Mary Hancock has been at the YMCA for 20 years, welcoming guests and changing lives every single day.
On any given day, if you walk into the J. Douglas Williams YMCA Family Center off Longwood Lake Mary Road, you’ll most likely be greeted by the beaming smile and welcoming eyes of Mary Hancock. With her impossibly upbeat personality, Mary is known around town as the one lady who can brighten your day – guaranteed.
This year, Mary is reaching a major milestone at the YMCA, her 20th anniversary at the Lake Mary location. And true to her character, Mary is passing on the personal praise and using her watershed moment as an opportunity to help others. To commemorate her 20 years at the Y, Mary is on a mission to raise $20,000 for the YMCA’s annual scholarship fund. The money will go directly to local families in need by reducing or eliminating the costs of sports and swim programs for kids.
Mary joined the Y in 1996 with her husband and three daughters and eventually became a full-time staff member three years later. Today, she serves as the membership coordinator and resident cheerleader for all who’ve come to know her. Mary touches lives in big and small ways and encourages people along their fitness journeys. A pillar of strength for many during difficult times, she is always ready and willing to lend a helping hand and offer prayers. Needless to say, Mary often veers from her formal job description to serve others.
“I have personally witnessed the positive impact the Y has had on so many individuals and families in our community, and I’m proud to be a part of that,” says Mary. “It is especially rewarding as people in need come in, afraid to ask for help, but immediately feel comforted that they have found a safe place to share their struggles. I can help them because the Y gives me that opportunity.”
Mary may be modest about her own selfless service, but there are many fans out there who jump at the chance to sing her praises.
“Mary is the heart of the Y,” says Roxane Mann, a longtime gym instructor and the owner of Walk on Water Boutique in Lake Mary. “No matter what people are going through, she brings great joy to everyone she comes into contact with.”
“She has a gift for remembering people’s names,” Cyd Frank, a YMCA board member, adds with a smile. “In an age where people are so busy all the time, Mary makes it a point to know everybody’s story. Her smile speaks volumes, and she goes way above and beyond to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Whether it’s a birthday, wedding, birth of a child, or even a graduation, Mary loves celebrating people’s happiest moments. If a member is feeling down or under the weather, a Mary hug is always an option, says YMCA executive director Debbie Quick.
Mary invites homeless people to share her family holiday meals, helps families cope with the loss of a loved one, and starts staff fundraisers to support families and children in need. This past holiday season, Mary helped a young family that had recently lost a parent by subsidizing their gym membership and asking the Y staff to adopt the family for Christmas.
Debbie puts it simply: “She is just such a special person.”
“She’s always there and has never told me no when I asked for help,” says Jennie, a local woman, now 67, who met Mary several years ago while battling homelessness. “She’s done so much for me, like when I was sick and needed surgery, she was there. When my Social Security card was stolen, she was there. When I locked my keys in my car, she was there and helped me pay for things. This woman is like an angel from heaven. When she goes to heaven, she deserves the best of everything. If I ever win the lottery, it’s gonna go to Mary. I owe her my life.”
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