Board Member Spotlight: Pat Desiderio

Pat Desiderio has served on the UCP-Center for Disability Services Board of Directors for 45 years. She began her board service in October of 1977, took 2 years off in the 90s, and continues to serve on the board today. Pat says she initially became involved because she belonged to a social sorority that made a donation to the agency. She said, “Gretchen Lance was the Director at the time, and she had a wish list for donors to pick what they would like to buy [for the agency]. It was just such an honest approach to have with donors.” Six years later, she started coming to the agency once a week to help feed students and never stopped volunteering.

 Pat worked for Joliet School District 86 for 28 years as a Teacher Assistant. She says one of the biggest benefits to being on the board has been the expansion of services that the agency has been able to provide, and meeting some wonderful people along the way. Pat said, “I have enjoyed watching the world of the disability community change for the better (we still have a ways to go).” When asked what advice she would give to new board members, she has this to say, “Do not join just to have something to put on a resume. Come into the agency during the day, and see firsthand why you are giving your time and talents.” She adds, “Show up at the meetings.”

Pat says the thing she likes most about being a board member are all the successes the agency has had over the years. She said, “Even the disasters have helped strengthen us and promoted growth.” Pat adds that she has met wonderful people over the years who are talented, knowledgeable in their field, and committed to the mission, including people who have asked “What do you need?” and helped the agency get what we needed and more. When asked her favorite part of UCP-Center for Disability Services, Pat said, “If you want a ‘pick me up’ stop into the agency, especially for one of our special events like the Holiday Program. You can’t help but laugh and smile at the joy. The second is the wonderful staff. They are so dedicated to our students and adults. Even our office staff join in on making this a great place to be.”

When asked what accomplishments she is most proud of, Pat said, “The school program always has a special spot in my heart, but the adult program opened a whole other avenue for individuals with disabilities.” When the Community Day Services program started, Pat said many of the participants had not yet benefitted from Public Law 94-142, and the adult program for some, was their first experience in a school setting. Pat went on to add that it was very rewarding to see the adults grow both cognitively and socially. Pat said her biggest inspiration is our founder, Mel Larson. She said, “Mel showed us all what one individual can do to change the lives of so many people. He was always present. He didn’t miss anything, including the funerals of “his kids”. Pat adds that her second biggest inspiration was Edward Minarich. She said, “He is the one who taught me how to give to UCP. He served on our board as President on the State level. He helped put the fun into volunteerism.” Pat adds, “I miss them both”.

Pat says she is a pretty open book and is loyal to family and friends. She is thankful for her husband Frank, who understands her commitment to UCP-Center for Disability Services. She says she enjoys a good laugh and a night out, and adds if she is in the water-either a pool or the Gulf-she is one happy camper. Pat said, “I always say it is so easy to donate your time to UCP-Center for Disability Services when you witness all the good things that happen inside those brick walls. I hope to have many more years to walk in those doors.”

We are extremely grateful to Pat for all her years of service both as a Board Member and a volunteer. She is a shining example of living our mission, and we are appreciative to her (and her family) for dedicating time and talent to help further our vision. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a volunteer or serving on our Board, please visit our website at

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