ESCANABA - Paddy Fitch has been an active member of the community for more than 40 years. Because of her continued service and involvement in the community, she has been selected as the Daily Press Volunteer of the Month.
In the 1980s, Fitch was chosen to lead the capital campaign to raise money for establishing a YMCA in Delta County. By 1985, the YMCA was up and running but had no facility.
"We just had an office downtown, which really ironically was the same office downtown that my husband started practice in when we came to town," said Fitch. "It was just weird to have his old doctor's office become the YMCA office."
Paddy Fitch, center, poses for a photo with family members at a Boy Scout event. (Courtesy photo)
Even before the YMCA facility was built in 1990, Fitch managed to teach swim lessons to Delta County residents through the YMCA. "Before then, we were going to swimming pools all over the county teaching swimming," she said, adding that some of the pools were privately owned by Delta County residents.
Besides continuing to teach swimming lessons for pre-schoolers and older youths from the learning center, Fitch instructs a water aerobics class six times a week. She also is a YMCA board member, active in committees, and helps with organizational tasks.
"To a certain extent I feel like the Y is my second home because I'm there a lot and all the people there, whether they're members or staff or whatever, just about feel like they're my family," said Fitch.
For 42 years Fitch has worked with another group she considers a family, the Boy Scouts. "I just so firmly believe in the program and what it does. Plus, again, it's just plain fun," said Fitch.
Currently Fitch is the Cubmaster of Pack 411. "Cub Scouts I love because they're the beginning kids, and you can introduce them to a program that does so much for them, as well as emphasizing family involvement with them, which I think is a super thing," said Fitch.
Besides the opportunity to work with children, Fitch enjoys the opportunities to go on canoe and camping trips with the Scouts. "I got to go to Philmount National Scout Camp twice, and I got to do a 60-mile backpack," she said.
The trips are only part of the experience for Fitch and the Scouts. "When you get into the Boy Scout level, you're trying to help them develop the ability to be able to think, reason, be a good citizen; be loyal to your country - plus be able to go on a backpacking trip and pack for a canoe trip," said Fitch.
Forty years ago, Fitch started out as a den leader when her eldest sons were in Cub Scouts. She continued when her youngest son joined the organization and eventually her husband, Dr. Don Fitch, became active in the organization as well.
"Scouting has been kind of a family affair with all of us involved at one point or another," said Fitch.
Don Fitch passed away on Aug. 8 of last year. However, Fitch's involvement in the community and the ties that created helped her cope. "He was my teammate and when he died I was just extremely fortunate to have all these other, as I call them, families," she said.
Fitch's work with children does not end with her involvement with Scouts or at the YMCA. She has taught Sunday school at First Presbyterian Church in Escanaba for more than 40 years.
"What happens is you get interested in something either because your kids are going to do it or because you just get interested in it," said Fitch. "Once you get started you get into it and it becomes your way of life."
In addition to her other volunteer activities, Fitch is involved with the Salvation Army, Kiwanis, the Medical Access Coalition, the P.E.O. Sisterhood, the Bay College Foundation Board, and the First Presbyterian Church handbell choir.
Fitch's busy schedule may seem daunting, but for her it is a perfect fit. "What it does for me is just give me a jump start to every day," said Fitch. "I just wake up and think, 'ok, what's today?'"