CLEVELAND — Before our interview even began, Ms. Patricia Field made me promise not to ask her one specific question: her age.
“Nobody needs to know,” she said, laughing. To Ms. Pat, age simply doesn’t matter.
Her quick wit and sense of humor keep her young at heart, and so do the quick friendships she makes with just about anyone she meets — in person, or on the phone.
“I call people for their birthdays and wish them happy birthday and if they wanna talk, I talk,” she said.
Every day for more than 15 years, Ms. Pat has been picking up the phone and calling the thousands of people who volunteer with Greater Cleveland Volunteers on their birthdays.
A simple wish — a little conversation.
“I feel blessed to be able to talk to them because there are a lot of people out here who are hungry for friendship,” she said. “They’re hungry to talk to people and they don’t have it.”
Ms. Pat said her family is her everything — a doting son, a daughter-in-law and loving grandkids.
So for her, the calls are a way to give back in a way that she can give back.
In 1990, Ms. Pat lost her vision due to an infection called uveitis, but she refused to let her blindness dull her spark.
“I think I’m the same person I was before,” she said. “I’m not as nasty as I was, haha. I calmed down a little bit, cause I can’t see the punch coming, you know,” she added, laughing.
The most contagious laugh and personality can brighten anyone’s day, birthday or not.
Ms. Pat can’t see, but she can feel what her calls mean to people.
“Are people happy to talk?” I asked.
“Yup, very happy. They’ll say, ‘Oh I’m so glad somebody remembered.’ Now that’s sad. That’s very sad. You have family and I’m the only one who remembers your birthday?” she said.
I actually met Ms. Pat when I had the opportunity to emcee an event for Cleveland-based think tank Community Solutions. She was one of the people awarded the "Most Treasured Volunteer" awards.
“It just really brightens their day, because it’s unexpected,” said Nancy Dzurnak, the program manager at Greater Cleveland Volunteers. “We have thousands of volunteers who get out into our community every day and make Cleveland a better place. It’s everything from helping with hunger and education, and with what Patricia does, with recognition.”
Here’s how it works: Another volunteer actually records a cassette tape with the names and phone numbers of all the birthday calls for each day and gives them to Ms. Pat once a month.
Needless to say, she takes it from there — and makes it all her own.
Greater Cleveland Volunteers are always looking for more people to help out — you can specify your interests, your skills and your time commitment and they’ll work to match you with the perfect fit.
Learn more by clicking here.