Patricia Clark moved to Meacham Park 30 years ago unaware of the challenges the neighborhood faced. Clark said when she arrived, the community did not have street lights, many sidewalks and, in some cases, indoor plumbing.
Clark said she loved how close she became with the people of Meacham Park, but she saw needs for improvement they sometimes did not. She said she wanted to ensure residents worked toward the most beneficial arrangement with Kirkwood during the annexation. She said she found it hard to motivate people to action.
“When I got to know [the community], I realized there was going to have to be a real effort to get the people out of the plantation mentality that I felt they had because they weren’t activists at all,” Clark said.
She decided to dedicate herself further to improving the neighborhood and joined seven other community committees despite the progress she saw.
Clark moved to St. Louis in 1988, from Cleveland, Ohio to accept her dream job at the National Benevolent Association. She travelled across the country as the company’s Affirmative Action Officer, but she said her busy schedule did not concern her.
“The secret to life is to be busy all the time,” Clark said. “The more you do for other people, the Lord will give you energy. He’ll give you stress. You can’t just sit around and not do for people.”
While working with the Meacham Park Homeowners Association, Clark met Anne Marie Gordon. The two quickly became friends, and they have remained close since their introduction.
“[Mine and Gordon’s] backyards bumped back to each other, and now I’m moved here to Kirkwood House,” Clark said. “She is now in Concordia House which is round the corner, so our backyards bump again.”
Gordon said Clark became a member of her family when they met. She was part of Gordon’s daughter’s wedding and attended her grandson’s baptism.
Clark dedicated herself to helping others, even when Gordon thought Clark should have focused on herself.
“To know [Clark] is to love her,” Gordon said. “She’ll give you the shirt off her back.”
Clark worked as a social worker and helped abused and neglected children at the Diagnostic Children’s Center in Ohio before joining the National Benevolent Association. She supervised the child abuse hotline for 11 of her 22 years at the organization and saw situations she could have never imagined–including a two-year-old child with jungle rot on her feet. She said she used the skills she developed there in her endeavours in St. Louis.
As she helped the citizens of Meacham Park, Clark began joining groups at her church, Centennial Christian Church. She served on the hiring board of her current pastor, Rev. Derrick Perkins, in 2007.
Social work meant doing more than simply giving people advice, according to Clark. She said she wanted to provide others with resources to assist them in their worst of times, no matter where they were or the nature of their circumstances.
Perkins said Clark is always one of the first people to volunteer for church projects, and she serves consistently at the parish’s food pantry. According to Perkins, Clark exemplified her skills as a social worker and community asset throughout the church’s ministry. He said at the food pantry, she distributes food but also provides people with further resources for mental and physical care.
“[Clark] locates herself with the underserved, the low income community and those who are plagued by the symptoms often found in those communities, such as homelessness, no job, in dead end jobs or the underinsured,” Perkins said. “She seems to a find good, healthy place engaging purpose and meaning for those impacted in that way.”
Clark is currently helping Perkins start a program to teach young girls in the community types of skills from how to present themselves in social situations to the importance of recognizing assault.
Gordon said she often has to remind Clark not to push herself too far. She said she did not want Clark to spend too much of her money or put her health at risk for jobs another person could do.
Despite her efforts, Gordon said her pleas have had no effect on Clark’s actions. Gordon said she worries for Clark’s health, but she understands Clark’s desire to help others.
“She does push herself, but it’s a good thing,” Gordon said. “I just always tell her ‘Don’t over-exert yourself. Let somebody else have a hand in it. You find something else to do.’ It goes over her head.”
At 75 years old, Clark said she has no plans to slow down–let alone stop–helping her community.
Clark said she wants people to remember her for the things she accomplished for others. She said she does not want to be someone who allowed sickness or worsening health to keep her from doing what she loved.
“I’ve got possibly 20 more years to work, to do things,” Clark said. “Unless I get really bad health, I’m hoping to always be active.”