The Gifts that Hammer Gave to Me

The Gifts that Hammer Gave to Me

Our Legacies magazine is a special anniversary publication, celebrating our history, the people we have supported, and those who have made our mission possible all these years.

Here is one of our stories, by Wendy Paulson, who worked at Hammer during two different chapters of her life. She recounts the impact it made on her personal and professional life:

Wendy teaching a music therapy class at Hammer School

As a child, Hammer School fascinated me. In my innocence, the large, old house was mysterious and inside was a big cheerful and harmonious family. I didn’t understand why the students didn’t go to my public school, but it was clearly a special place. After my first visit in 1968, I couldn’t wait to return and I’m glad I listened to the voice inside urging me to get closer. Hammer School drew me back as a volunteer and summer staff during high school and college and then as a permanent employee weeks after I graduated college as a teacher. In the 1990s, I left for other teaching work but eventually returned in 2010, retiring in 2020.

My last decade at Hammer Residences was in Human Resources. I conducted hundreds of interviews and when an applicant was a good fit, I would always tell them I looked forward to seeing what they would bring to Hammer. Later, I enjoyed seeing how Hammer changed them. As I reflect on this milestone 100th anniversary I am proud of my good work here but even more grateful for what Hammer did for me.

Wendy was Sue’s job coach at Pizza Hut

Hammer changed me in many beautiful ways. I discovered my Love Language is being helpful and contributing. I learned that serving and making a difference fills me up and gives me purpose. My family was able to share activities with friends who live with disabilities and their world became richer.

I worked in an environment where the motto was to “live life to the fullest.” As a result, I became more confident. I found that when an opportunity came along, I would raise my hand and not overthink the challenges. I was given interesting projects, learned new skills, and developed challenging programs. I applied for promotions and tried on different roles as Hammer adapted to remain a leader in our field.

In my career, I have watched as people I knew and cared about moved from a boarding school, to dormitories, to sheltered work, to public schools, to community homes and apartments, and competitive employment. Every door pushed open was due to family love and activism. Hammer helped shape my values about service, differentness, discrimination, inclusion, and political advocacy. I learned what is essential to supporting people and because of Hammer, I know what quality care looks like. In the last three years, my husband has survived serious illnesses and lives with physical disabilities. My decades with Hammer gave me the skills to support him and because I’ve experienced what is possible with good communication and collaboration, I have been able to create a strong team to support us.

Yes, Hammer has been blessed with thousands of dedicated employees, volunteers, and supporters over the years, but we in turn have been equally blessed by Hammer. I am grateful to have been a part of the extended family.

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