A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Paula Prickett

A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Paula Prickett

We’ve all heard the crazy tales of people going out into the world and making a difference, but sometimes the simple close-to-home stories are the most meaningful. Paula Prickett has spent most of her life working hard to provide nutritious, uplifting food for the community, and nothing can be more special than that. 

Prickett grew up in Portage and graduated from Portage High School. After graduating, she started working at a deli in Valparaiso; she worked her way up, became a manager, and stayed there for 15 years. When Prickett decided it was time to move on, she worked a couple of odds-and-ends jobs, and eventually ended up subbing in the kitchen at Chesterton High School. Once again, she worked her way up and became the head lunch lady. 

After working at Chesterton High for 20 years, Prickett decided to retire in 2018. However, it didn’t take long for her to realize that she missed working and that sitting around all day was not her thing. She wanted to be around people, so she started working at the Portage Township YMCA nutrition kitchen. Now, she runs both the nutrition kitchen and the food program, and she couldn’t be happier. 

Working at the YMCA has been extremely rewarding for Prickett. She loves that, through the food program, she can give free meals to people in need. 

“I think it's really important to be able to help your community, to be a part of it and just help people make it day-to-day or week-to-week or however long they need help,” said Prickett. 

She’s enjoyed making a positive impact on people’s lives; even the smallest thing can go such a long way. 

“We have quite a few senior citizens that really enjoy having that meal. A lot of them are lonely and they come in there and they meet people and meet each other and it's just really nice for them,” said Prickett. 

However, one of the things that Prickett loves most about her job is the kids. She and her husband like to joke that they have tons of bonus grandkids because her co-workers’ kids have become a part of her family. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her kids and go to her grandkids’ sporting events. 

If Prickett could give anyone some advice, it would be to spend time on things that bring you joy, whether it be your family, your kids, or a hobby. There will always be plenty of time to work, but the time you have to do things you enjoy is so limited. 

“Just don't work so much–especially if you’re a mom or dad. I worked full time, and my husband worked full time, and you just miss out on things. Don't miss out on stuff. Don't put it off. Go ahead and do it. Just enjoy life. Travel if you want to travel; just do what you want to do,” said Prickett. 

Prickett is thankful for so many wonderful people in her life, but the person she is most grateful for is her husband. He’s always had her back, especially in the most difficult moments of her life, and has helped her keep going. 

“He helps me through everything. After I retired, I got breast cancer, and he was with me the whole time and really helped me get through it. Now, I've been cancer-free for two years. He’s just always there for me. He's a good guy,” said Prickett. 

Prickett’s also thankful to all her co-workers for being so kind and helpful. She loves getting to work together with them to give back to the community. 

“They’ve all really helped me get the food program going. They help me every day if I’m having any problems running the kitchen and the food program. They’re all so wonderful at serving the community and getting involved. They’re my inspiration,” said Pricket. 

So, even though Prickett jokes that her life is a little boring, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that she brings so much joy to the community and that the Region is a better place with her in it.