Audette makes giving top priority

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fairlawn loftsYou see him everywhere. Like the “energizer bunny,” sporting gray whiskers and a plump belly, semi-retired Pawtucket businessman Paul Audette has always been an advocate for the “voiceless” in the City of Pawtucket and surrounding communities.

Watching out for the elderly, he became a volunteer ombudsman for the Alliance for Better Long-Term Care. He even served as chairman of the Pawtucket’s Affirmative Action Committee to ensure that everyone had equal opportunities in municipal government. He has worked for decades to aid those down and out, providing them financial assistance out of his pocket to keep them from being evicted from their homes, to get transportation and to pay for oil to keep their living quarters warm in winter

The 84-year-old Audette has ties to many of the city’s nonprofit groups, including thesalute to seniors logo_2015 Pawtucket Arts Collaborative, the Pawtucket Armory Association, the Sandra Feinstein Gamm Theatre, the Foundry Artists, the Pawtucket Fireworks Committee, the Pawtucket Preservation Society and the Pawtucket Arts Festival. Over his later years he even has been active bringing his expertise as a property manager and developer to help the Pawtucket Planning Department streamline the city’s building permit process, which he works with businesses to navigate.

Audette co-founded and manages a nonprofit group called Helping Hands, which gives funds to organizations that assist youths at risk, the helpless and homeless. Since 2006, he said, Helping Hands has given donations to dozens of organizations, including Cross Roads, Pawtucket Boys and Girls Club, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Pawtucket Salvation Army, American Cancer Society, Rhode Island Food Bank and St. Judes Hospital.

Audette did not learn the ropes about business by attending an Ivy League school. The businessman said he learned the tricks of the trade by working in the trenches. For more than 70 years, his hard work has landed him senior-level positions for major corporations, including Dunkin Donuts.

In addition, he has served as special assistant to the presidents of Providence Metalizing in Pawtucket, including Richard Sugerman, whose father founded the company. Audette worked in the firm’s Personnel Department, and he has partnered with Sugerman to develop properties such as Fairlawn Lofts at 595 Mineral Spring Ave., Pawtucket, a longtime vacant mill that is now life-work space.

Exemplifying the Rotary International’s motto “Service Above Self,” Audette has been a member of the Pawtucket Rotary Club since 2011, he said. According to the club, he received Rotary’s prestigious Paul Harris Award, the highest recognition that the international civic group bestows upon an individual.

For his efforts, Audette has been inducted into the Pawtucket Hall of Fame and the French-Canadian Hall of Fame, and Central Falls Mayor James Diossa presented him a key to the city for his community work.

Joyce Fisher, 68, a Johnston resident who has known Audette for more than 53 years, says, “He is always helping somebody; it’s just in his nature.” She remembers numerous instances when he stopped to help stranded motorists.

On one occasion, she said, it delayed his vacation to Cape Cod.

Another time, according to Fisher, Audette was assisting a woman, whose vehicle broke down on a dark highway when a vehicle operated by a drunk driver crashed into Audette’s car, pushing it into the Pawtucket resident. Audette flew 20 feet into the air, landing against the stranded vehicle. He ended up in the hospital along with the woman he tried to help.

“It never mattered to me about a person’s status or position in society,” says Audette, stressing that throughout his eight plus decades he just tries to help anyone with whatever problems they have to deal with.

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“I am free to bounce around, just consulting and mentoring people,” he says, noting that, “Until the day, I die will jump right in to help a person in need.”

Reflecting on his life, Audette considers himself fortunate to have had the opportunities to make the world just a little better place for others. “I touched many lives in many ways, and my life’s satisfaction comes not from the positions I have held or money made, but knowing that I was there for people in need,” he says.

Editor’s note: Salute to Seniors is a feature aimed at celebrating the many significant contributions and accomplishments of men and women age 50 and beyond. Salute to Seniors is sponsored by the Bankers Life and Casualty Company regional office in Warwick and “Senior Digest,” online at www.seniordigestnews.com. To nominate someone for a salute, send the person’s name, address, telephone number and reason for nomination to Senior Digest, 36 French Drive, Seekonk, Mass., 02771, or to sdpublisher@gmail.com. Bankers Life can be reached at (401) 732-5213.

By Herb Weiss, a Pawtucket-based writer. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

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