In 1986 Marnie Rieber begrudgingly moved to Cape Cod with her family from her hometown of Winnipeg, Canada, after her husband Jesse landed a job as the planner for the town of Barnstable.
“I hated it,” she said bluntly. “I didn’t want to come here and I didn’t unpack my bags for two years. I didn’t buy any plants for our house and for two years I was planning on leaving.”
But a funny thing happened towards the end of that period. Her attitude started to change and she was growing accustomed to the Cape, and began to make friends and establish a social network. “I remember saying to myself, ‘This is starting to feel a little bit like home,’” she said.
Fast forward 28 years later and Rieber has firmly planted her roots on Cape Cod, having only affection for this corner of the state that has become her adopted home.
Much of that affection comes from her longtime affiliation with HAC where she has worked for 27 years since her first day on December 31, 1986.
She arrived at HAC armed with a bachelors degree in human social services from the University of Manitoba and a desire to help the underserved in society. Her first job after graduation was in a residential program working with unadopted girls, ranging in age from 12 to 17 years old.
Her next job would be at HAC where she was hired immediately after her first interview as a case manager, responsible for finding housing for families and individuals living in Cape Cod motels.
That would be the first of several positions she would hold during her tenure at HAC which was interrupted for one year in the late 80’s when she sought treatment for alcoholism. A year later she returned, taking a job at Carriage House in North Falmouth. “They gave me a second chance and I’ve been there ever since,” she said of HAC. “They saw something in me I didn’t see in myself.”
In 1991 while Rieber was still working at Carriage House, she took on an additional part-time assignment at Angel House which had recently opened on Sea Street, to offer treatment and housing for homeless mothers recovering from alcohol and drug addiction, and their children.
The mission of Angel House is one that is close to Rieber’s heart. “I have a passion for that place because I’ve been where those women have been,” she said.
In her time at Angel House she has done everything from clean toilets to her current role as the shelter’s director where she supervises a staff of 23 people who assist 15 families some of whom live there as long as 18 months before finding more permanent housing. Her experience has helped her understand what many of her employees go through on a daily basis. “There’s nothing I would ask of them that I haven’t done myself,’ she said.
She has witnessed several significant changes at Angel House that have included a move from a five-family facility on Sea Street to its current location on South Street in 1997. And she was part of one of those changes in 2006 when she was named the director of Angel House, replacing Judith McManamon.
In April the 67-year-old Rieber said farewell to her job that allowed her to forge lifelong friendships with her coworkers and make a positive difference in the lives of troubled mothers searching for guidance, support and help.
“She has a special kindness to her,” Lil Burlingame, the manager for Angel House, said. “She is just the best boss, a wonderful person and a good friend.”
Rieber’s longtime friend and part-time administrative assistant Marjorie Teed agreed, saying “I haven’t even begun to process” her departure. “It’s not going to be the same without her, for sure.”
She attributed much of that to Rieber’s devotion to the work being done at Angel House. “I would say her job here has been one of the most important parts of her life for all the years that I have known her,” Teed said.
Rieber admitted as much in talking about her time at Angel House. “To do the job successfully everything else has to fall off the plate… My world became very small. It became Angel House,” she said. “I really do care about this place.”
She expressed pride in the services Angel House offers to its clients, many of whom have been able to turn their lives around not only through substance abuse programs, but through jobs, workforce training and college. Some have even returned to Angel House to work, serving as role models for those now struggling with the same issues they once did.
Despite her retirement Rieber promised she would not be going far – remaining on Cape Cod – and she has plans on returning to HAC at some point after the summer as a volunteer.