Long-Time Leader Of Good Neighbor Team Steps Down
One of the dedicated leaders of a community group that helps seniors in West University Place is stepping down from her post, hoping to motivate new volunteers to continue developing the organization.
“Things need to change in order to grow,” said Mary Lee Gray, who helped found the Good Neighbor Team 10 years ago along with five others on the West U. Senior Board. Gray plans to refocus her time towards her lifelong career in art, which has been on the back burner for years. But she will still serve as a Good Neighbor Team volunteer.
Although colleagues describe Gray as a dedicating and kindhearted woman who knows how to motivate people and get things done, Gray herself is not at all interested in tooting her own horn. She prefers to highlight the contributions of all volunteers on the Good Neighbor Team and promote the work they do.
“I think the community, the city needs to know more about what we’ve done,” Gray said. “We’re kind of under the radar and quiet. But I think we’re doing important work for seniors, touching their lives.”
The team consists of 25 to 30 volunteers who reach out to home-bound West U. seniors. They send holiday cards several times per year, visit the seniors to drop off Hurricane preparedness packages and holiday gifts, and they try to make sure seniors know about city services that help with transportation and grocery shopping. A special group of volunteers will even help fix a squeaky screen door or do yard work.
“Many of these people don’t have relatives close, and they just need somebody that might be of assistance to them,” said Dorothy Zink, who served as co-chair with Gray but will now lead the group alone.
Zink said she can lead the team without Gray — she still has a dedicated group of volunteers. But the Good Neighbor Team has benefited greatly from Gray’s leadership.
“I think she wants to make a difference. You can’t accomplish anything sitting there — You have to get up and do it,” Zink said. “When you’re doing something, she’s got an outline, she’s got it ready to go. She knows exactly what she wants to accomplish.”
West U. Senior Service Manager Toby Brooks, who worked closely with Gray for about five years, also depended her can-do attitude.
“She looks at it as if it were one of her sisters or her mother, and she wouldn’t want them to be forgotten,” Brooks said. “I know I can still call upon her if needed. But I will call on some others more strongly. In the past I’d probably call her first.”
Gray will devote her extra time to her artwork. Before retiring she devoted her professional life to art education, teaching all grades from kindergarten through college during her career. The entire time she expressed her own creativity using the medium of print making.
“I use visual images as a means of saying something else about relationships and our lives,” Gray said. Her art will continue to be displayed each month at the Archway Gallery, an artist’s co-op at 2305 Dunlavy.
“I guess I am excited,” she said. “I’m interested in the challenge of it. I’m enjoying doing it.”