Volunteer Spotlight: Patricia Maddox, President of Winter Park Health Foundation

Patty-Maddox_100KBYou could say Patricia Maddox likes big challenges. After all, an equestrian who rides jumpers is taking on big fences. And anyone who owns two warmbloods and a thoroughbred clearly likes big horses. Oh, she likes big dogs too. Gordon Setters, specifically, which she breeds and shows. So perhaps it’s not surprising that she’s willing to take on the significant challenges of community need and improving community health.

How did you first become involved in United Way?

I initially came into United Way through 2-1-1, because, as you may know, prior to 2-1-1 being part of United Way, it was an independent organization called the Community Support Network, or CSN. There was such a community effort to figure out what was the right place for that service to reside, and it seemed obvious that United Way was the place to do that. So a strategy was designed and implemented that brought CSN under the wing of United Way. It ultimately adopted the name 2-1-1 and became a department of United Way. And that’s how I came into United Way, I was the chair of 2-1-1 and still am the chair of 2-1-1 this many years later.

2-1-1 is frequently mentioned as something people should know about United Way. What are your thoughts on that?

2-1-1 is one of those kinds of services that sits in the background quietly, and no matter how much marketing you do, if that’s not in your set of immediate needs, you really don’t put it in the forefront of your mind. What I continue to see is that people who are engaged with United Way know about 2-1-1, but they don’t know a lot of detail. We see this same thing here at the Winter Park Health Foundation in dealing with services for seniors. People don’t really pay attention to what’s available until they need it. That’s the case with 2-1-1, it’s a message that’s received when it’s needed.

How can United Way make sure that message is, in fact, getting to those who need it?

I think one of the opportunities we need to look at is how we get the 2-1-1 message clearly to service providers, because I think that’s really where the most valuable marketing time is spent. In the world of service providers, there’s a constant churning of people. You have people moving from job to job within an organization, and we see people moving from organization to organization. Sometimes the institutional memory of 2-1-1 gets lost when people move around. So there just needs to be a constant reminder that 2-1-1 is there.

I also think it’s important for community leaders to understand 2-1-1. That’s improved a lot, but I think there’s a lot more opportunity there. That’s really one of my roles within United Way, to be the 2-1-1 cheerleader.

What do you see as a community need?

If I’m looking at it as a community citizen, clearly there are all kinds of big picture needs that relate to poverty, nutrition, education, those kinds of things. From my vantage point of CEO of a health foundation, I see huge needs in the area of the provision of health care, and in a lot of cases, it relates to having coverage and being able to get care. We do a lot of work within the schools, and we see huge need among the population of children in our community, unfortunately particularly in the area of mental health.

The challenge really for any organization is, there’s no end to the need and there’s no end to the great things that could be supported. The challenge is always figuring out those things on which you’re going to focus and maintain that focus, while making sure that what you’re doing is really making a difference.

How does United Way help to address the needs health and mental health care among our children?

I think United Way’s strategy to focus in on populations is a good strategy. And I think the work United Way has done in the area of helping children puts an important focus on families. If you have a family that is in crisis, and you find ways to help that family get out of crisis by helping with education, employment, getting people out of poverty, those kinds of things, you find that it has other effects, for example, in the area of mental health. So I think that United Way does a lot of good in creating foundations of success for people in our community so that you can see not only the results of that foundational effort, but all of the other subsequent results.

Horses and dogs both require a big commitment in terms time and energy. How does being an equestrian and a dog breeder play into your professional life?

They are a part of who I am, I can’t imagine a life without animals. But the great, unintentional consequence of owning horses and dogs is they force a real work/home balance. I have to be home every day to walk the dogs, to feed and groom, to take care of all of them, and I find that it’s a real de-stressor. Working day-in and day-out with complex, community problems of such great magnitude can create stress and tension. For me, taking time out every day for barn chores or to work with the horses or the dogs releases that tension.

How does your involvement with United Way add to that?

I find it to be a very fulfilling relationship. United Way is very well run with very committed people. But the board is exceptionally engaged. The board meetings always have good discussion that connects the organization to the work. That’s what’s great about 2-1-1, it helps to create that connection. When you hear the stories of those who contact 2-1-1, you realize these are people who are not that different from the rest of us. It can be jolting sometimes, to hear the story of someone who was leading a comfortable life and then something changes, whether it’s the loss of a job or illness, and suddenly they’re in crisis. Just the sheer number of suicide contacts is something to think about. We’re realizing the 2-1-1 contacts are just the tip of the iceberg, and that’s a real striking image of what’s going on in our community.


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