Madeline felt that the Foster Grandparent Program gave real meaning and purpose to her life in her retirement years. She was an ambassador, leader and strong advocate of the program, and was a true representation of what being a Foster Grandparent is all about. Madeline was adored, loved and respected by everyone who was fortunate enough to have known her, and people were instantly drawn to her positive energy and beautiful smile. Not only was Madeline an extraordinary and remarkable Foster Grandparent, but she was an exceptional human being as well. One of 7 children, Madeline has always been strongly involved in her community and in working to improve the world around her. She was the first African-American female hired by the New York Telephone Company in 1943. She had to overcome the challenge of segregation and faced many discriminatory issues, such as having a separate restroom, people not wanting to sit near her and the Red Cross refusing to take her blood. Madeline overcame these challenges by advocating for herself and people of all races, and ultimately had a 40-year career with the company, retiring at the position of supervisor.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Madeline belonged to the Civil Rights Movement and worked to integrate people of color into historically all-white neighborhoods. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in 1964 to help gain civil rights, and advocated in the South to allow equal opportunities for minorities. She also worked for the Board of Elections in order to spread the word about the importance of voting, and believes that voting is an effective means of creating positive change.
Among many impressive achievements, Madeline was also honored as Woman of the Year for two consecutive years by Governor George Pataki, and recognized as Senior Citizen of the Year in 2001. Madeline also received Newsday’s ‘Everyday Hero’ award, and an article was drafted in the paper in recognition of her work in the FGP. In 2009 Madeline received The Elizabeth Guanill Memorial Award for Volunteerism presented by The Suffolk County Human Rights Commission. Additionally, Madeline was also chosen among many by Bank of America as their ‘Local Hero’, and received a donation for the FGP in the amount of $5,000.
There are not many people like Madeline Patterson in this world, and we were extremely blessed to have had her in our program for so many years. With heavy hearts, we say goodbye to this beautiful woman who has touched the lives of so many and has been a true inspiration to all of us. Madeline’s work will continue to live on in the lives of the children she served, and her legacy in the Foster Grandparent Program will carry on for many, many years to come.