Lilburn’s Pat Swan - volunteer extraordinaire
By Phylecia D Wilson
When Pat Swan’s name is mentioned in Gwinnett County and in many places across Georgia and the country, two words come to mind: volunteer extraordinaire.
Georgia Federation of Woman’s Clubs (GAFWC), General Federation of Woman’s Clubs (GFWC), The American Cancer Society (ACS), Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, Hudgens Art Center and Lilburn Daze all lay claims on the dedication and expertise of this long-time Lilburn resident.
Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and a 1957 graduate of Northwestern State University with a degree in nursing, Swan came to the Atlanta area after marrying Atlanta native, Jerry Swan.
Right: Pat with Susan Butera, ACS volunteer, at Hope Fashion Show 2016
While living in Atlanta, Pat Swan joined the Decatur-DeKalb Junior Woman’s Club in 1966. It was the beginning of a lifelong affair with not just Woman’s Clubs, but with volunteerism in general, starting with a letter-writing campaign.
“Jerry and I were both active during the 70s in a letter writing campaign led by the Decatur DeKalb Woman’s Club to save Atlanta’s Callenwolde Mansion,” Swan said. Built by Charles Howard Candler, son of Asa Griggs Candler who founded Coca Cola, the mansion was going to be demolished until supporters like the Swans protested. Today it is an arts center and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Swan joined the Lawrenceville Junior Woman’s Club around 1972 after she and her family moved to Gwinnett. She worked with women like Sandra Strickland, known for the Strickland Heart Center at Gwinnett Medical Center, Nancy Gullickson, founder of the Gwinnett Council of the Arts and Tine Lingerot, the first executive director of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful, when it was started as a Lawrenceville Junior Woman’s Club project.
A dedicated and diligent Club member, Swan soon became state director of Junior Woman’s Clubs in 1980 - 82. “After that, I needed to join a club that was not a Junior club because I was getting in line to be state president, so I moved to Lilburn Woman’s Club in 1981,” she explained. A member for 35 years, she has served the club in every capacity. But her extraordinary volunteer ethic took her to even higher offices beginning in 1988 when she served a two-year term as Georgia Federation of Woman’s Club’s Ninth District President, which consists of 27 clubs in NE Georgia. She went on to be the state president from 1994 to 1996 and was Southern Region President from 2008 – 2010. She also has served on numerous GFWC committees, including By-Laws and Resolutions Committees.
Left: Pat Swan upon hearing she received the ACS Volunteer of the Year Award - the John and Martha Adams Award. The late Martha Adams on Pat’s right. (Paige Powers behind Pat and former ACS Senior Manage Randy Redner on far right.)
Georgia honored her as the first winner of the GFWC Jennie June Award, which is given to extraordinary clubwomen who epitomize the spirit of independence, courage, and persistence in purpose through their roles as volunteers within their clubs, elsewhere in the community, and as members of a family or extended family. Although GFWC has many awards for states and clubs, the GFWC Jennie Award is the only national honor that recognizes individual members for personal excellence.
Very dear to her heart is Lilburn’s annual fall festival, Lilburn Daze. For the past 43 years, Swan has been active in the planning and carrying out of the event which she has chaired three times. This year she is serving as entertainment chair, a role she has held for the past seven years. Lilburn Daze will be held on October 8 from 9am to 5pm.
“I keep saying ‘yes’ and I should say ‘no,’” she laughed.
An intensive care nurse for most of her 24-year career at Northside Hospital, Swan didn’t let her profession get in the way of her volunteering.
“I love serving my community,” she stated. “And the organizations I volunteer for do so much in the community that affects the community as far as health, art, public issues, international issues and conservation. It’s just about serving your community.”
And serve it she has.
Right: Bobbie Menneg, Pat and Stephanie Waters (ACS volunteers) decorating Hope Lodge in 2016
Her work with the ACS includes Relay For Life, ACS Advocacy and the Winn Dixie Hope Lodge earned her the Martha and John Adams award in 2006. The award is given each year to the most outstanding ACS leadership volunteer in Gwinnett. At Hope Lodge, a residence near Emory University for cancer patients who are receiving out-patient therapy, where she has volunteered one day a week since 2000, she heads up a group of women who decorate the lodge for every season of the year.
She also was honored by the United Way of Gwinnett in 2010 as a Legacy Award winner in the area of Talent.
For the past several months Swan scaled back much of her volunteer work to be a caregiver for Jerry Swan. “We always laughed that Jerry was my Secretary because he answered the phone and took messages for me,” she reminisced. “He retired as an accountant with the federal government to become my secretary when I became state president.
“I couldn’t have done it without him.”
Sadly, Jerry lost his battle with esophageal cancer in early August. They were married for 59 years.
But even without her late husband’s support, this energetic, faithful volunteer will continue to give back to her community. She has become especially interested in domestic violence and is working as an advocate in that area with the Woman’s Club.
“One of the things I do is read to children while their moms are in classes,” she said. “Others can give money but I prefer to do hands-on things to help people.”
A long-time member of the First Baptist Church in Lilburn, Swan has two daughters who live in Florida and Virginia, a son who lives near Lilburn, and two grandchildren.
“I am fortunate to have high energy,” she mused. “With my love of community and country it enables me to get a lot done for the things in which I deeply believe.”