Actually, at first it wasn’t a love story at all. Nope. They didn’t even like each other.

When Polina Munblit was a junior at Portland’s Wilson High School, her family’s house burned down in the middle of the night. The house was insured, but the recovery was slow and the teenager was impatient. “I wanted clothes! I wanted makeup!” she remembers with a laugh. That meant that she needed a job. Cedar Sinai Park was conveniently nearby and they were hiring, so she took a job after school and on weekends, mostly in the kitchen at Rose Schnitzer Manor.

To her surprise, she loved working with seniors, and after a year it presented her with a dilemma. “I already had a housing deposit at the U of O, but I came home from work one day and told my mom I couldn’t, couldn’t leave my job.” She switched to PSU and pursued both an MBA in health care administration and a slow, steady climb up the ladder at CSP.

I already had a housing deposit at the U of O, but I came home from work one day and told my mom I couldn’t, couldn’t leave my job.

She spent four years in food service. She then moved to Life Enrichment as its coordinator for one year and as manager for a year and a half more. A year after graduation, she was named RSM’s senior living advisor. In July 2019 she became RSM’s assistant administrator and the program director for Kehillah, CSP’s independent, affordable housing initiative for adults with developmental disabilities.

Back when college-age Polina was making friends with everybody on campus via her kitchen work, Portland native Nathan Gregg accepted a scholarship to the University of Great Falls in Montana to study law enforcement and to play college soccer. Great Falls, though, turned out to be quite a culture shock. The school was half the size of his high school, for one thing. The views seemed foreign because everything was so flat. And lastly, this Portland boy just couldn’t adjust to the weather. “There were two seasons: blizzards and muggy mosquito weather. And wind. While I was there, they tried to petition a win over Chicago for the title of Windy City.” (They should have won: Chicago’s annual average wind speed is 9.9 mph while Great Falls boasts 11.5 mph.)

After one endless year in Montana, Nathan returned to Portland. First thing up: a job. He started in an entry-level position at Sonic Drive-In and moved quickly to assistant manager. After a year and a half, though, he knew fast food was not his future. When his best friend from grade school, Eddie Younger, encouraged him to work with him in the dining room at Cedar Sinai Park, Nathan was excited for the opportunity, but played it cool. “Why not?” he said.

They didn’t yet know it, but fate was bringing them together.

Nathan joined the CSP team in September 2012, and Polina was the server who trained him. “We laugh when we look back on how we met.” Nathan said. “I’d been on the job two days already and had spent time in fast food, but she came in and told me I had to do something THIS way, not that way!”

Polina laughs and chimes in, “We definitely had different ways of doing things…but he eventually started to listen to me and got on board. He always does!”

“But I knew I was doing something right,” he points out, “because she would always come to me when she needed something done. She knew she could count on me. And,” he adds, “I thought she was the best server we had. I didn’t want to let her down.”

After about a year in the dining room, they had become closer friends, and Nathan decided to ask her out. She turned him down the first time, but he was persistent. She finally agreed, and as the air turned crisp and the leaves began to change colors, they met for their first date at Flying Pie Pizza.

Nathan: “I had a great time.”

Polina: “I did, too.”

Nathan spent a year and a half in the kitchen and then manned the front desk at RSM for a year. Always willing to help wherever the Home needed him, he then served as concierge.

In 2015, he joined the development department and quickly became an integral part of the team. Two years later, he was promoted to development manager. Today Nathan is still immersed in development, committed to “growing his skills, hitting my goals, and learning anything and everything a development department may handle.”

What Nathan and Polina both love best about their jobs, though, are the residents.

“When I first started,” recalls Polina, “Bessie Karp moved in, and I would take all my breaks with her. She called me her adopted granddaughter. When she knew we were dating, and because she and her husband had gotten engaged fast, she kept saying: ‘You have to get married. You’re getting old! Has he given you a ring yet?’

“One day she asked me if Nathan had given me the ring yet. I thought, ‘What ring?’ I thought she was being forgetful, as she had some dementia, but no. He actually had shown her the ring before he gave it to me.”

Polina and Nathan were officially married September 10, 2016, but Jennifer Felberg (Life Enrichment Director at the time and Polina’s boss!) suggested they have a mini-wedding a week later at RSM’s Zidell Hall so the residents could celebrate with them. At the residents’ request, they wore their tux and gown. They showed photos and videos of the wedding and brought a tier of their wedding cake. It was quite the celebration!

Today, their love for each other and for CSP is stronger than ever. And their two small dogs are unofficial RSM grandpuppies. “I always say I have 165 adopted grandparents,” says Nathan. “We have residents who were with us from the beginning, who saw us grow with the company and in our relationship. We have close personal ties here, many wonderful, hilarious stories.”

“I tried getting my grandparents to move here,” Nathan says, “but they are farm folks and wanted to stay closer to home.”

“I would do it in a heartbeat.”

Liz Lippoff still dabbles in freelance writing and communication consulting but is now most active as a community volunteer. Her experience includes serving as chair of the boards of Cascade AIDS Project, Project Access NOW, and Cedar Sinai Park (2016-17).

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