Patti Collins finds her own rhythm in giving back

Patti Collins with one of the Grooveminte Girls

Patti Collins with one of the Grooveminte Girls

Patti’s groove is in giving back

Patti Collins is between business calls and picking up her grandson at preschool. She is dressed in red boots and a pink hat. The wife of “bring on the funk” musician Bootsy Collins, she is quick to laugh and quick to get to the point: “I am married to a legend, but I’m just Patti: a little country girl from New Richmond.”

The daughter of a woman who reminded everyone of Aunt Bee from Andy Griffith’s Mayberry and a father who coached peewee football every evening, Collins said her early years may as well have been in the fictional town. “I did not know black and white. We were one of the only black families, but we were all just family in our town,” she said. “Growing up in New Richmond is what made me who I am today.”

Patti and Bootsy Collins

Patti and Bootsy Collins

Her early passion was for cheerleading. The future BenGal went to Ohio University hoping to cheer there, but she encountered intimidation from an unexpected place.

“There were a lot of black students, and people said I was talking like a white person. I didn’t know what they meant at first,” she recalled. But she knew it wasn’t a compliment. Looking back, she calls it bullying. She transferred to the University of Cincinnati to finish her physical education degree.

Her graduation coincided with the era of aerobics, and Collins started her own studio, juggling motherhood and work. In a local gym, she ended up meeting “William” – Bootsy Collins – a fabulous stage presence with wild sunglasses, hats and platform shoes. Eventually, she became part of the world of the “godfather of funk.” Since 1988, she’s never looked back. 

“It’s been a journey. I learned to go with the flow,” she said. 

Bootsy’s success allowed the couple to give back to community organizations and other efforts. Over dinner one night in 2010, nearly at the same moment, they said, “We should start a foundation.”

 Patti Collins became president of the Bootsy Collins Foundation and heads its community efforts. Grooveminte Girls, one such effort, is built on the hurt Collins experienced in college. The project helps girls become more confident and defend against bullying.

“Helping build that self-esteem is even more important than when I was young,” she said. “Back then, maybe there was a mean note. Now there’s social media – so many ways people can hurt you.”

“Helping build that self-esteem is even more important than when I was young,” she said. “Back then, maybe there was a mean note. Now there’s social media – so many ways people can hurt you.”

The program encourages girls to speak up for themselves and offers pageants designed for girls who might not otherwise enter one. “It’s all about beauty from the inside,” she said. “All these little girls come and tell us about what’s in their heart. It’s amazing.”

The Grooveminte Girls

The Grooveminte Girls

Mary Taylor, who is a part of Grooveminte Girls, described Collins as “a great motivator … (who) goes out of her way to make sure these young girls have what they need to help build them up.”

Collins also supports oral health efforts, her work inspired by a nephew who died at 24 after suffering an untreated tooth infection. In less than 24 hours, the vibrant young man had gone from complaining of pain in an emergency room to a coma and death.

“I found out that there are lots of people who don’t have a dentist, who end up in an emergency room where there may not even be a dentist on call who recognizes what is causing the pain,” Collins said. “I wanted to make sure that never happened to anyone else.”

 The foundation partners with the new Hamilton County Oral Health Coalition – Collins is the co-chair – to educate children through special programs and eventually to work with area providers to reach more patients.

Linda Davis, who works on the oral health initiative, said the Collinses have “allowed a lot of doors to be opened … so (people) can be made aware of dental clinics that will do treatment at low cost or no cost, based on income.”

Collins will continue to follow her passions, which are strengthened by a deep faith and made possible by her husband’s passion for music. “Bootsy lets me just go,” she said. “And then there’s God. I know the Holy Spirit is within me, and I’m just his hands and his feet.”

– By Julie Kemble Borths

More on Patti Collins … 

Family: She and Bootsy have three adult children and 11 grandchildren. Her parents, both 88, live in New Richmond, and her four siblings live in the area.

Fitness: She still does aerobics, although she doesn’t teach, and mixes it up with Pilates.

Music: She grew up loving the Doobie Brothers and Chicago. In her aerobic teaching days, she enjoyed “The Heat is On” and “Body Talk.” Today, she’s thrilled by some Michael Jackson at the gym, but in the car it’s Joel Osteen talks – or music by Bootsy.

A night in: She and Bootsy watch football and boxing, but another favorite is the Cowboy Channel for old westerns. 

A day out: Taking the 1933 Dodge Classic out of the garage and going for a ride, either in the country or through the city neighborhoods where Bootsy grew up. Also, bike riding on the Loveland Trail.

Reading: “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz 

Quote that gets her going: “No rain. No rainbow.”

Holiday tradition: Pumpkin pie from her mother’s recipe. “The secret is to keep the pudding thin. That’s what makes it do what it’s supposed to do.”

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