By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Roy Patterson Jr. can recall having most things in life simply handed to him.
But two back surgeries within the past month have left his father, Roy Patterson Sr., struggling to get around. Medical bills have begun to pile up, especially after the elder Patterson was dropped from his health insurance. Managing the family’s day-to-day expenses, too, has become a challenge.
So, the 19-year-old Patterson said he had no choice but to begin providing for his family, just as they’d long provided for him. Now, he’s essentially the sole means of support for the family, which includes his father, his mother, Brenda Patterson, and his two young nephews.
“My family was there for me my whole life,” said Patterson, a 2013 graduate of Struthers High School. That’s why he felt the need to take a break from his studies at Youngstown State University and work more than 40 hours a week to help them, he added.
In turn, once they learned of Patterson’s plight, his co-workers at Tangier Bar and Pizza, where Patterson has worked since July and is kitchen manager, also wanted to help in any way they could.
Annette Hagerty, nighttime manager, said Patterson is an exceptional worker who has unselfishly assumed a level of responsibility that would be stressful for anyone, let alone a teenager.
“He’s been dealt some pretty crappy hands lately,” Hagerty said. “We all said, ‘It’s a shame we don’t have the money to give to him.’ I don’t know too many 19-year-olds who would take this on.”
“He would be here 24 hours a day if we need him, and he never asks for help — he just does it,” added Amanda McCombs, the girlfriend of owner Dan Sullivan. “He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.”
Hagerty and McCombs soon began organizing a benefit spaghetti dinner, which also will include an auction and 50/50 raffle, to help the Patterson family. The dinner is planned for March 23 at Tangier Bar and Pizza, 880 Youngstown-Poland Road, and will take place from 2 to 6 p.m.
All proceeds from the dinner — and from an online fundraiser, at www.gofundme.com/6qrhjo — will go to the family, in an attempt to help alleviate its financial burdens. McCombs said numerous area individuals and businesses already have donated baskets of goods and services for the auction.
McCombs added that Patterson “doesn’t ask for anything from anyone,” and that initially, she thought he wouldn’t be too thrilled that his co-workers were putting together a fundraiser to benefit him.
She tried to keep it a secret for as long as possible, but eventually Patterson figured out what they were up to. But for his co-workers to go out of their way to help him “means everything,” he said.
“Honestly, from everything I’ve ever seen [in Struthers], we’re all tight, and everyone always has your back,” Patterson said. “There’s a lot more connection here than anywhere else.”