Honoring 100 for the 100th: Pat Fennell

Patricia Breihl Fennell, MSW, ACSW, is the executive director of the Latino Community Development Agency in Oklahoma City, which she founded in 1991. She is the past president of NASW-OK, was the Oklahoma Social Worker of the Year, and has served on the NASW Insurance Trust for the past six years. While she is influential on the state level, Patricia is also a national leader of Latinos, serving on the board of the National Council of La Raza. In this time of emphasis on immigration issues, she plays an important role as a social worker and as a native of Ecuador.

Among her professional achievements, Patricia is especially proud of starting the Latino Community Development Agency (LCDA) 15 years ago. At that time, there was no agency in Oklahoma targeting services to the growing Latino population. With the help of many people and an initial grant of $42,000, Patricia started the LCDA. Today, the LCDA has a staff of 42 employees, a board of directors, and offers 23 different programs for children, youth, and families.

Through the LCDA, the Riverside Community Center was created. It is a multiservice, multiagency center where all types of educational, recreational, health, and preventive services are offered. The Riverside Community Center was featured at the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future held in Philadelphia in 1997 “as one of 50 outstanding programs in the United States.” The LCDA has evolved to be the main voice for and with the Latino community in Oklahoma.

Patricia believes the biggest challenge facing social work is that many social workers are reaching retirement age, and helping professionals are not recruiting sufficient members of the younger generation into the field. Social workers must think strategically about what the profession needs to do to attract young, new members to replace those reaching retirement. Related to this challenge is the fact that the diversity in the country is dramatically increasing. Patricia is concerned that not only do helping professionals need to recruit new members into social work, but these professionals also need to do a better job recruiting more minority members into the profession.

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