When Big Hearts Meet Good Works… Great Things Happen!

Patty and David Blake of Francestown recently made a major gift to Plowshare Farm to support our purchase of an electric transport vehicle to assist community members with increasing mobility challenges to get around on the farm. Patty is Senior Market Manager – VP for People’s United Bank’s western NH region, and David recently retired from running his own company. They agreed to sit for an interview and share more about themselves and what struck them in a recent visit to Plowshare.

A Little Personal History
David was born and raised in Keene and studied social psychology and statistics at the University of New Hampshire. He earned his MBA and, with an entrepreneurial streak and his statistics background, co-founded a first-of-its-kind survey and polling business, Blake & Dickenson. This was in an era of computing when analyzing survey results involved preparing your punch cards and scheduling your time slot to go and feed them into the mainframe for processing. He got his first job in the banking sector at a bank in Manchester in 1979 and worked there for 16 years, ultimately becoming the director of marketing for First NH Bank (which would later become Citizens Bank). When the entrepreneurial bug bit again, David formed a new company in 1995 that developed proprietary database software to assist banks in analyzing their client base – no punch cards this time! – and led the company for 25 years until retiring last year.

Patty grew up in Peabody, Massachusetts. After graduating high school, she entered college for nursing. This was always her “plan” – she was good at science and it was a solid career field. But sometimes life has other plans for you. She still remembers crystal clear a point midway through her sophomore year when her father said to her, “You do whatever makes you happy.” So, coming out of school she moved to New Hampshire and went into retail, working at a ski shop in Bedford (including a lot of weekends!). When she decided it was time to look for a Monday to Friday job, she walked into a BankEast branch in Manchester and applied for an open position. She started as a teller but was quickly promoted into customer service. Then a couple years later she was advanced into sales training. She was promoted again to training manager, and then to a regional manager position for Citizens, running 13 branches, in 2004.

It was summer 2006 when David said to Patty one day, “I found a dream job for you.” Patty applied and got the job as regional manager at Ocean Bank, which would become People’s United Bank in 2007. As Senior Market Manager – VP for the NH western region, Patty works with the branch managers of her region – including branches in Peterborough, Milford, Jaffrey, Keene and Chesterfield – on all aspects of their work (management, sales, service, etc). Her favorite part? Leading professional development for her branch managers and their teams. At heart, Patty is a team builder. And apparently, she’s real good at it: in 2018, her region was the number one market in the whole People’s United footprint! In addition to her responsibilities at the bank, Patty serves on the Board of the Greater Keene & Peterborough Chamber of Commerce (in fact, she’s slated to start a term as Board Chair in October!).

Beyond the Office Walls
David and Patty are both avid hikers (David is in the midst of a personal challenge to hike all 48 4,000 footers in NH in one season). They’ve lived in Francestown for 20 years and their home there is on 25 acres, so there’s plenty of outdoor work to do.

Patty enjoys gardening with lots of perennials and flowers. Some of her favorites are irises, daylilies, and rosebushes. These past couple seasons, she’s also applied her green thumb to a vegetable plot and has had good success growing tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce.

In addition to outdoor wood projects (like building rustic furniture and raised beds/cold frames), David enjoys doing leatherwork. He’s also a big reader (he reads about 100 books a year – from fiction to thrillers to early 20th century history) so it’s no surprise he joined the fundraising team at the 1833 Society to help bolster the fundraising campaign for the new library in Peterborough.

Learning About Plowshare
Patty’s first direct experience with Plowshare Farm came in 2018 when she and People’s United colleague Michelle Marshall visited the farm to present a donation on behalf of the bank. Prior to this, Patty served on the Allocations Committee of the Monadnock United Way, became the chair of the committee, and then served on the board for 10 years. So she had developed a good working knowledge of the nonprofit ecosystem in our region. Still, her visit to Plowshare – meeting and interacting with people, touring the farm with its different work realms, and joining the community lunch – made an impression. David says Patty talked about it for days afterwards.

Fast forward through three years and a global pandemic, and when Patty heard about Plowshare’s concrete need for a transport vehicle to help community members with severe mobility challenges get around on the farm, she went home and said to David, “What do you think about helping out?” And he said, “Let’s do it.”

Values that Resonate
We asked Patty and David to share what values they saw in practice at Plowshare that resonated for them.

Patty described her experience of Plowshare’s approach to “meeting” each person with a deep mutual respect. “There was just this aura of respect for every person there. There was a serenity and peacefulness that permeated the environment.” She said she was also impressed with the consistency and sustainability she experienced visiting three years apart and seeing people joining joyfully in the same basic rhythms of the day.

David said he was struck by the “work ethic”, the variety of skills/trades practiced at Plowshare, and how the value of meaningful work is shared community-wide. “I was impressed with how everyone is there to contribute in whatever way they can, and by the way this creates a blurry line between ‘resident’ and ‘staff’. It creates an environment of opportunity where everyone takes responsibility to get things done.” He also reflected on “a certain discipline” in attention to detail – structure, putting things in order, attention to time – that creates harmony.

Both said they appreciated the environmental and ecological aspects of the community (prioritizing solar energy, geothermal heating, and general conservation of energy and resources). So Plowshare’s aim for the new transport vehicle to be zero-emissions and powered with renewable energy made it a good fit for their support.

Visiting the farm shortly after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, David shared he was impressed at how well prepared Plowshare was for the challenges presented by the pandemic, and how the community’s lifesharing model meant life at the farm could go on close to “as usual” in spite of the pandemic. Especially with the backdrop of the pandemic, David said, “It’s just so clear that the value of ‘we all take care of each other’ runs through everything Plowshare does.”

Thank you, Patty and David, for your generous gift… and for being a part of our community!