When Mary Dickerson retired from her position doing cancer research at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in 2009, she decided that volunteering would be a significant part of the next chapter of her life.
First, Mary and her husband, Bob, signed up to deliver Meals on Wheels out of the site located on Parkside Avenue in Buffalo, near her home. Mary also signed up to volunteer at Ladies of Charity thrift store. She works with other women putting together "Fresh Start" packets, a set of basic housewares that someone would need to set up an apartment. Mary said that "By helping a family to get back on their feet, I feel like I am doing something worthwhile. The Fresh Start program gives people who are down a hand up, and so they can begin to move in the right direction. Although the volunteers do not have a chance to meet the individuals who will receive a particular Fresh Start package, we sometimes hear about what led to a family's need for a Fresh Start – fire, domestic violence, or even bedbug infestation. We try to personalize the package that they will find waiting for them when they arrive at the thrift store. For example, a mother and 5 children experienced domestic violence. We found a pretty teapot and some teacups to tuck into the packet for their new home."
I really enjoy working at Ladies of Charity because the people that I work with are very kind. They talk about others only in a positive light. They are the kind of people that I can look up to. They live their beliefs.
Mary also volunteers once a week at Tifft Nature Preserve. She tried out being a tour guide, but found that she prefers helping out with special events– like the Spring EGG-stravaganza where children make crafts, meet live animals, eat refreshments, and dye eggs using natural dyes. "It's fun to be around a bunch of little kids having fun. I get my kid fix!"
Mary also shares her experience and wisdom to improve volunteerism in Erie County as a member of the RSVP Advisory Council.
In June 2014, Mary and Bob had a very serious car accident, and faced long months of recovery. One of Mary's goals was to return to the volunteering that she enjoyed so much – and in October, the volunteers at Ladies of Charity were thrilled to see her walk in the door, ready to get back to work! Patra Mangus, who supervises Mary and other Ladies of Charity volunteers, said that "Mary has an indomitable spirit. She always is pleasant and happy when she comes in. She is a hard worker. And most of all, she has the best eyeglasses!"
– Megan Dye (Tifft)