On a beautiful evening during season, guests gathered at the Port Royal home of Mary Pat and Frank Hussey for a cocktail party to introduce new friends to the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, a cause that has been close to the couple’s hearts for more than 25 years. It was a full-circle moment. Mary Pat, a New York native, was instrumental in starting the nonprofit in 1992, which now serves nearly 3,300 youth, ages 6 to 18, through its clubs and after-school programs, and through its partnership with the Naples Children and Education Foundation and Florida’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers. On March 1, the Husseys will co-chair the annual Youth of the Year Celebration, the finale of an annual program for the Club’s high-achieving teens.
During the cocktail party at the Hussey’s home, the couple took the opportunity to share a taste of the Club’s success. As party guests milled about the home, they were ushered outside to nibble on delicious and healthful appetizers prepared by young people who are part of the Club’s culinary program. The Husseys brought in the Blue CanTeen, the first not-for-profit Boys & Girls Club food truck in the country, which launched under the direction of Mary Pat and Boys & Girls Club of Collier County CEO and President Theresa Shaw in October 2015. Mary Pat was also there on launch day, sitting at the picnic tables on campus amongst the youngsters, enjoying one of the first the freshly prepared lunches from the Blue CanTeen. The concept not only fits one of the Club’s core principles, which is living a healthy lifestyle, but it’s also an opportunity for the teens to learn culinary skills and entrepreneurship. During the Hussey’s party, the Club’s chef and its kids served party favorites, like local tuna tartare, while guests savored the conversations with the kids just as much as the culinary delights.
“It was so impressive to see the children serving food and mixing with our attendees. They seemed to know a lot about the food that was being made,” says Mary Pat. “I’ve known a few of the children since they were very young. It was a very emotional evening to see these kids out there working and finding a path for their future.”
The Husseys have owned their second home in Naples since 1972. Following their children’s college graduations, Mary Pat reflected on her years of volunteering for their schools, as well as her tenure as an elementary teacher.
“I wanted to do something for the community because we were a small community growing very fast,” she says. “I chose to focus on young people because that was my area of expertise.”
In 1992, Mary Pat attended a luncheon for a then-new nonprofit called Girls Incorporated. “It hit a very strong note in my heart and I said, ‘This is what I’m going to do. I want to get involved.’ All of a sudden, I was invited to join their board,” she says. “From that day on, I was committed and passionate about the cause.” One year later, Mary Pat was named chair of the board. It wasn’t long before she recognized the need was much greater than she could have known. Many families of the young girls that were being served would then ask a follow-up question: Was there support available for their sons as well? That sparked Mary Pat to initiate the merger of Girls Incorporated with the Boys & Girls Club of America. Over the years, the Husseys have hosted numerous dinners to enlist their friends’ support for the cause, taking every opportunity to underscore the Club’s mission and the need to continue helping underserved communities.
“When I bring people out for tours of the Club, it’s so heartwarming, particularly, to see the little kids because they’re so happy to see faces that they know,” she says. “They like to run up and put their arms around you. They’re thankful for the attention. They say, “Hi, Miss Mary Pat!”
In 2017, Mary Pat was named State Board Member of the Year, for her tireless years of philanthropic dedication and efforts to advance the mission of the local Club.
Other milestones for Mary Pat, who currently serves on the executive committee, include the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County’s move to the Nichols Campus on Davis Boulevard in 2001, and most recently the groundbreaking of the Bolch Campus in Immokalee last November, which was named after philanthropists Susan and Carl Bolch Jr., who donated $3 million dollars. The Bolches also attended the Hussey’s cocktail party; Susan Bolch is the current chair of the nonprofit.
“I am proud that we, as an organization, have the tools to educate their children and it’s very heartwarming to know that we’ve been a great help to these parents, particularly single parents, that are struggling,” says Mary Pat. “There were instances where we would not only see the kids but have some interaction with some of the parents or single moms. It was a very emotional feeling hearing some of the stories from the parents when they were picking up their kids and to witness how thankful they were.”
This year, a prime focus is to finish the building of a gym and swimming pool on the Bolch Campus. Once complete, the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County will be able to serve 200 more young people in Immokolee. “We have a wonderful track record of the kids that we have served,” says Mary Pat. “One hundred percent of our seniors throughout the years have graduated from high school. Many of them are coming back and giving back time during the summer, and are successful in the careers they’ve pursued. This has given them opportunities.”
Theresa Shaw, the Club’s CEO, says Mary Pat has been a strong and steady force in making sure as many local children as possible are afforded those opportunities. “She has certainly been the foundation of what we have become today.” Shaw says, “I haven’t seen any mountain too high for her to climb. She is more dedicated I think today than ever.”