Meet Your Neighbor: Kathy Fazio

10 Questions

Kathy Fazio “came home” to coastal Delray Beach with her husband, John. Her daughter, Annie, is now 22 and in Washington, D.C. Her son, Jay, is a junior at Southern Methodist University. In her spare time she keeps her fingers in the investment business by working with Bill Timpson, a Delray Beach investment adviser. Kathy Fazio’s family grew from 2 to 27 children in eight years. After her daughter and son left home, Fazio heard that Paul’s Place, an after-school program for neighborhood children at St. Paul’s, needed volunteers. “Working with at-risk children right here in the local community had great appeal for me,” she said. “I had worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Boston.” Years ago, some children had found the church’s playground — and some adults who were willing to help them with homework, Fazio explains. “The church recognized the need and formalized the program in 2000.” In 2001, Fazio began volunteering by cooking a meal, one day a week. Soon, she was cooking every day. Then the program needed a new director, “and I found my hand going up,” she said. Now, she’s the everything person. “Mine is a wide and varied position, believe me,” she said. She shops, cooks, works on administrative duties, drives and fundraises. “We have an annual budget of $100,000, and it’s my responsibility to raise that, and that’s not in my background,” she said. Nevertheless, the school is thriving. It has grown to 27 children ages 7 to 17, mostly Haitian-Americans. She didn’t do it alone, she emphasizes. She takes a neighbors-helping-neighbors approach, and thanks many who volunteer time and money. On staff with her is an FAU graduate student, Denise Copeland, and a social worker, Flore Die. “We are lucky,” she said. “This time of year, a lot of people from the barrier island volunteer over here with cooking and driving.” “Most of the dollars we raise — about 40 percent — come from individual donations from people from Delray Beach, Gulf Stream and Manalapan. For grants, we have a local family foundation and the church. We have a beautiful garden, thanks to the Grass River Garden Club. Sandoway House Nature Center and CROS Ministries have helped us out with scholarships for summer-camp programs. Gulf Stream School has been good to us, giving us food, clothes and even Christmas trees for the families.” In the process of all this, Fazio has learned patience and that you don’t have to be a big organization to make a difference. “To know us is to love us,” she said. — Christine Davis Q. Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you? A. I grew up in Grosse Pointe, Mich. I went to school there until the 10th grade, when I went away to boarding school in New York. I graduated and attended Pine Manor Junior College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and graduated from Rollins College in Winter Park with a BA in history and political science. Q. How did you become involved with Paul’s Place After School Program at St. Paul’s? A. As my two children got older and went away to boarding school, I felt the need to fill up my “empty nest.” I more than accomplished this by volunteering for Paul’s Place and eventually becoming the director. I now have 27 children each day. Q. What is the most challenging part of your job? A. The most challenging part is doing everything from soup to nuts. I do the grocery shopping; I cook; I tutor; I drive; I schedule; I oversee staff and volunteers; I referee; I care-take and I fundraise. I love every minute! Q. What other work experiences have you had; what were the highlights? A. My background was in the investment business in Boston with several mutual fund companies. When I moved to Delray and had a young family, I started my own home-based stationery business that I eventually sold after 10 years. The stationery business allowed me to meet many, many of my barrier island neighbors, who have since become instrumental in the success of Paul’s Place. Q. What advice do you have for a young person pursuing a career today? A. Be dedicated and focused. Stop texting and put your cell phone away! Q. How did you choose to make your home in Delray Beach? A. My maternal grandmother (Mrs. William C. Mudgett) moved to the barrier island in early 1960. We would visit her, and eventually my parents bought a vacation home on Nassau Street. I have been coming to the area since 1965. My husband, John, loves to deep-sea fish and has a wonderful boat. After the birth of our daughter, we decided that living in Boston was no longer for us, so we decided to give Delray a try. It was immediately as if we were moving home. Everything felt so right. Q. Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions? A. My brothers, Clif and Charlie, are my mentors and role models. They are committed to family, friends and community. They are responsible yet fun-loving. Q. What book are you reading now? A. The Tender Bar. The message it gives to me is that sometimes in life people don’t have parents and families to guide them, so it is useful to get certain truths from outsiders like teachers, social workers or volunteers at mentoring programs. Q. What music do you listen to when you need inspiration? When you want to relax? A. Motown music both inspires and relaxes. Q. Do you have a favorite quote that inspires your decisions? A. Life is short. Eat dessert first!
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