The Coastal Star

Coastal Star: Boca philanthropist has a passion for helping people who are sick, poor

Isabelle Paul, the Florida Commander of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller Commandery,

has been a dutiful dame in the organization since she was knighted in 2005. She’s wearing the red and white colors

of the Order of St. John. Paul’s home in Boca Raton has a painting of her from the 1990s.

Tim Stepien/ The Coastal Star

By Amy Woods

    She has led the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller Commandery of Florida since 2011, raising an impressive $800,000 for local charities that aid the sick and the poor. She has served as a dutiful dame in the religious organization since 2005, when she was knighted during an elaborate ceremony in Malta.
    She has devoted her life to philanthropy since 1987, when her husband died.
    “My husband and I were benefactors of many charities,” said Boca Raton resident Isabelle Paul, rattling off a list of nonprofits including the Mayo Clinic, The Salvation Army, World Vision International and others. “After my husband passed away, I decided I was going to spend the rest of my life doing the Lord’s work.”
    Paul’s husband was a builder and developer. He also manufactured parts for the space program.
    “He received a commendation from President Nixon for helping get Neil Armstrong to the moon,” Paul said.
    The couple owned a resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica, which now is Sandals. “The highlight of the hotel was that the queen of England chose it for her reception when she visited Jamaica in 1966,” Paul said.
    Paul spends six hours each day in her role as commander, meeting with the agencies that have received money from the order, reviewing applications of those seeking financial assistance and overseeing details of the annual gala.
    “I’ve always had a passion for the sick and the poor,” she said. “It really started from childhood watching my parents help others. They were not doctors or ministers. They were just good Christians who liked to help others.”
    Traveling around the world, Paul said, made her aware of the thousands of people in need.
    “I have, and continue to, help people who I will never get to meet,” she said.

    Paul met Henrietta de Hoernle while volunteering for the Debbie-Rand Memorial Service League. De Hoernle, a board member, was a dame in the order and invited Paul to join.
    “We became good friends, and I knew her until the day she died,” Paul said. “We were very close, to the extent where she even had me plan her funeral.”
    De Hoernle, who died last July at age 103, left a legacy for the order by becoming one of three members worldwide to receive its highest award, the Cross of Merit.
    “She was a driving force,” said Paul, who did not wish to share her own age. “She is dearly missed.”
    Among the charities the order supports are Boca Helping Hands, Gulfstream Goodwill Industries, Home Safe, Place of Hope and Spirit of Giving Network.
    “All of these organizations are helping people in so many ways,” Paul said. “Many children are no longer going to bed hungry. We are housing homeless veterans. There are boys and girls who are abused and are being taken away from their parents.
    “There’s just such a need,” she said. “It’s unbelievable. The world has changed so drastically. People don’t care about each other like they used to, and I’m praying we get back to that.”
    Although she has no children of her own, Paul sponsors children in Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Portugal, Rwanda and Thailand.
Mary Csar, a member of the order, said it has grown in scope and size under Paul’s leadership.
    “She’s really tried to expand the organization rather than just being happy with a handful of members,” Csar said.“She’s been very steady, and she keeps it going. We keep voting her in as commander because she has done such a good job.”

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