Sunday Conversation: Patel gives back to his adopted hometown

Sunday, December 21, 2014
Pratik "Pete" Patel is the manager of a local business where he enjoys carrying on the family tradition. (T-G Photo by Derrick Hill)

This week the T-G caught up with Pratik "Pete" Patel, manager of a local business and member of Integrity Visitation and Family Services. If you have a nomination for Sunday Conversation please email editor Sadie Fowler at sfowler@t-g.com.

T-G: Where were you born and where did you grow up?

Patel: I was born in London, England, but only lived there until I was 2. My family moved back to India where we lived until I was 8. At that point we moved to Rhode Island where we lived until I was a junior in high school, which is when we moved to Shelbyville. So, I have done a little bit of growing up in all of these places, but if I had to choose one it would be Rhode Island.

Patel stands in front of the "Cloud Gate" sculpture in Chicago. (Submitted photo)

T-G: Tell us a little about your family.

Patel: My family history is interesting because it embodies how Indians immigrated throughout their history. My parents were born in Africa because after the British left India a lot of Indians, including my grandfathers, moved to Africa (Kenya) because of the economic opportunities.

After Idi Amin came to power and started wrongfully prosecuting Indians, my family along with millions of other Indians left for England where all of my cousins, my sister and I were born. After a short return to India, we moved to the states, which is where Indians are immigrating to now. Most of my extended family is in the U.S. now and do not plan on going anywhere unless things change drastically.

T-G: Tell us a little about your education?

Patel: In India I went to a private Catholic school, even though my family is Hindu. Upon moving to the states I attended public schools until we moved to Tennessee, which is when I attended The Webb School for two years. I went to MTSU for college and have completed my bachelor's in Psychology.

T-G: How did you enjoy attending Webb and being in Bell Buckle?

Patel attending a wedding in traditional Indian garb. (Submitted photo)

Patel: Webb was a one of a kind experience for me. I had never attended such a small school where EVERYONE knew each other by name. It was a refreshing scenario from the public schools I attended in New England. Although it took some getting used to, I got the opportunity to connect with some inspiring people from whom I learned not only how to be a good scholar but also how to be a better person.

T-G: You were active in sports, what sports did you play and coach?

Patel: I played four years of tennis and two years of basketball in high school. I also coached basketball for Webb while I was in college.

T-G: Where do you currently work?

Patel: I currently manage Economy Liquors, which is the family business. I also work for a local non-profit organization I helped start up called Integrity Visitation and Family Services.

T-G: What's your favorite part of the job?

Patel: My family has a long history of successful businesses and it feels good to help carry on that tradition. Even though I didn't go to school for business I feel as if I got my personal education as I have been helping my dad (Virendra "Vic" Patel) with his ventures ever since we moved to the states. Combining the old school business tactics I learned from him, with my modern knowledge [on how] to run a successful small business has been a joy.

Enjoying the breeze aboard a cruise ship to Cozumel, Mexico. (Submitted photo)

T-G: Tell us a little about the non-profit you are involved with. How did it get started and what does it entail?

Patel: Integrity Visitation and Family Services' mission is to provide a bright future for children in crisis by guiding them towards healthy family ties and protecting the essence of their childhood. Our services include supervised visitation/exchanges, parenting classes, drug and alcohol classes and anything else the community may need from a mental health standpoint. We are seeking to serve all of the southern middle Tennessee area.

The organization was started about a year ago and we are lead by our director Leslie Iorio, who is also my mentor. She brought together a group of educators and social workers with an abundance of experience that have dedicated a lot of time and resources to make a positive impact in our community. Even though we are a diverse group of people with different backgrounds we have a common goal and that is what allows us to work together so well.

T-G: What would you like to see happen with the organization?

Patel: Our vision for the future is a happy family in every home. We understand that this is not realistic, but we also know that we can and have to do better. There aren't any organizations providing these needed services in our community so we hope to become a pillar that the public can rely one.

Agencies like DCS, Centerstone, and others are overwhelmed with the amount of cases they have to handle. This leads to poor management of those cases, as there is not enough time and resources dedicated to them. We hope to work with these agencies to relive them of that pressure making the impact we have on the community far greater.

T-G: What are some of your hobbies and interests? Favorite sports team or musician?

Patel: When I do find time between my two jobs I love to just relax with friends and watch a ball game or a movie. Growing up in Rhode Island I am a huge Boston sports fan. I try to visit the Northeast at least once a year and whenever I do I have to catch a Celtics game at the garden or the Sox at Fenway. All in all, it has been a great decade for Boston sports and it does not look like we are slowing down anytime soon, GO PATRIOTS!

Decked out in harnesses and aviators, Patel prepares to climb an artificial cliff. (Submitted photo)

I also love listening to music. Customers are always complimenting me on the music I play in the store and that's likely due to the wide range of music I enjoy. Depending on my mood, you can catch me listening to anything from Jazz to classical Indian music. Some of my favorite musicians are Gorrillaz and A. R. Rahman.

T-G: You have done some traveling. What has been your favorite place to visit and why?

Patel: I always enjoy my trips to New England as nothing beats hanging out with [the] old friends and family that you shared your childhood with. Besides that, I also love going back to India. We still have our house there and it is always fun to visit. The main reason I love going back is because it is the best way to keep in touch with my culture.

T-G: How have you enjoyed being in Shelbyville?

Patel: Shelbyville is like no other place I have ever lived. It has its own charm and has become my third home after Rhode Island and India. My favorite thing about Shelbyville is how tight knit the community is. It is so easy to find resources and connect with other people. More importantly, it is easy to find people who are willing to help.

T-G: You were raised in the Hindu tradition. What are some misconceptions people have about Hinduism?

Patel: Hinduism is a religion with so much depth that a lifetime would not be enough time to truly grasp all of it. That being said it is understandable that people who have never studied it have misconceptions. One is that cows are "holy." This is not true, Hindus simply have a large respect for cows because it has been a resourceful animal throughout our ancestry. A lot of people also have questions about the red dot that Hindus wear on their forehead. Its purpose it to remind one that god is always on their mind, kind of like a yamaka in the Jewish faith.

T-G: If you had one day to live, what would you do and why?

Patel: If I had one day to live I would spend it hanging out with my closest friends and family. I am happiest when I am spending time with them so that is what I would want to do on my last day.

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