Patricia Cooper, vice president of real estate at Vinfen Corp., doesn’t get a lot of sleep, said her friend and former colleague, Nancy McCafferty.
Looking at Cooper’s schedule, it’s easy to see why. That schedule includes managing a 400-space portfolio for Vinfen, a nonprofit that provides services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mentoring Boston Public Schools students, volunteering at Rosie’s Place and once, recalled McCafferty, offering a ride to a student who had missed the school bus, even though it was 30 minutes out of her way.
“She works nights, she works weekends, she works holidays,” said McCafferty, senior relationship manager at Massachusetts Housing Partnership and a 2015 Woman of FIRE. “If she can work an extra hour to be able to make a difference for someone, she will do that.”
Gretchen McGill, senior program manager at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and another friend and former colleague of Cooper’s, said her work ethic is almost superhuman.
“It is not common for [Pat] to discuss her outside activities with coworkers. Then, slowly, you find out the other commitments she has taken on – commitments that she gives herself to fully. And then you wonder, ‘How is this humanly possible?’” McGill said.
Cooper acknowledged that she keeps herself busy. “I continue to get requests to volunteer places, and a coworker at one point just looked at me and said, ‘Well, I think you have between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. available,’” she said with a laugh.
Cooper is also a member of CREW Boston and its community involvement committee. Several years ago, McCafferty asked Cooper if she would lead the committee’s efforts to renovate the Sancta Maria House, a women’s shelter in Boston’s South End.
“I said to Pat, ‘What would you think about heading up the group to renovate this shelter in the South End?’” McCafferty said. “One second later, she was committed [to the project] for three years.”
Cooper organized all of the meetings, raised money for the shelter’s operations and helped to not only renovate the inside of the house but also to create an outdoor patio area that the women of the shelter could call their own.
“I don’t know a lot of people who would do that – dedicate three years of their life to meet monthly and help this women’s shelter that’s in disrepair,” McCafferty said.
Cooper called the project one of her most “passionate” undertakings and has since become involved with renovating another women’s shelter, the Elizabeth Stone House in Roxbury.
“Giving back to others enriches my life tremendously,” Cooper said. “I get somewhat embarrassed because I feel like I derive so much more benefit from the work that I do than what I’m contributing.”
If you ask McGill and McCafferty, this could not be further from the truth.
“Pat has been a wonderful mentor and professional contact, but really, I’m blessed to be able to call Pat a friend,” McGill said.
“Pat is the kind of person who would do anything for anyone at any time,” McCafferty said. “She wants nothing more than to make the world a better place for everyone.”