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Paulina Learns to Give Back

January 4, 2013

By W. James Edminson

Paulina Burch feels at peace every time she comes on the Mills Home campus in Thomasville. The 22-year-old college student’s life has revolved around the historic site since she was 15. Going through high school, being a part of Baptist Children’s Homes’ transitional living program while she attended community college, and now renting one of several houses on the property while she attends UNC Greensboro, Burch fondly calls it “home.”

The peace she feels now is far from the chaos she felt living with her mom and her stepfather. Her parents were going through volatile times filled with anger, arguments and slammed doors. They often put their daughter in the middle of their madness.

“I was so tired,” Burch remembers. “I became so fed up living that way.”

Needing to get her daughter away while she and her husband worked out their future, Burch’s mom turned to Mills Home. Losing contact with her friends was heartbreaking for Burch, but not living amidst the angst was a relief.

After Burch moved away, things became worse between her parents – arguments turned into a formal separation and divorce tore their family apart.

“It’s not been easy dealing with the pain,” Burch confides. “I have been able to move forward by focusing on my future. I felt there was a life for me out there, and I wanted to find it.”

Burch’s attention first turned to her interest in political science and she began to pursue her associates degree from a local community college. But the decision was made with her head and not her heart. After her first year she began to question her decision.

“I kept asking myself is this what I really want to do,” she says. “I wanted to do something I would enjoy. I have a big heart and I wanted to study something that reflected me. I wanted to help others.”

It wasn’t long before her attention turned to social work.

“It became so obvious,” she recalls. “I began thinking about who my role models had been at Mills Home; they were my houseparents, case managers and social workers.”

She recalls the early days living at Mills Home and how her social worker’s Christian care made Burch feel better.

“Things didn’t suddenly get better,” she admits, “but there was someone who was going to be there for me as I worked through the tough stuff.”

Burch sees herself giving back. She believes her experiences have tempered her and given her a foundation on which to build a vocation.

“I want to be a beacon of light for others who find themselves in need of someone to care,” she says.

Burch transferred into the pre-major social work program and this past spring completed all her community college requirements and was admitted into the social work program at UNC Greensboro.

This fall, she began classes and is volunteering one to two times a week with Davidson County’s Department of Social Services. She has been a Baptist Children’s Homes staff member for nearly a year working part time with North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM).

Burch is an NCBAM Call Center Specialist. “I’m learning so much working with clients. I help locate resources and try to meet their needs.”

Burch says that she realizes she can’t help everyone, but when she feels she makes a difference “it is so rewarding.”