Seen and Heard: Advocacy for others drives Hart’s work

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For Paula Hart of Edina, memories evoke nostalgia of her childhood in Rochester. She grew up reading the Post Bulletin and remembers the sound of her screen door shutting, signaling the arrival of the afternoon paper. Memories have also played a central role in her career path.

As a Girl Scout, Hart visited Good Samaritan Home and recalls meeting a bedridden woman with multiple sclerosis who “lit up” when she entered the room. During high school summer breaks, Hart worked as a playground leader and remembers watching another leader care for a youngster with disabilities.

When she moved to Northfield to attend Carleton College, Hart volunteered for her entire four years in college at the Faribault State Hospital. Every weekend she visited with June, who spent almost all her days inside. Hart’s and June’s Saturday ritual was a “stroll around downtown Faribault stopping for a carton of milk and a donut.”

All of those moments are fresh on Hart’s mind in her present role as president and CEO of Volunteers of America MN and WI (VOA MN/WI). The business and financial skills she acquired during her 17-year career in marketing at Dayton’s are essential to her work at the nonprofit.

But it is the advocacy for others that drives her work. VOA MN/WI serves a “broad population,” including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, older adults, and children.

Last month, Hart was inducted into the Legacy Leaders Circle of the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR). The award “recognizes long-time members who have made significant contributions to providing high-quality, long-term supports and services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

‘Bang’ was boon for Eagen

While “The Big Bang Theory,” a science-based television comedy, ended last month after 12 seasons on CBS, Rochester native Sarah J. Eagen was thrilled to have a guest spot on “The Inspiration Deprivation” episode in mid-April. Fitting, as Eagen has degrees in both theater and neuroscience from Knox College.

“It was quite honestly surreal in the best way,” she said. “And a comedy about science and lab work and friendship — what could be better? Hanging out on set while several of the lead actors shot their scenes, watching Academy Award Winner Regina King work, and being on those iconic sets that I’ve been seeing since before I even knew I wanted to work in television — it was a beautiful experience. I feel so, so lucky to have had the opportunity to work on one of the final episodes of such an iconic show.”

Eagen, a John Marshall High School graduate, immersed herself in theater and dance while growing up here. From Janet Lange Dance Studio to high school plays and community theater, Eagen said she “couldn’t get enough!” The theater major in college was an easy decision. Eagen added neuroscience studies because she wanted to “deepen my understanding of chemistry, biology, psychology, and the amazing ways in which the brain and body communicate and work together.”

In addition to acting, Eagen has quite a writing resume. She wrote four episodes of “The Veil,” an audio drama, a sci-fi/horror podcast. Her one-hour pilot script, “The Big Sleep” was one of 10 finalists in the Stage 32 TV Writing Contest. That same script was a semifinalist for the Humanitas NEW VOICES program. “I am over the moon about (this),” Eagen said.

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