NORWALK, Conn. – As Pat Wilson Pheanious spends her last day working in Norwalk on Friday, she isn’t sure if she’s going to spend as much time volunteering for Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) as she had planned.
NEON’s interim CEO and president said her family wants her to move on and come back to them.
“My family is trying to talk me out of it,” she said. “Is my family angry at me? Absolutely. They’re reading me the riot act – ‘how dare you?’”
Pheanious has been working to right NEON for 18 months. Last week was a vacation week for her, she said, and she got an earful.
“My son and my husband let me understand how much I have taken away from them,” she said, explaining that she had missed birthdays, failed to return phone calls and lost track of Facebook. “They’re all telling me you’ve got to make changes.”
Family members have asked how she could have written them off for 18 months,” she said.
“That’s a damn good question,” she said.
She has never experienced such a heartbreak in her professional career as she has working at NEON, she said. The politics of Norwalk bewilder her, and she feels for the people who need help, she said.
“My husband has seen me cry real tears over this at night,” she said. “He’s seen how hard I’ve worked to try to continue these services.”
Pheanious said her dream of creating a NEON University is the least of what she was planning to do as a volunteer for NEON. She’ll continue to help the board, but she’s not sure she’s going to go at it full tilt.
“I will continue to do what I can as asked,” she said. “There’s a lot of things that need to be done.”
She is proud the agency continued to offer services through all of the hardships and challenges, including Superstorm Sandy.
“Am I saying the agency is perfect? No, nobody and nothing is perfect, but given where it started from, I think we’ve come a long way,” she said.
The people have been worth the effort, she said, and she’ll volunteer as much as possible.
“I don’t want to die trying, but I’ll come as close as my family will let me,” she said. “It’s been a hell of an 18 months.”