In 1978 Margee Polanka was at the University of Minnesota-Duluth studying to be an elementary school teacher.  On spring break, she took a job at Ecumen Lakeshore as a part-time nurse’s aide that changed her career path from young kids to older adults.

Now 38 years later, Margee is still an Ecumen employee happy about the choice she made.  She worked 12 more years in nursing at Lakeshore, then moved to the business office.  In 2003 she moved to the role of Housing Specialist for Lakeland Shores Apartments, an Ecumen affordable housing community in Duluth.

“I just knew this was my path,” Margee says. “I love going to work every day, and I always go home with a smile. I can’t see doing anything else.”

Working with older adults comes naturally to Margee.  She loves the feeling of being helpful and bringing joy to others.  And her residents are like family.

In her early years as a nursing assistant at Ecumen Lakeshore, she fondly recalls when she got married.  Seven of the people she took care of in the nursing home — in wheelchairs and walkers — got on the Lakeshore van and came to her wedding “to experience my special day with me.”

One of the main things that has changed about senior living in 38 years, Margee says, is that older adults today are much more active.  “They are not sitting around at home,” she says. “They want to go out and do things.”

That adds even more enjoyment to her job.  “It’s different every day,” she says. “It’s never boring.”

A couple of weeks ago, Margee came to the Ecumen Home Office for a routine meeting with her colleagues. But her supervisor, Ecumen Regional Manager Rose Lenzner, surprised her with a cake and a visit from two of her former Ecumen Lakeshore managers — Senior Regional Director Paul Libbon and Regional Director John Korzendorfer.  April 17 marked her 38th year.

“I am very fortunate to work for and work with the Ecumen Team,” Margee says.  “I’m here to stay — with a smile on my face.”