Dowling's compassion betters community

Dowling is named newsmaker of the year
By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Jan 03, 2014
Photo by: Shelby Harrell Patsy Dowling, executive director of Mountain Projects Inc., smiles for a photo. She was named the 2013 Newsmaker of the Year for The Mountaineer for all her generous contributions to the community.

Patsy Dowling is so focused on helping others without receiving recognition that her coworkers were afraid she would be angry to be featured as newsmaker of the year in The Mountaineer.

But with such a track record of contributions to the community, Dowling, the executive director of Mountain Projects Inc., no doubt deserves to be in the spotlight for all her achievements.

Whether it’s the people living on the street, people needing food or clothes, or just people working with her on a daily basis, Dowling uses her leadership and cooperation skills to reach people.

“I have worked with her for 15 years,” said Carolyn Sizemore, her assistant. “She’s a very fair person, with a very special heart. She cares about her employees, and is very good to her staff. I have just seen how she helps people. I’ve seen her help people with her own resources.”

Dowling has been executive director of Mountain Projects since 1998, where she has been a driving force behind making vast improvements to the community. Whether it’s senior citizens, 3-year-olds or an individual trying to overcome poverty, Mountain Projects has become an agency to help those local people in need.

Securing funds

Mountain Projects CFO Richard Pittman said Dowling had more than doubled the amount of grant funding secured for the organization, boosting their funds from $6 million received when she started to the $13 million that has been received recently.

“She's always been a person that's been out there in the community,” Pittman said. “It’s her best attribute. She’s always been willing to try new approaches to get funding to help growth.”

Pittman said Dowling’s biggest accomplishments included establishing a local USDA self-help program, which helps very low-income households construct their own homes.

Since Dowling has been director, 43 houses had been completed and Mountain Projects also has helped develop 72 apartments in and around Haywood County.

Mountain Projects spearheaded the development of Barefoot Ridge, and Pittman said Dowling was instrumental in that process. Barefoot Ridge is a 43-home community in Clyde that offers people a way to rebuild out of the flood zone after two devastating hurricanes hit the region in 2004.

When Dowling is not helping people build homes to stay warm, she is a leading partner in raising funds for clothes, blankets and heat through the Share the Warmth program. Through combined efforts, the program keeps Haywood County citizens safe from cold temperatures and heating choices that might expose households to an increased risk of fire.

Mark Clasby, Haywood County’s economic development director, has worked with Dowling on a number of projects.

“I don’t know of anybody who has the passion what she does,” he said. “It shows in all the different programs they have for people, whether it’s the self-help housing, transportation or Share the Warmth.”

The ability to attract federal funds into the region has been part of Mountain Projects’ success.

In previous years, Dowling’s agency has plowed through the necessary paperwork to bring in millions in federal stimulus funding for programs such as weatherization or housing.

“She has real unique talent to get and find the funding to help people here in our community,” Clasby said.

Dowling secured $5 million in stimulus funds that has gone back into the community, Pittman said.

“It paid for everything from digital weatherization, to housing, and prevention programs that keep people in their homes,” Pittman said. “It would also help them with electric bills. That made a lot of difference and helped a lot.”

Serving the public

Mark Swanger, chairman of he Mountain Projects board and Haywood County Board of Commissioners, has worked with Dowling for about seven years.

Swanger described her as “As fine a public servant for the people of Haywood County as anyone has ever known.”

Swanger said her compassion for others and her motivation to help them is what sets her apart.

“It’s a combination of her caring and her competence to find ways to obtain funds to help those she cares about,” Swanger said. “That’s just part of her DNA to do things like that.”

Circles of Hope was also implemented this year to help families overcome poverty. The program helps families get completely out of poverty and builds new systems of support that will help them achieve economic stability. Upon graduating from the program, circle leaders have the option of becoming an ally for another person.

So far, about a dozen participants have made significant progress and will be graduating from Circles of Hope this month.

Dowling also oversees the Head Start program and its director Holly Crawford. Head Start is a federally funded child development program serving 3- and 4-year-old children from low-income families. Proceeds raised for Head Start help provide clothes, heating assistance and food for children and their families. Dowling recently secured 40 more slots for early education, which allowed younger children to enroll in Head Start.

Senior Citizens also receive boxes of household items every year during the holidays through the Mountain Projects’ Senior Christmas box program. Not to mention, the 50 or 60 seniors who are fed each day as part of its Seniors Congregate Nutrition program.

The list only continues of what all Dowling has accomplished, and she shows no signs of slowing down.

“She’s just done a lot in these years and she keeps on going,” Pittman said. “From my point of view, she’s one of a kind.”

Building a shelter

The Rev. Nick Honerkamp of New Covenant Church is a longtime friend of Dowling. He recalls a time when Haywood County didn’t have a homeless shelter, and how Dowling was the person who decided to create one.

In November 2008, Dowling called a community meeting of government officials and churches to find out where individuals could find food, heating assistance and shelter.

“We discovered that there was no shelter in Haywood County,” Honerkamp said. “She asked the churches to investigate and see if we could help provide homeless shelter. Two weeks later, a dozen churches stepped up and we created first homeless shelter.

Thus, Haywood Christian Emergency Shelter was born, and has been in place for five years.

“It would not have happened without Patsy,” Honerkamp said. “It was her vision of what she saw and her influence that made it happen.”

Honerkamp said he had worked with Dowling on several other projects including the Million Coin Campaign, which aimed to raise 1 million coins in a single location to help out with winter heating efforts.

“If you’ll notice all these projects up here are partnerships,” Honerkamp said. “She is amazing at creating partnerships, and she is a master of pulling together a partnership for a common good. She has done a remarkable job. I’m truly honored to be one of her partners.”

So if you see Dowling out anywhere in town, you know that she’s doing something for the greater good.

Dowling once said, “We’re so lucky to live in a community who cares.”

She’s right, and she is one of the reasons why.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.