When you surround yourself with people who have hearts of stewardship, it’s easy to catch the volunteer bug.
That’s what happened to Pat Graceffa, according to the 15-year resident of Sugar Grove known for her volunteerism and big heart, but who credits her community for its philanthropic spirit.
“I just met the right people,” Graceffa said. “They were all volunteers in the community. Once you meet that special group who gets involved in so many things, you just become a part of it.”
It’s how she became a founding member of the Sugar Grove Farmer’s Market.
“Janet Doherty, Karen Cinto and Barb Hollmier were three of the first people I met in Sugar Grove, and all of them had been talking about a farmer’s market,” Graceffa said. “We decided to go to the chamber of commerce to see if it was something they were interested in.”
It was, and 15 years later, 66-year-old Graceffa still manages the weekly seasonal market – though she’ll tell you she’s “just a volunteer.”
Graceffa also has been “just a volunteer” at the Sugar Grove Public Library for 15 years.
Her involvement was sparked by the dismay she felt over the condition of the old Sugar Grove building.
“I … finished my education late,” Graceffa said, who received an associate’s degree in liberal arts in 2001 from the College of DuPage. “I was used to the DuPage library, [and when] I came over to the [old] Sugar Grove library, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I just about walked out.”
“As I was walking out, I thought, instead of leaving, maybe there is something I can do.”
She met Beverly Holmes Hughes, the former long-serving library director, and Graceffa joined the Friends of the Library.
During her tenure, she’s seen an $8 million, 24,000-square-foot library replace the outdated 6,000-square-foot building. And though she openly admits the new library has budget woes, Graceffa is proud of what Sugar Grove offers its patrons.
“ ... I think libraries are very important,” she said. “You can always find two points of view … and that way, you get a complete story.”
Graceffa’s involvement with the Friends – who voluntarily provide all of the landscaping (except mowing) outside of the financially-strapped facility – and, since 2013, her input as a board member, have helped the library immensely, said Shannon Halikias, library director.
“She stepped up to serve in a time when the library was navigating difficult waters,” said Halikias. “She helped calm those waters and got the library on track.
“She is first to hold up her hand to say, ‘I can help,’” Halikias continued. “And that’s so rare these days when people are looking for rewards and incentives. [Pat] is kind, generous; I’m amazed by how much she does.”
Graceffa has volunteered with the Sugar Grove Corn Boil for 12 years, and she puts together a small, informal newsletter – dubbed the Sugar Grove Community Newsletter – that she emails to about 480 people.
She juggles these commitments around her part-time job in the visual department at J.C. Penney and time spent with her husband, Daniel, and two dogs.
Graceffa has been named an Everyday Hero, though she considers the honor “an award for all who volunteer in all ways in Sugar Grove and the Kaneland area,” she said.
Halikias said Graceffa has earned it.
“Pat is one of those people that is the backbone of a community and is oftentimes appreciated, but people truly don’t understand how much she does for the community,” said Halikias. “She is, in my opinion, the face of Sugar Grove.”
The Graceffa Lowdown
Who she is: Pat Graceffa, a Sugar Grove Public Library Board member and community volunteer
Village of residence: Sugar Grove
Family: Husband, Daniel; two dogs
Hobbies: Reading, walking
Fun fact: “I love to sing along with the radio when driving in the car. The problem is, I am a terrible singer. My husband has actually threatened to stop the car. (I am not sure which of us would be walking.) Thankfully, the car has never stopped.”