by Mary Beth Ray and Susan Krause Bell
One reason we love living in Washington is the abundance of amazing people who live here. And Forest Hills is no exception.
This January, our Forest Hills neighbor and dear friend Patricia Davies was named a Washingtonian magazine Washingtonian of the Year for her work with the homeless. She was featured in the special Inauguration Issue 2017, along with other remarkable recipients including Lonnie Bunch III and Ryan Zimmerman. Past recipients include Gwen Ifill, Marin Alsop, Anthony Fauci, Cokie Roberts, Tom Sherwood, the rescuers of 9/11, Congresswoman Connie Morella, and many other local luminaries.
At a January 25th lunch and ceremony at the Willard Hotel ballroom, Catherine Merrill Williams, the president and CEO of the Washingtonian, introduced this year’s winners.
Arch Campbell, beloved entertainment reporter and 2014 Washingtonian of the Year, presented winners’ awards and spoke of their accomplishments. We were fortunate to attend the luncheon and share in the celebration.
To give you an idea of her extensive service to our community, Pat served as president of the Board of the Georgetown Ministry Center, a non-denominational drop-in center for the homeless in Georgetown, which provides services for the area’s homeless including fellowship, meals, showers, laundry facilities, and case management. In addition, GMC provides street outreach and sponsors an annual winter floating shelter. Pat has been involved with GMC for many years, first as a volunteer through Georgetown Presbyterian Church, where she serves as an elder.
Currently, she makes lunch for the guests on a weekly basis, bringing it to the center in person in order to visit with the guests, each of whom she greets by name. She organizes Georgetown Presbyterian’s participation in the annual GMC floating shelter, which provides food, shelter, and fellowship for the homeless guests for three of the coldest weeks of the year. When the shelter begins, Pat helps move cots in from another church; and when it ends, she helps move them out. She even spends the night at the shelter, along with her beloved Yorkshire terrier, Patrick, who is almost as popular with guests as Pat.
About two years ago, Pat learned that there were no hot meals available on Saturday evenings for the area homeless, so she helped organize an inter-denominational, weekly “Saturday Supper” at Mt. Zion Methodist church, which serves 60 to 75 guests. More recently, she was instrumental in adding “Sunday Dinner” for the homeless at Georgetown Presbyterian Church, with the support of Holy Trinity Church. Pat manages these dinners with pride and generosity, with cloth tablecloths, flowers, home-baked pies, and freshly ground coffee!
Pat treats the guests at Georgetown Ministry Center, Saturday Suppers, and Sunday Dinners with respect and friendship. When she sees GMC guests in and around Georgetown, she stops and visits. She personally encourages them to take advantage of the services that the center offers, including helping to find subsidized housing. For those who express interest in reading, she brings them books they might enjoy. She started and led a knitting group for the guests. The knitting group became so popular that Pat often purchased dozens of skeins of yarn to keep the guests supplied. When one guest turned out remarkable knitted animals, Pat arranged for them to be sold at Georgetown Presbyterian and on Etsy.com, with all proceeds going back to the artist.
Pat participates in the annual census of the homeless, spending hours on a summer night canvassing the streets of Georgetown to count those without shelter, assess their needs, and help connect them with services. Never missing an opportunity to serve, she loads her backpack with water bottles and snacks to distribute during the census. Throughout the year, she leads a clothing and toiletries project, personally delivering the donations so she can visit with the recipients. Pat regularly speaks to groups of both adults and kids to educate them on ways to understand the causes of homelessness, and how to help.
What makes Pat’s story even more remarkable is that in 2009 she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Instead of slowing her down, it seems she just moves forward faster, now actively volunteering in the Washington area Parkinson’s community and the World Parkinson’s Congress, in addition to her activities with the homeless.
And even with all these volunteer activities, Pat somehow has managed to make significant contributions to our community as a member of the Van Ness Main Street events committee, and as a photographer and contributor to Forest Hills Connection.