For Patti Simpson, altruism isn't a part-time effort. It's a way of life, one she said she grew up with.
"My father was super generous, my mother volunteered at the hospital," she said. "We just gave when we could."
The Setauket mother of three got her start in volunteering in the Three Village community when her oldest son, now 17, was in elementary school at .
Steve Riberdy, Nassakeag's social worker, said Simpson is the major force behind the wild success of an annual wish list toy drive that benefits needy families.
"It’s not a limited effort on her part," Riberdy said. "It’s wonderful to have her in the community. She has this generous heart and she looks to help."
Simpson's roster of volunteer activities continues: she teaches religion for her daughter's class at St. James, where she said she has also helped keep contributions coming in to the Our Daily Bread food pantry. She recently helped organize hospitalized at Stony Brook Children's Hospital. She has done work with , Parents for Megan's Law, and Friends of Karen.
Simpson, a local resident since 1998, is also a substitute teacher in the Three Village school district who more recently has been taking care of her sister, who has ALS.
She is also well known in the community as one of the sponsors who nominated the Lutz family to via the ABC television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
Simpson said she met the Lutz family in 2001 following a Newsday article about the family. Since then, she has organized fundraisers as well as weekly neighborhood cooking nights for the family.
Kathleen Lutz said in an interview Wednesday that Simpson has done so many wonderful things for her family that have made all the difference. She called Simpson "woman of the year."
"She's amazing. That's how you describe her. A good heart, really genuine," Lutz said. "She does everything she can for the community ... I don't know how she does it."
But Simpson often shies away from the limelight, saying she doesn't want overt credit for the things she does – and was reluctant to sit down for an interview with Patch.
"I think I was put on this earth to help people," she finally said, when asked what makes her "tick." "Not that I change their lives, but I hope I can make them a little better."
Editor's Note: "Greatest Person in 3V" is an ongoing series highlighting the people who are the fabric of the Three Village community. To nominate someone for this series, email the editor at email@example.com.