“It’s just like you tap into this wellspring of people who are really some of the best people,” Priest said. “They’re really generous and kind with big, open hearts so it’s really gratifying work.”
While sitting in her bright, open house where sunlight pours in, Priest shares how her background influenced her to give back to the community so much.
With her father serving in the Air Force, Priest lived in a variety of countries and states such as Taiwan, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Nebraska while growing up. Moving around so often made her realize the importance of building relationships. As an adult, she applies these life experiences to her volunteer work.
“What I’m often thinking of is not so much only making money, but building relationships,” Priest said. “That is the key.”
Priest has volunteered for countless organizations such as the Sexual Assault Center, Project Safe, Children First, Athens Land Trust, and she also does radio pieces for a show called “Living on Earth.”
Her volunteer work and ability to conjure up new ideas for these organizations is something that deserves attention from the community she is so dedicated to.
Tony Waller, director of Children First, a non-profit organization focused on finding homes for children in foster care, commented on Priest’s hard work and dedication.
“She is a tireless supporter of Athens and that shows in the varied causes she supports,” said Waller. “Her ability to bring a unique perspective while working to bring ideas to fruition is truly amazing.”
One of Priest’s most successful events is called “Dancing with the Athens Stars” for Project Safe, a domestic violence shelter and advocate.
In this event hosted by Priest, “stars” of Athens, which includes high profile and every day citizens, come together and dance to raise both awareness and money. People who might have cringed at the thought of dancing come to truly appreciate and love the effect dancing has on them.
“It’s been very interesting to see people’s transformations in their own lives which really mirror the transformation of women’s lives when they can get out of an abusive situation,” Priest said.
She also created the “Stomp Out Domestic Violence” campaign for Project Safe, which uses step dancing to raise money.
Recently, Priest has been working with Rabbit Box, a story-telling organization. Every month at the Melting Point, ordinary people come together and tell their life stories to an audience of about 200 people.
The tagline for Rabbit Box is “Creating community, one story at a time,” a phrase that Priest wrote. She also coaches those who seek mentoring on how to effectively tell their story.
“Pat is careful not to quash an individual’s way of expressing themselves,” said Marci White, the director of Rabbit Box. “At the same time, she helps them to tighten up what they want to say to make it even more powerful.”
Another passion of Priest is sustainment. She and her husband, Neal, are both advocates about sustainability.
Priest’s radio pieces for “Living on Earth” consist of her giving advice to listeners on how to be more environmentally friendly.
“I think what we care most about is sustainability,” Priest said. “I really worry about global climate change.”
Her dedication to sustaining the environment starts in her very own backyard. She uses her yard to showcase different ways to help the environment. She has a metal roof and solar panels, which makes the water that runs off of them cleaner to use. Priest also grows a variety of fruit in her backyard.
Since she spends so much time volunteering, Priest is inevitably a huge advocate for getting involved and working with people in the community.
“I don’t know if there’s a narrative for what I try to do, but the end result is to make our community stronger,” Priest said.