we just happened to have a volunteer luncheon we invited all our volunteers to. There are many different organizations we have that come into our communities like the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts, and we actually have an upcoming visit from two bands from Jack London Middle School who will have a concert for our residents. They’ve been coming for a number of years. The teacher enjoys coming here, the students enjoy coming here, and our residents enjoy it.
You have been involved in many different service projects. Why are you so passionate about giving back to others?
It’s because of my faith and something I experienced while growing up. When I was a little girl, about nine years old, we lived in a two-room school house in Colorado that my dad converted into our home. One day, I was coming home from school on the bus, and when I got off there was nothing left of my house. It was completely burned down- we lost everything in the fire.
Through the wreckage, we found one thing that survived: a Bible given to me by my parents. And to me, that was a sign from God that I am here for you. My word lasts. Because we lost everything, the people from our church gave us clothes, food, furniture, a place to stay. When we needed it, other people gave to us, so that’s always been a part of me. This is my way of giving back to them.
You need to help people when they have a need. You need to help people wherever you can in doing whatever you can.
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