'His Dream Job'

November 04, 1994|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

To Robert Sisselberger, working at a police station is a dream job -- so much so that he spends three days a week at the one in Pasadena as a volunteer maintenance worker.

The 25-year-old Pasadena resident, who has Down syndrome, has been volunteering at the station since 1992, doing odd jobs, such as cleaning the community room and sweeping the halls and front stairs.

An occasional game of peek-a-boo is part of the fun Mr. Sisselberger brings to the job. "Robert can hide behind a broom whether you know it or not," said his supervisor, Vanessa Turner, the Eastern District station custodian.

When Mr. Sisselberger was born, doctors predicted that he would never function normally. Down syndrome, a birth defect, causes varying degrees of retardation.

"They told me he'd never learn how to walk or talk and that may be we should think about putting him away," said his mother, Barbara Sisselberger.

"The doctors told me he'd probably get to a point where he wouldn't learn anymore," she said. "We just said we'd try to teach him one thing a day."

Today, Mr. Sisselberger is very independent. Each day he handles a number of responsibilities. At home, he cleans his bedroom, rakes and helps mow the yard, takes out the trash and cares for his pet rabbit. He also makes sure his sister, Sharan Stuckey, who was partially paralyzed after a stroke, has taken her medicine.

At the station, he collects the recyclable paper, wipes down tables and chairs in the community room, and cleans the meeting room without prompting.

"The only thing you have to tell him to do is eat his lunch," Ms. Turner said.

Mr. Sisselberger started at the police station after mentioning at the Providence Employment Services, a nonprofit employment agency for people with disabilities, that working in a police station "was his dream job," said Kathy Bischoff, director of support and employment.

The group contacted Capt. Thomas Shanahan of the Eastern District.

Captain Shanahan said he was "hesitant at first," because of his concern that Mr. Sisselberger might require more supervision than his staff could provide.

But now, Captain Shanahan says he is glad to have Mr. Sisselberger on staff.

"It's good for us and he's happy here. I wish there was a way to pay him for his services," he said.

Pay is not an issue for Mr. Sisselberger, who lives with his mother. "I'm enjoying being here," he said.

"I like keeping things neat," he added. I just keep everything squared away and keep it clean. I take my job seriously."

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