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Friends hold fundraiser for community activist

Bill Pacheco, described by friends as a tireless community activist who took on important issues like education for immigrant children and affordable housing, needs help of his own after years of giving to the community.

Pacheco was a banker who has supported a number of worthy community projects over a long career. Friends said he also gave of himself as Board of Education employee who worked with students learning English, a community advocate who stood up for those being neglected or mistreated, and a political insider as an aide to Ramon Velez.

According to his sister, about nine months ago, Pacheco was diagnosed with Locked-In syndrome. The condition which renders a person awake and aware but unable to move or communicate due to complete paralysis of voluntary muscles in the body, except for the eyes. Just one year ago, Pacheco was at the height of his career at Washington Mutual, which was absorbed by J.P. Morgan Chase, she said.

“He lives with me now and I take care of him,” said Pacheco’s sister Mercedes Seda. “Since nine months ago, when he was first diagnosed with Locked-in syndrome, he has been in seven different hospitals. He suffered two strokes and a heart attack.”

Two hundred friends and supporters attended a fundraiser for Pacheco at the G Bar, located at Grand Concourse and E. 150 Street, on Tuesday, August 11. Pacheco recognized all friends and family, but could only communicate with them by opening and closing his eyes.

“Right now my brother is going to physical, occupational, and speech therapy,” Seda said. “That is a lot better than the initial diagnosis, when we were told the syndrome is usually terminal. We are happy with the turnout at the fundraiser to pay his medical bills. Bill is widely known as a humanitarian.”

Among many supporters was Wilbert Lawton, director of community relations for Mount Hope Housing Company.

“I met Bill years ago when we were trying to get grant money for our youth program,” Lawton said. “We relied on him, and he came through. That is why others and myself worked so hard putting this fundraiser together. He very much deserves this; Bill is well-known and loved in the Bronx.”

Community Board 5 district manager Xavier Rodriguez praised Pacheco, who was active in two different boards.

“I have known Bill for 25 years. Besides being a community activist and advocate for economic development, he really cares about people,” Rodriguez said. “I am thrilled to be here with his extended family. We wish him the best and hope that he gets well real soon.”

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