FREEPORT — Freeport Community Services has hired Paula Paladino as the organization’s next executive director.
Paladino replaces Melanie Sachs, who held the position for three years. Sachs, who is also a town councilor, resigned from FCS in August to lead Portland-based Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine.
While FCS was searching for Sachs’s replacement, Emily Chaleff served as interim executive director. Paladino took over the position on Dec. 13.
“I said, ‘This is my dream job and I can’t not apply for it,'” Paladino said.
The Lewiston resident said she’s always felt a connection to Freeport. Her mother once managed Fannie Farmer Candy in town, and Paladino would often come to visit.
“One of the things that attracted me to the position was the close ties I have with the community,” she said.
While in Freeport, Paladino said, she and her mother would often visit the FCS thrift shop.
“I always noticed whenever I came here everyone was smiling,” she said. “There was a real sense of community.”
Paladino has a master’s degree in interdisciplinary consciousness studies from John F. Kennedy University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Arizona State University.
She previously worked at MaineHousing for almost five years as the manager of homeless initiatives and the special projects coordinator. She said the position of FCS executive director appealed to her because it involves working directly with the people it serves.
“I really wanted to get back and feel a sense of connection …,” she said. “Boots on the ground and being able to (meet) people and interact with them is what attracted to me this position.”
Helping people and working to prevent homelessness are Paladino’s passions, she said. Working with people to achieve a high quality of life is important, she added.
Paladino said she recognizes many Freeport residents already have a good quality of life. But some people may be unaware that others in their town need extra help.
“I think a lot of people in this community know, but a lot don’t,” she said. “Food insecurity is huge. People are living on the edge.”
Paladino said one of her goals is to make people feel comfortable coming to FCS and taking advantage of its services.
“For many there’s a stigma,” she said. “I want to reduce that shame and increase awareness that we’re all in this together.”
Another goal Paladino has is to put FCS’s new strategic plan into action and “take it from paper to reality,” she said. To start, however, she’ll be working on getting to know the staff, volunteers and community.
“I’m hoping to reach out to the community and identify what they’d like to see the organization do,” she said. “Are there unmet needs we can assist with?”
Paladino said FCS already does a lot for the community, but if she can improve the services, she will.
“It’s a healthy organization in a really good place and I want to make it even better if possible,” she said.
Paladino said her time working at MaineHousing gave her many skills – such as grant writing, multitasking, and working with various groups of people – that she’ll use in her new position.
“I’ve got a lot of tools in my toolbox and I plan to use them,” she said.
Marc Miller, FCS president, said the board “could not be more enthusiastic” about hiring Paladino.
“Paula’s extensive background with service-oriented nonprofits brings a wealth of leadership and management experience to FCS,” Miller said. “Additionally, her personal philosophies, integrity and approach to both life and work are well aligned with those of FCS.”
Paladino, who described herself as “an extroverted optimist,” said she can’t wait to dive into the work.
“I’m so excited to be in Freeport,” she said. “I can’t wait to contribute and give back to this community.”
Paula Paladino, of Lewiston, has been hired as the new executive director of Freeport Community Services.