By Bobby Pepper
Lee County Neighbors
Katrina Patty lists her main occupation as “housewife.” Her second job is that of “community volunteer.”
The exact location where the Belden resident works is unlimited. Patty’s jobs take her everywhere, and she wears a lot of hats in the process.
One day she may be working for the Salvation Army, the next for the Boy Scouts. She could raise money for a children’s hospital and then turn around and lead a group of workers in a football field concession stand. She feels just as comfortable serving coffee and cookies as she does teaching firearm safety.
Patty, 49, is constantly organizing, planning and working for numerous groups that help others. At the same time, she strives to perform her tasks without sacrificing her main role as a supportive wife, mother and grandmother.
“I’m juggling so many things,” Patty said during a break in her busy schedule on a recent Friday morning. “Balancing, that’s all I do.”
Patty speaks with enthusiasm about participating in a diverse collection of groups. Her outgoing personality is a major contrast to when she was a “pathetically shy” high school student in her hometown of Scottsboro, Ala.
“I did not say a word,” she said. “If you had told me in high school all the stuff I’m doing now, I would’ve said, ‘No, you’re reading the wrong future’.”
Patty’s community involvement in this area began in 2004, four years after she and her husband of 27 years, Jeff, moved to Belden. She had been a Mother’s Day Out program volunteer at their home in Georgia.
“I don’t know if there’s something about me, but when I get involved after I become a member, within a year they’ve got me in a position,” she said. “Every one of the things I do, I fully have 100 percent belief in every bit of it.”
The first volunteering she did involved Boy Scouts. Her younger son, Matthew, was beginning and his Tiger Cub den needed leaders. Sons Matthew (age 12) and Chris (a 16-year-old Eagle Scout) are involved in Scouting and Patty is a leader for Pack 85 that meets at All Saints’ Episcopal Church.
Her years in Scout leadership opened the way for Patty to become a volunteer staff member for the Yocona Area Council. She is a trainer for adults on how to become leaders and has worked as a Camp Yocona summer camp leader. She was honored in 2012 with the District Award of Merit and the Apliachi District Cheerful Award.
Another endeavor began when Patty started collecting soda can pop tops for recycling – with the proceeds benefiting Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis. It opened the way for Patty to become involved in Le Bonheur volunteering. She helps with the annual Le Bonheur radiothon and silent auction at The Mall at Barnes Crossing.
It was through Le Bonheur events that Patty met Tupelo radio personality Kelli Karlson, who serves on the board of the Salvation Army. After they and other friends attended an Empty Bowls Luncheon, Patty connected with the Salvation Army and its Women’s Auxiliary leaders and got involved. She joined the committee that makes bowls for the annual luncheon fundraisers.
The bowls committee led to a bigger role for Patty as a chair for the auxiliary membership and for Angel Tree, which provides gifts and clothing for children during the Christmas holidays.
“That is a job,” she said of Angel Tree. “I have to fill 96 shifts at the mall running for five weeks. I need 200 people to fill those 96 shifts. We have three shifts a day, at least six to eight women to work a day, seven days a week for five weeks.”
Patty said her volunteering usually leads to her serving as a membership chair of the group. She keeps her lists of members, phone numbers, email addresses and schedules filed on the computer in her office – she calls it her “Ma’am Cave” – at home.
“Excel and Word are life savers,” she said. “I do everything on those. I have all kinds of spread sheets.”
In addition to being in Scouting, Patty’s sons are members of Tupelo school bands. Two years after serving with other band parents in the Tupelo High stadium concession stands during football season, she became the concession stand manager. Her scheduling and people managing skills are utilized through her role as vice president of the Tupelo High School band board.
Once she found time to sign up for the Citizens Police Academy, organized by the Tupelo Police Department. She went through the police academy training and became an NRA-trained and qualified firearm range safety officer.
“I love my range safety stuff,” she said. “I love teaching people. It’s not as bad as you’d think. You have to be safe. That’s what I do for fun, the range safety classes.”
Patty has served many roles at church, Harrisburg Baptist in Tupelo. She participates in Harrisburg’s Courthouse Ministry, which provides cookies and coffee for one week every three months to people by the second-floor courtrooms at the Lee County Justice Center.
She was a teacher in Harrisburg’s Wednesday night M&M’s kindergarten class for seven years before stepping away. One project dear to her is Operation Christmas Child. She organized Harrisburg’s holiday shoebox drive for several years, but had to drop it last year because of other commitments.
“I was heartbroken, but I made the decision,” she said. “Every so often I have to make a decision and drop something, and I had to drop Operation Christmas Child. But, I’m going to take it back next Christmas. I missed it so bad.”
Out of her shell
The once-quiet and shy Patty stepped up two years ago to organize her senior class 30-year reunion. She recalls the shock on classmates’ faces when she spoke during the reunion dinner.
“One-half of the people in the class probably didn’t remember my name,” she said. “They didn’t know what my voice sounded like.”
Patty said she became more outgoing after entering the adult world – marrying and going to work while she and her husband lived in Virginia. She recalls thinking about volunteering back then, but didn’t have the time.
“I was around people and had to communicate,” she said. “I was a real estate agent and an insurance agent. I was getting out and meeting people, talking with people. Coming out of the shell opened doors for me.”
Patty said she’s learning how to say “no” when she feels pulled in too many directions. And she even confesses she isn’t the perfect community worker.
“I’m a huge procrastinator,” she said with a laugh. “Look it up in the dictionary; there’s me. I’m just not an organized person.”
Karlson, who often mentions her friend on her Wizard 106 morning show, said it’s hard to find someone with a heart for service like Patty’s.
“She is selfless, generous to a fault,” Karlson said. “She sees only the best in people and will help anyone she comes across. … She gives of herself with no regard of what she might get in return.”
Patty said her biggest reward of her activities is helping others.
“Like the Salvation Army, it’s not just helping the homeless, it’s the people who come in and don’t have any food. We’re able to stock the pantry in their home,” she said. “And like Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, I enjoy helping Cub Scouts become responsible and helping Boy Scouts to become better men.”
Family time has a permanent spot in Patty’s hectic schedule. She keeps the roads busy to Amory to see her daughter, Alicia, and three granddaughters. And when she’s home, Patty takes every opportunity to relax.
“When I get a few minutes, I like to dust the seat of my recliner,” she said. “I kick up my feet and watch TV.
“I still take care of the house and find time to do the laundry. I run my boys everywhere and I teach my granddaughters how to do cartwheels in the back yard. It’s balancing your time.”
Patty enjoys her “community volunteer” job, but she’s committed to the duties of her main role.
“I’m a mother,” she said. “If something comes up and I have to pick one of my organizations or the mother part, mother overrules.”