Mary Herdell began focusing on helping others at an early age. She entered nursing school at 18, believing that she could make a difference in people’s lives. No familial or religious influence directed her belief; she recognized that helping others is its own reward, something that both feels good and is good for her community.
Mary worked with homeless and low-income women for years as a public health nurse on the east coast. Throughout her career, she made home visits to pregnant women, assisted with high-risk pregnancies, gave nursing support to new mothers and their babies, and provided newborn checkups, immunizations, and other medical services. She saw firsthand that these services helped women in need maintain their dignity and health.
After retiring and moving across the country to be closer to her children and grandchildren, Mary was looking for something familiar to ground her in her new environment. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, her search led her to Elizabeth Gregory Home.
Before Mary began volunteering, a longtime EGH volunteer gave her an orientation to the Day Center. Staff also helped her understand the importance of maintaining boundaries, how to handle specific types of issues, and when to call in a staff member for assistance. Thanks to staff and volunteer support, Mary felt prepared to handle any situation that might come her way.
In her volunteer role at the receptionist’s desk, Mary found a way to continue assisting women who are facing homelessness. As the greeter, she is the first person anyone encounters as they walk through the door. A smiling, welcoming face can mean a great deal to someone in need of a meal, a shower, or companionship. Mary says, “I feel every person deserves dignity and acceptance. Everyone at EGH is so good at that… [Homeless women] are not safe; it’s a miracle to have a place like EGH.”
When Mary is not at EGH, other groups benefit from her participation. She volunteers with hospice programs to support people at the end of their lives and as a docent at Dunn Gardens. She also enjoys tending her own P-Patch garden.
Finding a few hours every week to work with EGH has been a fulfilling commitment for Mary, rounding out a full and rewarding life that connects her to many people in her adopted hometown.