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Monday September 27, 2010
Marge Selm Article in The Enquirer - September 25, 2010
She's there to bring the loveBy John Johnston, in the Cincinnati Enquirer, September 25, 2010
"These are sea shells," she says, showing off the former home of a clam.
Five people at her table listen and watch. They're all age 50 or older, and all have a developmental disability. They're among 50 people who spend weekdays in the Adult Day Services Department of Jewish Vocational Service in Blue Ash, where Selm has been program assistant for four years.
"I know exactly why I'm here," the 60-year-old Dillonvale resident says later, "Because they needed somebody not to take care of them, but to love them." It shows in the little things she does every day.
This morning's show-and-tell is a prelude to an arts and crafts project, during which Selm's group will transform construction paper, paper plates, glue, confetti and paint into turtles, starfish and sea horses - decorations for their upcoming luau.
When it's time to start cutting paper, a man in a Reds cap hesitates.
"You hold the scissors and I'll help you," Selm says. "We're going to go open and shut, open and shut." His hand works the scissors while she turns the construction paper.
"I get tons of hugs," Selm says.
Virginia Gilbert, the agency's manager of seniors and therapeutic recreation, says the most important requirement for a program assistant is "you've got to have a caring heart, and be kind."
That's Selm. But it also helps to have plenty of energy.
Selm never slows. She's retrieving art supplies, assisting people at her table and later, at lunch, slicing sandwiches the way each person prefers, whether in halves, quarters or bite-size pieces.
She taught kindergarten for 15 years in Deer Park schools. She also cared for elderly people in their homes. Both jobs prepared her well for her daily tasks at Jewish Vocational Service.
In the Adult Day Services room, a stranger is bound to be greeted with friendly waves, smiles and a question: What's your name?
Everybody knows Selm.
One woman "has been giving me a piece of fruit every day for four years," Selm says. "She wants to keep me healthy."
A man who likes Barbie dolls refers to Selm as "my beautiful doll-haired lady."
Another man isn't shy about telling Selm when she should dye her short, blond hair.
Selm accompanies them on outings: to a bowling alley and swimming pool, to a pizza parlor to watch pies being made, to concerts and museums.
They went fishing at Stepping Stones, an agency that serves people with disabilities.
"They would throw the line in, and I'd twist my finger around it, and as soon as there was a bite, I'd jerk it, and then they'd reel it in.
"Sure enough," she says, "everybody caught a big fish. They were just ecstatic."
This day, the luau decorations are coming along nicely. Then someone notices that no two turtles are alike.
"Nothing's ever the same," Selm says. "We're all different, right? That's what makes us cool."
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