RUMFORD — Patty Duguay is preparing to leave her position as executive director of the River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition in a few weeks to enjoy retirement with her husband.

“We want to drive the entire coast of Maine,” the 58-year-old Byron resident said. She also wants to fly over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter.

Her husband, David, an Oxford County commissioner, retired as manager of a Hannaford supermarket two years ago.

Patty Duguay began her career with the River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition after a series of community meetings about the area’s air quality and its possible effect on people in 1997.

In nearly 20 years, the coalition has grown to include many health programs.

Duguay has supervised as many as 11 staffers during her nearly 20 years as executive director. She began working 15 hours a week without an office.

Over the years, the coalition has taken major steps to reduce tobacco use, especially among young people, and deal with many other health issues facing the area. Prior to leading the coalition, she was the recycling coordinator for the area.

“I went to college not knowing what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to make change,” she said. “I was seeing how things were and knew they could be better.”

When the Environmental Protection Agency gave the coalition $25,000, Duguay said, she knew she could help make positive changes.

Over the years, the coalition has spearheaded many health-related projects, such as a community garden, classes on how to cook fresh foods, hazardous waste collections and dental sealant programs for children.

As Duguay prepares to leave her position in a few weeks, she is working on a program to collect and compost food waste.

“There’s a lot we want to do and see. We don’t know what’s around the corner,” she said.

She plans to keep her hand in the oral health project, especially for pregnant women without access to dental care.

“The (River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition) is going strong,” she said. “During the transition, I hope everyone will support it. There’s a real need for an organization like this in the community.”


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