Mary Nelson has proven that the efforts of one individual can and DOES make a difference. Since 2002 Mary has put together a total volunteer program that provides backpacks to area children before the start of school each Fall. She does it by throwing a big community involved barbecue and joyous event. This past year 19,000 backpacks with new school supplies were given out to children. The give away is now under the Mary Nelson Youth Foundation which also provides before and after school care including snacks and tutoring and so much more.
3 Reasons to believe in Mary Nelson
1. Collaboration of Partners
Mary Nelson has mobilized an incredible amount of support for her vision. For example, Believe in Syracuse co-award winner, Say Yes has donated nearly 1,000 backpacks for the event and manned booths to explain their mission. Major donors have included National Grid, Abundant Life Christian Center, c & D Laface Construction, DeWitt Community Church, DOT Foods, Endeavor Entertainment, The Hartford Insurance Company, Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation, and Stickley Furniture Store, Widewaters Financial Services and Area Hospitals.
2. Focus on the Children and Stopping Violence
Nothing demoralizes a community more than constant violence in their streets. After hitting too close to home, Mary had experienced this first hand with the loss of a family member in Syracuse in June of 2002, she decided to take action. And take action she did. That year she got every single donation herself and provided all the barbeque food from her own paycheck. That year 850 children showed up and left with backpacks and school supplies. The community center has become an oasis where children can go to feel safe, get something to eat and help with their homework. Mary works full time and is the mother of 4 adult children and legal guardian of 5 other children. Oprah Winfrey called her a “warrior for children.”
3. Consistent and Persistent Effort
Mary Nelson has grown the initial backpack giveaway into a full fledged 501C3 nonprofit organization with a board of directors. For 13 years she has networked, donated her time and her money to see something positive happen at the end of every summer for nearly 20,000 children. All of this she has done despite personal loss of a nephew and brother to street violence. She is not giving up hope – she is hope!
We're two years in. This is a milestone for us but more importantly it's a milestone for you. You make Believe in Syracuse what it is and what it will be.
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