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--- Issued May 1, 2013

In 2013, we are extremely proud to feature in our annual calendar 12 of our employees who started their careers with us when they were residents of public housing. We think their individual stories are compelling enough to feature on a monthly basis throughout the year -- to honor these employees and to help celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Housing Authority of the City of Erie:


Rosemary Anderson -- May, 2013

For Rosemary Anderson, of the Bird Drive public housing community, life has been like a giant painting – a work of art that she painted herself, quite literally.

Originally from Liberia, Rosemary was forced by war to move with her husband in the early 1990’s to Ghana, where she lived in a refugee camp for 16 years before coming to this country and into Erie’s public housing in 2006 and becoming a U.S. citizen in 2011.

For the first two years in the Ghana camp, she and her family lived in tents. “Then the United Nations gave us two-by-fours, plywood, and shingles and told us to build our own houses. And we did. We built the house we lived in for 14 years.”

When the chance came to move to the United States, Rosemary took it, but her husband did not, even after 20 years of marriage. “He became homesick for Liberia and went back, and then I lost contact with him.”

She had become a single mother, with three children. Her oldest daughter, Rebecca Totie, 16, graduated early from McDowell High School and is a freshman at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Daughter Sylvia Totie, 14, is a sophomore at Central Career and Technical School. Her son, Emmanuel Totie, 23, is a student at Penn State Erie, the Behrend College. Soon after moving to Erie, she took advantage of a 10-day free course on professional interior painting taught by the Sherwin-Williams Company and partially sponsored by the Erie Housing Authority.

“Two weeks after graduating from painting class, I got interviewed at the Erie Housing Authority for a job. Now I am in routine maintenance at the Authority, doing everything from painting to installing lights and fixtures, electrical switches and outlets. I have been working for the Housing Authority for five years now.”

“I don’t just like my job, I love it,” Rosemary says. “I feel like I’m working on my own house, but at the same time, I am making it beautiful for someone else to live in, a place where they can feel comfortable and it will feel like home.”

“God wants us to use our time on earth to serve others,” she said. “I am doing that, and at the same time, getting paid for it.

“I have no husband, no brother, no sister. My job is my brother, my sister, my husband, my family. Without my job, I can’t provide for my children.”

Rosemary’s huge “painting” is still a work in progress. Now, she has her own home on Woodlawn Avenue, thanks to the Greater Erie Habitat for Humanity, sponsored by Mercyhurst University. She is moving into her new home this spring.