Disabled man has 'his dream job' at police station

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

If Robert Sisselberger quit his job at the Eastern District police station, he'd take the fun with him.

"We wouldn't have anyone to play peek-a-boo with," said Vanessa Turner, a custodian at the station. She supervises Mr. Sisselberger when he comes in three times a week.

The 25-year-old Pasadena resident has been volunteering at the station since 1992, cleaning the community room, sweeping the halls and front stairs, bringing a smile to everyone as he dances and sings with his broom, plays peek-a-boo behind corners.

"Robert can hide behind a broom whether you know it or not," Ms. Turner said.

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

"They told me he'd never learn how to walk or talk and that maybe 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 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 partly 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 telling someone 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 Captain Thomas Shanahan of the Eastern District. He said he was "hesitant at first" out of concern that Mr. Sisselberger might require more supervision than his staff could provide.

Now, Captain Shanahan is glad to have him on staff.

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

Pay is not an issue for Mr. Sisselberger, who lives with his mother.

"I'm enjoying being here," he said. "Every time I'm here I see the officers. I keep hearing their sirens 55 times a day. They sound like babies."

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

The peek-a-boo games, dancing and singing are just something extra.

F: "I only do that for attention," Mr. Sisselberger said.

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