A full-time job helping people with disabilities isn’t nearly enough for Paul Ziegler. His dedication to that mission is so powerful that he works two jobs helping others achieve their potential.
People see more of Ziegler around Easterseals Arc in the summer, when he picks up many open shifts and helps out sometimes with Mini Dreamers. When Homestead High School is in session, he works full-time there as an instructional assistant devoted to students with special needs. But even when he is working at Homestead, he still is scheduled for about 17 hours a week with Easterseals Arc consumers.
His Easterseals Arc supervisor, Sandy Reavis, says that it isn’t the number of hours Ziegler works that makes him special. It’s what he does with all those hours.
“Paul is always willing to participate in special events planned for his consumers when his schedule allows. … He remains positive and his energy is contagious,” she said. “He likes to ensure the people he works with have meaningful days. He took one of his consumers to a Chicago Cubs game on a chartered trip from his church.”
Ziegler, 41, hasn’t always worked with individuals with disabilities. For 10 years, he worked for a tile flooring company, ending up driving a forklift. That changed almost 10 years ago, when he took his first job working with disabled youths for a school district. He remembers forklift-driving as a good job, but it was short on a different kind of return he wanted from life.
“I wanted to do something where I was making a bigger impact and making more of a difference,” he said.
He’s continued working in schools, but about seven years ago, he also joined the Easterseals Arc team. One of the things he appreciates about his job at Easterseals Arc is that it gives him the chance to get out and do things throughout the community with consumers. That may mean trips as near as the grocery store, library and downtown or destinations more distant, including Indiana Beach and Cedar Point.
Through it all, he helps broaden and enrich the daily lives of people he supports.
A good example is Andrew, who’s 34 and has no roommates except his dog, Orlando. In a typical week, Ziegler spends 8.5 hours with Andrew, time that’s divided into two shifts on different days. But not every week is typical.
Sometimes working with Andrew takes him to venues such as American Legion 241 in Waynedale, where Andrew plays records or runs karaoke as “DJ Andrew.” He plays many dances, parties and festivals at Easterseals Arc, Turnstone, Camp Red Cedar and other area sites.
“He has more courage than I do, getting up in front of people like that,” Ziegler said of Andrew.
“My mom loves him to death,” Andrew said. “My mom loves him to pieces.”
Rachel Radloff, a teacher at Homestead whom Ziegler works with, said he “cares a great deal about the students he works with. He finds way to connect with each student. … He wants to brainstorm a lot to make sure he’s always moving forward with students.”
Reavis, the Easterseals Arc supervisor, said working full-time at Homestead never leaves Ziegler with less energy and effort for Easterseals Arc consumers.
“I have yet to see Paul without a smile on his face or without positive interactions with his consumers even on those days when he has already worked at the school,” she said. “Paul is very good at engaging with his consumers and in taking his consumers out in the community to do activities that are meaningful to each.”
Ziegler also is known for volunteering to fill last-minute gaps in staffing, even in difficult situations.
“Paul is the type of staff that you wish you could clone,” Reavis said.