Staff Spotlight: Patrick O’Hagin

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Patrick O’Hagin, Merrowvista Facilities Manager

Patrick O’Hagin is a beloved, mustachioed presence at Merrowvista – and a man of many talents. As Facilities Manager, he makes sure the buildings, grounds, and vehicles are safe and ready for summer and school programs. He’s also a talented musician, creative writer, and a skilled folkdancer.

What do you do as Facilities Manager?

I coordinate the lively dance of opening and closing buildings as they are needed and as the season dictates, while also maintaining buildings in the windows they are not in use. Grounds work takes place as need, season, or staffing requires.

What is the best part of your job?

I enjoy the broad variety of tasks I get to do. One day I may move firewood. On another, I may collect seasonal water system samples for testing or troubleshoot a broken washing machine.

What Merrowvista project have you worked on that you are most proud of?

I am especially pleased with how the Farmhouse renovation turned out. At a year and a half, it was the longest project I have been a part of. It was a nice mix of using my abilities as a builder, and coordinating with contractors to best achieve the new vision for the space. 

How did you first become involved with the AYF?

I learned about the AYF through my better half, Jamie. While dating in college, I quickly figured out that Merrowvista and the friends she made there were very important to her. To get a better idea of what it was all about, I worked there in summer 2006. I was very impressed with how inviting the community was, and I was quickly hooked. 

Why did you want to work for the organization full-time?

My wife was looking at going to grad school in New Hampshire, so we were looking to relocate in 2007. When a full-time facilities job became available, I jumped at the opportunity since I just had a very positive experience the previous summer.

How has the AYF changed since you first arrived? What has stayed the same?

There has been a gradual increase in the number of participants over the years. It is heartening to see a few more campers and a few more school programs every year. COVID has certainly cut back those numbers, but I feel confident that as long as we provide high quality youth development and experiential education, the demand will return once the circumstances are right.

The mission of best self has remained constant throughout my tenure here. It is clear to me that the AYF is committed to living the mission and encouraging its participants and staff members to do the same.

What are some of your favorite AYF memories?

At an AYF Staff Retreat that took place at Miniwanca, we all meticulously created a mandala pattern over several days. Not only was it pleasing to the eye, but I also loved that it represented how we all worked together to create that ephemeral moment. At the end, we swept it up and each received a small portion of the sand in bottles.

I also love cheering the Four Trails and Wayfinder Villages when they make their triumphant return to Merrowvista. There is a sense of great joy, pride, and accomplishment in the air. I find it hard not to shout and whoop until my throat is sore. One special return was when my wife led one of those Four Trails Villages and was away most of the summer. It was great to cheer on the campers and and see my lost lost honey again.

What are some of your favorite things to do outside work?

I enjoy playing music, be it goofy guitar songs so my kids can dance around or old-timey fiddle tunes with my folk group. I find music is a great way to relax at the end of the day, as well as a way to connect with my neighbors.

What is a little-known fact about you?

Growing up in the southern Arizona school system, I had the opportunity to take baile folklórico, or Mexican folk dancing, which counted as P.E. credit for six years. That experience led to another folk dance group with some really neat costumes, including lederhosen!

This year, the AYF welcomed campers back to Merrowvista for the first time in more than a year. How did it feel to see the site back in action?

Seeing the site used as intended was such a relief to me! The site, though rich in natural beauty, was eerie without campers last summer. It was such a joy to hear the campers’ voices around the property and feel the excited energy.

What was the highlight of your summer?

One highlight was seeing the first group of Wayfinder campers embrace the new program goals. I was very impressed with the improvements they made to the grounds and Ledge Shelter. I feel they really rose to the challenge to serve this community.

I also really liked the first circle celebration after the camp tested negative for COVID and was cleared to sing. Hearing the campers and staff sing their hearts out was a true joy.

Where do you see the AYF in 50 years?

I envision it thriving as a mission-driven organization, still teaching the ideals of best self and balanced living. I don’t think we will have any programs in outer space by then, but as the organization is always striving, I hope we will be serving youth from more communities.