Russelle “Russ” Patterson has been helping Atlantic County organizations and people in need for more than 40 years.
She’s volunteered for the Wildlife Aid Foundation, the Humane Society of Atlantic County, the American Red Cross, the March of Dimes, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center and the South Jersey AIDS Alliance. She has worked as a domestic violence responder for the Margate, Ventnor and Longport police departments, comforting victims at the scene, and as a traffic control officer in Atlantic City.
Now that Patterson, of the West Atlantic City section of Egg Harbor Township, is in need herself, her friends are stepping up to help her out.
Patterson, 79, has been battling health issues, so a fundraiser to help her cover her medical expenses has been organized from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Wonder Bar, 3701 Sunset Ave., Atlantic City.
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Ron Bailey, who organized the fundraiser, said he has known her for 25 years.
Bailey met Patterson when he was 11, when she would organize anti-drug marches in Atlantic City. They have worked together volunteering for the Red Cross.
“She has pretty much been a mentor to me for the last 20 years,” said Bailey, who works as an EMT. “I’m where I am today because of the fact that she kind of took me under her wing when I was younger.”
Bailey is trying to raise $3,000 to $5,000 to help with Patterson’s medical expenses.
Patterson said she was taken aback when she was told a fundraiser was being held in her honor.
“When you help people, you don’t expect a thank you,” she said. “I’m a little overwhelmed by it.”
Patterson was on the team to get the vote out to bring gambling to Atlantic City during the 1970s.
In 1994, Patterson was one of the people who gathered signatures to create the law that made pedophiles register as convicted sex offenders, which became Megan’s Law.
For her work, Patterson was voted into the Atlantic County Women’s Hall of Fame during the mid 2000s.
In recent years, Patterson has had her share of hardships. She lost her home in 2012 to Hurricane Sandy.
Currently, Patterson has Graves’ disease, which causes an overactive thyroid, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“The thing that bothers me the most is that I’m not out there rescuing animals and people,” Patterson said.