For Pauline Grappie, an Email from Mainstay Supportive Housing Changed Everything
It’s 2,000 miles from the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago to Norwood, Mass. where Pauline Grappie now makes her home and works as a house manager for Mainstay Supportive Housing. And, while emigrating to the United States was not easy, her new life has been full of rich rewards—the latest of which is her new identity as a U.S. citizen.
“It was no storybook,” said Pauline. “The transition was very hard from living on an island, from the culture to the geographical features. The [reality] of living in America hit me [when I got to] New York.”
That was her first stop in America, in 2014. As she settled into the big city, she started volunteering with the Lions Club International. Pauline said it helped her find fulfillment and purpose.
“I was giving back to my community and experiencing the rewards while seeing firsthand how people struggle,” she said.
Several years later, Pauline’s twin sister Paula reached out and asked if she would consider moving to Massachusetts. Paula – a teacher at Willard Elementary – was struggling during the pandemic. After arriving in Massachusetts, Pauline began a job search and eventually found a job as a house manager at one of Mainstay’s supportive homes in Norwood.
“It’s easy to see that Pauline has connected with our residents and they have grown close to her,” said Mainstay Director of Services Doreen Cummings. “She’s excellent at her job, extremely caring, a calming presence, and always positive.”
As she settled into her new life, Pauline said one thing continued gnawing away at her; she wanted to become a United States citizen.
“I’ve always been law abiding,” said Pauline. “In the Caribbean we wore uniforms and were taught to obey the law. It was instilled in me to make a difference and I do that with the Lions Club, but when you’re a citizen you’re able to vote and to do so much more.”
Her opportunity came through an email from Kathryn Soderholm, Mainstay’s Program Administrator who says she is always on the lookout for ways to help their staff. One day last spring, Soderholm forwarded a flyer from Project Citizenship to all Mainstay employees.
“Here at Mainstay, we support our staff and look for opportunities and support that might be relevant to them, whether it’s affordable housing information, health insurance options, or this opportunity from Project Citizenship,” Soderholm said. “We do all that we can to help our employees both at work and in their personal lives.”
For Pauline, that email was life changing. She realized that if she qualified for the program, it would be a free pathway to gaining citizenship. She applied in April and said she was shocked to learn that she would become a citizen of the United States on September 14—just five months later.
“I was sworn in at Faneuil Hall in Boston,” said Pauline. “Being there and looking at this building that our forefathers built, just gave me goosebumps. They were making a way for us to live here. It was really amazing. Knowing that I am part of this country makes me feel so secure. I am incredibly proud to be an American citizen.”
The decision to leave her childhood home and start a new life in America was difficult. She never imagined the lessons she would learn, the people she would meet, and the sense of belonging she would find at Mainstay Supportive Housing.