Patti Grimes, executive director of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation and the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, wears many hats. This week, she dons one more.
Grimes has been named 2016 Sussex County Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay. She received the award on Wednesday, Nov. 16, during a luncheon at the Rehoboth Beach Country Club. Honorary co-chairs for the event were Delaware First Lady Carla J. Markell and Michelle Freeman; co-chairs were Sandy Taras and Twig Burton.
Grimes, who was a Girl Scout as a child growing up in Boonsboro, Md., has a grown daughter, Marisa, and said she hopes all young girls realize just how much they can change the world.
“I want them to know how valuable they are and how unique and special each person is,” she said.
Citing the three Girl Scout values of courage, confidence and character, Grimes said, “When you’re clear on that, everything else falls into place.”
A graduate of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., Grimes said she knows well the challenges of growing up in a small town, without much money. Although she was the first in her family to graduate from college, she said she always knew her parents supported her however they could.
Grimes also recalled the support of her high school basketball coach, who took her and her best friend on college tours and “made sure I got to go to basketball camps. She was really just unbelievable. She saw potential in me.”
Asked what she thought when she was a child that she would do when she grew up, Grimes said, “I always thought that I would serve others. It’s always been a value of our family,” she said. Grimes admitted she didn’t exactly have a specific career path in mind, but said “my experiences always opened up the next big thing for me.”
In her current position with the Freeman foundation, Grimes’ work includes building and sustaining relationships with the communities that the foundations serve, while overseeing programming at the Freeman Stage at Bayside, which has hosted more than 300,000 patrons during her tenure. She also oversees the grant management and funding programs of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation.
Grimes was previously vice president of marketing and sales for the Carl M. Freeman Companies, leading its resort-area communities, including Sea Colony, The Preserve, The Cove and The Village at Bear Trap Dunes, as well as the launch of Bayside.
She currently serves as vice-chair of the board of trustees of Delaware Technical Community College and has previously served on of the boards of the United Way of Delaware, the Delaware Symphony Orchestra and the YWCA, and she was the founder of the Sussex Economic Development Action Committee (SEDAC).
Grimes also serves actively in local community associations and volunteers for the Adopt-a-Family and Adopt-A-School programs, as well as other service organizations. She has also served as president of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce.
Touching on the theme of empowerment of girls and women, Grimes said she wants girls, especially, to know that beauty comes from “courage, confidence and intelligence” rather than physical attributes.
Although she strives to encourage women and girls in every way she can, Grimes said she is “not a feminist.” Instead, she explained, “I’m a person who stands up for everyone.”
She said she values the community spirit in her adopted hometown of Ocean View and the surrounding area.
“That’s what living here is all about,” she said. “We are a community that cares and that comes out to help those who need help.”
Receiving the Woman of Distinction Award, Grimes said, is “very humbling, because I’m really a person who just wants to be known for the work that gets done,” not for personal gain or credit. “This award is really for everyone who serves,” she said.
The Sussex County Woman of Distinction event “celebrates a woman who has made a difference in her community, inspired others and provided a positive role model for girls and young women,” the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay said in announcing the award.
Past honorees include Michiko Seto of Blooming Boutique and Sue Krick of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce. According to the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, the Women of Distinction Celebration brings together Sussex County leaders and outstanding young women to celebrate the significant contributions made by women, and celebrates courage, confidence and character of one of Sussex County’s elite businesswomen.
The Women of Distinction program also offers leadership opportunity for teen Girl Scouts, who are invited to mix, mingle and make connections with the Sussex County business leaders and government officials at the events. Girls also serve in leadership positions that help make the event itself successful — including as greeters, leading the pledge and participating in the program.