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Caring. Welcoming. Warm. Vibrant. Smart. Funny. Full of life. These are just a few words and phrases that come to mind when remembering Patty Groce, former vice president of Human Relations here at Merritt Group. Patty served the agency for 10 years, bringing countless talented employees through the doors and caring for staff so well. She made a lasting impact on this agency and its culture of working hard, playing hard, and giving back, and is missed each and every day.

That’s why, one year after her passing, Merritt Group has launched a new award to honor her memory and all that she gave to the agency over the years. The Patty Groce Memorial Award is a $1,500 corporate donation funded by the company and given to a charity nominated by one of our employees.  Any employee can nominate a charity that is somehow aligned to the agency’s values, which are a key component of Patty’s legacy. This year, Patty’s family also generously volunteered to match that gift for a total donation of $3,000.

We’re excited to announce that the 2015 inaugural award was given to Three Roots International, an organization that is working to bring families out of poverty in Ethiopia. Merritt Group CEO Alisa Valudes Whyte and Patty’s brother Greg presented the award during our annual holiday breakfast and white elephant gift exchange.

According to the United Nations Development Program, 88% of the Ethiopian population lives in multi-dimensional poverty. To address this critical need, Three Roots helps people live, learn, and earn so that they can thrive outside of this crippling poverty. The organization accomplishes this through three core pillars:

  • Health: To help families stay healthy, Three Roots delivers high-quality health education around common health concerns, empowers community members to become health trainers, and provides direct medical care so that people can live long and healthy lives.
  • Education: Children and adults have the opportunity learn through early childhood, primary, secondary, and literacy education. Three Roots offers a child sponsorship program to cover the costs of school supplies, uniforms, medicine, and more, lowering the barriers to attend school.
  • Income-Generation: The organization also equips men and women to earn a predictable income through business development, savings and vocational skills training. Community members learn how to develop and implement a business idea, manage a business, save money, and more with the support and encouragement of one another.

Merritt Group’s culture encourages employees to pursue personal growth, fosters a collaborative environment, values honest communication and identifying solutions. These tenets are also a part of everything that Three Roots is working to accomplish for community members in Ethiopia.

Three Roots works through a highly-collaborative model with local community members, empowering them to take ownership of their own growth and development. Local community members work with the organization to identify existing resources and assets, as well as critical needs, then help to create solutions that specifically meet those needs. This process ensures that community members are highly involved and gives them ownership over the programs, helping to ensure long-term sustainability.

I was humbled and honored to nominate Three Roots and receive this award on behalf of the organization, where I serve on the leadership team supporting communications and marketing initiatives. The people of Ethiopia are some of the most hospitable, loving, selfless, passionate individuals I have ever met, putting others’ needs first and looking for opportunities to serve, and I was absolutely blown away by their generosity when I had the chance to visit in 2014. Whether serving their finest goat or washing our hands before an elaborate coffee ceremony, they truly care about others and are willing to go the extra mile to show that. Patty embodied so many of these same traits in how she welcomed staff, created a fun culture, and helped employees flourish, and it’s an honor to remember her through this award. This gift will have a direct and life-saving impact for Ethiopian families, helping them to thrive outside of poverty and providing hope for a brighter future!

To learn more about Three Roots and how you can get involved, visit

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