Employee Spotlight: Pat Fayo: Volunteer, Grandma, & Seamstress

Fifteen years ago Pat Fayo was driving home from a grueling twelve hour day at her corporate job. During that drive she had an epiphany. After reflecting upon what she was accomplishing, she realized it wasn’t enough.

So after 19 years in the corporate world she went back to the drawing board. She started her own business, a commercial and residential cleaning business. Pat did really well with this financially until she got hurt. She decided to go back to college to finish her degree and shortly thereafter began her nonprofit career. After a year at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orange County as a Nutrition Educator, she joined the United Way team as the Director of Energy Initiatives.

Pat oversees the Orange County Fuel Fund program which provides one time heating assistance payments to individuals who do not qualify for HEAP but are still struggling financially. She also provides referral information to ensure that individuals have access to critical resources. “I love my job; each night when I lay down to go to sleep I know that I have made a difference in someone’s life.”

In addition to her meaningful work at United Way, Pat has been involved with several local committees that connect individuals to services in Orange County. These committees include RDAC, NYSERDA LIFE Task Force steering committee, Orange County Veteran’s Taskforce, the Orange County Kinship Coalition, Orange County Housing Consortium, Leadership Orange’s fundraising committee, and Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Financial Management Advisory Council. In addition, Pat was a “Big” for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for 5 years. She is also involved with grant allocations for her alma mater SUNY Orange.

Pat is a former board member of the YMCA and Family Promise of the Mid-Hudson Valley. Despite her numerous obligations she also managed to find the time to graduate from Leadership Orange, in which she was chosen by her classmates to receive the Hall of Fame Award, and Patterns for Progress. Pat also received an award from the Human Rights Commission for her service and dedication to Orange County.

Currently, while she remains on a number of the above committees, she is focusing her attention on her role as Board President of Project LIFE, an organization that provides services to homeless individuals in Orange County. She joined 5 years ago and is working with her team on strategic planning, funding diversification and community engagement. “These last five years have been unbelievable; together we are striving to make Orange County a better place for the families that live here.”

In addition to her official involvement, Pat strives to regularly help local families. She founded the Adopt a Family Program in Orange County and has worked with a network of friends and colleagues to provide holiday gifts to thirty-six families.

Two years ago, with the help of her United Way co-workers, the United Way team provided gifts to a four year old boy with leukemia and his brother. Pat and some volunteers dropped off the gifts to their apartment at Project Life. “His family was all gathered there, they were so loving and supportive.” Thankfully, the boy’s cancer is now in remission. Pat also visits one of her former clients in the nursing home a couple of times a month. She still helps her with her Medicaid paperwork. “I love our time together and she calls me her angel!”

As a native of Orange County, Pat has a unique understanding of the issues that many of her clients face. Her family grew up in the Newburgh Heights district. “My mom, sister, and I grew up in poverty; I am grateful that I can help those that are in a similar situation as I was then. Everyone needs help at some point.”

Pat still lives in Newburgh with her husband of 44 years and considers herself blessed to have three daughters and son-in-laws, four granddaughters, and one grandson. Pat met her husband in high school and they have never looked back!

When Pat isn’t helping her neighbors and clients or spending time with her grandchildren, you can find her at the sewing machine or cooking. Pat has been a seamstress most of her life and created many of her children’s outfits over the years. “For me, sewing and cooking are times to relax and unwind; it’s something that I really enjoy doing.”

Pat is quick to explain that these community endeavors are not for her benefit. “I want to set a good example for my daughters and grandchildren. I want them to understand that if we each do our parts, then together we are doing a whole lot more.”

To learn how you can be a community hero visit the Volunteer Portal at volunteer.uwdor.org. For more information about the Orange County Fuel Fund, go to www.uwdor.org/fuel_fund.

―Melissa Clark, Manager of Community Mobilization