Jacques takes the helm at Blind Center
New director hopesto expand services
By KEVIN SCOTT CUTLER
Lifestyles &Features Editor
Life has given Paula Jacques more than her share of bumps and bruises, but her ability to persevere and overcome any obstacle makes her a good choice to lead The Blind Center in Washington.
Jacques began working as the center’s director last month, succeeding Dottie Walker who retired after holding that post for more than a decade.
Born in Manhattan, Jacques said she was a ward of the Catholic church for the first 10 years of her life.
In time, Jacques met and married a sailor. The life of a military wife took her first to Chicago and then to Puerto Rico, where her son David was born. The family later was transferred to San Francisco.
Next stop for the family was Virginia.
Jacques had her heart set on a teaching career, but with a young son to raise she couldn’t find the time for a required internship. So she went back to school, earning a degree in criminal justice from Old Dominion University.
Jacques began going into area high schools and working with the teenagers there.
Then, her world turned inside out.
Jacques became involved in the case, and on a Thursday she, the teen and his parents went before a judge, who ruled that the youth should remain at home. The next day, Jacques left on a scheduled vacation, and on Saturday the troubled teenager murdered a young boy who was selling candy door-to-door to raise money for his school.
The teen was arrested, tried and sentenced to prison. A year later Jacques opted to retire, citing post traumatic stress disorder stemming from her own childhood. She decided to return to Virginia where her son resides and began mentoring adolescents and working with young sexual offenders. She was also an employee counselor for Norfolk Naval Shipyards.
In August 2007, in search of more affordable housing, Jacques decided to move to Beaufort County, where she purchased a home in Chocowinity. She began volunteering with Eagle’s Wings and also worked as a court advocate for abused women and children in Hyde County. She said she finds her volunteer work as a guardian ad litem particularly rewarding.
An advertisement for a director for a local nonprofit organization caught her eye one day, and shortly afterwards she was hired by The Blind Center board.
A support group meeting is planned for July 23, according to Jacques, in an effort to find out what the visually-impaired population needs.
Although she is still relatively new to the job, Jacques said she has already seen how important volunteers are to the success of The Blind Center.
A series of fundraisers are being planned, as well, with the center planning to participate in the new Treasure on the Water event in August. The annual Autumn Craft Show is planned for Sept. 12-13, a pancake dinner will be held Oct. 17 and the traditional Christmas craft show is scheduled for Dec. 12-13.
**The Blind Center’s gift shop is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The shop features a variety of items made by the blind and visually-impaired clients with assistance from sighted volunteers.
The center is located at 221 North Harvey Street in Washington. For more information, call (252) 946-6208.