Paying It Forward for Patricia


Her Story:
Patricia Wood has lived in Fairfax County, Virginia all her life. She is a rare "local" with deep and humble roots in the community. She is the all-American girl and was following the all-American dream until unemployment and then endometrial cancer turned her life into a nightmare.

Patricia was thrown some tough curves early on in life. She lost her father to a heart attack when she was 18, and a brother to complications of diabetes when she was 29. She took care of her mother for over twenty years, was case manager, head nurse and nurse's aide for her mom in a battle with renal failure and heart disease until her passing in 2007. Patricia put many of her own dreams on hold to help her family through difficult times, but still she did not give up hope and these life experiences made her even more determined to follow her dream.

Patricia loves the outdoors and its critters. Her passion is sharing that love with children. She spent years volunteering at wildlife refuges and with the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries. She earned an associate's degree from Northern Virginia Community College, then years later a bachelor's in parks and outdoor recreation from George Mason University. Along the way she worked full-time and part-time jobs-seven days a week and devoted her free time to natural resource stewardship in paid and unpaid positions. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, Fairfax County Park Authority, the Friends of C. F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area, and the Complementary Work Force Program of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, all benefited from Patricia dedicating her time and talents to the causes she holds dear. Her main focus was on programs to teach children about the wonders of nature. Thousands of people, young and old alike have been blessed to share the secrets of nature with guidance from Patricia.

Patricia was the first in her family to attend college, and when she accepted her diploma from George Mason University in May 2012; her parents were with her, their pictures in her locket. And even with the struggles and losses, she was still smiling, still seeing herself as living her dream. Fate had other ideas...

In Her Own Words:
"In the spring of 2012, after years of working seven days a week, volunteering, and going to school to complete my degree I celebrated my graduation with friends and family. The future seemed bright! One month after graduation from GMU, I lost the real estate office job I'd held for over 15 years. Unfortunately this occurred just as the economy dropped and the job market went flat.

This set back led to months of seeking jobs both in my newly minted profession and my fall-back as an administrative assistant, with no success. I supplemented my unemployment benefits taking day jobs as a house cleaner, bookkeeper, warehouse stocker, whatever I could to keep my head above water and meet my obligations. I finally landed a seasonal job as a park ranger at Bull Run Regional Park. Unfortunately, my frugal monthly expenses were still more than my take home pay, even with the odd jobs I was able to schedule, but I still held out hope that things would get better.

Health benefits became available to me at work and I was relieved to finally afford a visit to the doctor. I was not prepared for the results. Tests revealed that I had endometrial cancer. In the blink of an eye, I was scheduled for a full hysterectomy. My first stay in the hospital was only 2 days, but then complications occurred and a nasty infection put me back in for another week. After that I came down with bronchitis. All this laid me low physically, emotionally and financially. All that time missed from work meant no income. Thank goodness for family and caring friends like Mama Rizzo. She took me in during my recovery, and I am forever grateful to her. Others helped me as well. I am truly blessed to have them all and I am relieved to be regaining my health and am optimistic for a full recovery.

I'm sure that it is difficult for most of you to imagine having a home without all the modern conveniences, one that is heated by propane or wood. My 120 year old farmhouse is perfect for me, when I am well. But during my slow recovery, I had to face hard facts. I couldn't afford the propane for heat and I didn't have the physical stamina to carry wood for my stove for heating and cooking. I longed to be back in the only home I've ever known, but I could neither afford to be there nor take care of myself if I was. This has been heartbreaking for me. My most heartfelt wish is to be able to stay in my own home, and so I pray for better weather and hold my breath that no major problems arise that I can't fix myself.

While life and work slowed down during my recovery, the medical bills and monthly expenses certainly didn't. The bills are as relentless as the winter we've been experiencing and I carry the weight of them around with me daily. While physically I am improving, I am burdened emotionally by the embarrassment of not being able to meet my obligations and afford the basic necessities.

Please know that from the bottom of my heart, this is a temporary financial crisis and I promise to do everything possible to raise myself up again. I put myself through college on a shoe-string budget, never once accepting a loan or financial aid. Often my cat ate better than I did. I will survive my current setbacks and get my life back to normal, but it would certainly be a help if I wasn't starting from a place so deeply in debt."

Her Turn to Receive
The friends and family of Patricia Wood, who've been witnesses to or recipients of her good works over the years, are now determined to do the right thing for her, just as she's always done for others. This is an opportunity to help out an unsung hero in our community through grass roots involvement. We are trying to raise $12,000. This money will not alleviate all of her medical bills and debt, but it will rid her of a substantial portion of them, and give her a more manageable amount that she can steadily work her way out of without fear of losing her home. Patricia cannot do this alone and she needs our help! Let's renew Patricia's faith in the American Dream and put her feet back on the path to achieving it. Please open your hearts and hands and join us in our efforts. Please support The Patricia Wood Fund.

Here are just a few of the ways Patricia has paid it forward to others in her community.

"¢ Volunteer with over 1000 hours of service to the Va. Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries. Volunteer of the Year 2008.
"¢ Founder of the non-profit Friends of Chester Phelps Wildlife Management Area.
"¢ Coordinated company efforts to take food to Embry Rucker Community Shelter and their adoption of homeless families for the holidays to provide gifts and necessities
"¢ 11 years of organizing /running a children's fishing day
"¢ Worked countless local fairs, festivals, and classes to teach youth about environmental education, conservation, and natural resources like mammals, birds, insects, and other nearby nature
"¢ Served on the Board of the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, to protect the natural resources in Alaska.
"¢ Tutored neighborhood children and youth
"¢ Stepped in to provide Thanksgiving dinner for a single mom and family who were burned out of their home
"¢ Shared the wonders of the natural world with youth and adults as a naturalist part-time for 10 years at Hidden Pond Nature Center in Springfield,.
"¢ Currently leads campfire programs on nature topics at Bull Run Regional Park
"¢ working with the children of the Herndon area to direct Nature Discovery Camp summer 2014
  • S & H McCone 
    • $25 
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    • $50 
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  • Anonymous 
    • $25 
    • 86 mos
  • Karen Barbuschak 
    • $30 
    • 86 mos
  • Bev Ruedebusch 
    • $50 
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See all


Susan Alger 
Herndon, VA
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