RICHMOND, Va. -- If you dial the number of one particular Richmond non-profit, a welcoming voice will always be on the other end.
Pat Tomlinson greets callers and visitors like friends, yet she can’t tell you what anyone looks like.
“I visualize a lot of things in my head a lot of times,” Tomlinson said. “I’ve been blind since birth. I’ve never had vision.”
Tomlinson, or P.T. as she is known, is considered the face of Soar 365.
“It really is more than a job for me. It really is,” P.T. said. “I tell people I have the biggest office in the building."
The organization provides people with disabilities opportunities like job training and support to succeed in life.
P.T. trained as a receptionist with Soar in 1980 and hasn’t left.
“As time went on I realized ‘hey, this is my calling,” she said. “Soar 365 is my life. It is my top priority. It really is more than a job for me. It really is.”
Navigating life in a sighted world has presented challenges, but don’t tell P.T. she isn’t able.
“That is a game that Patricia Tomlinson does not play,” P.T. said. “I may not accomplish that goal that they wanted me to accomplish that day but trust me when I tell you I’m going to work on it till I get it right.”
P.T. is so dedicated to her job she rarely takes any time off.
“I don’t mind being here all day. I don’t mind at all. Keeps my mind occupied. I’m busy,” she said.
Kimberly Watson worked with P.T. for 37 years before recently retiring.
“Patricia is one special person. And I am so blessed to know her,” Kimberly said. “She doesn’t quit. Ever. She gives it her all. She is the perfect person for this organization.”
P.T. makes it a point to arrive with a smile each day.
“Because I want to look at my life in a positive note,” P.T. said. “If I can show the world I have a disability hey it’s OK. I can still function in the real world.”
Danny Kenyon said his 65-year-old colleague is the perfect role model for Soar clients and coworkers.
“I’ve never seen P.T. ever flustered or angry about anything,” Kenyon said. “P.T. is probably the kindest, sweetest person you’d ever meet. She sees the good in everybody and everything.”
When you reach retirement age many people walk away from their 9 to 5. Not Ms. Pat.
“Soar 365 is my life. I love this job. I wouldn’t want to do any other job,” P.T. said.
She has no intention of hanging up for good any time soon.
“The day Patricia leaves this organization when she decides it is time to retire I don’t think she’ll be replaceable,” Watson said.
“I want the world to be a happy place. Happy, Happy, Happy! Every day all day long," P.T. said.
When she is not at work, Pat is usually cheering on her favorite teams Virginia basketball and her beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.
Don’t try to call her on the phone during a game. She doesn’t answer.
P.T. will celebrate her 42nd year at Soar 365 on April 1.
Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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