Mary L. McDonald

Mansfield's Mary L. McDonald was inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizen Hall of Fame on May 30.

ONTARIO -- Mansfield's Mary L. McDonald was inducted Thursday into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame at the Ohio Statehouse Atrium in Columbus.

McDonald was honored for her lifelong dedication to the aging network and the Richland County community, with emphasis on her work as senior center director of the Friendship Center in the 1980s and 1990s and her current role as founder and director of the senior group, “Yes We Can Seniors.”

Since 1977, the Ohio Department of Aging has inducted more than 450 individuals into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame for “contributions toward the benefit of humankind after age 60, or for a continuation of efforts begun before that age.”

The inductees were honored by Ohio Department of Aging Interim Director Beverley Laubert and Vice President of the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging Duana Patton.

McDonald gave credit to the senior citizens she had served throughout her life in her acceptance speech.

“You can’t travel this journey alone. It takes team spirit. And I was truly blessed to have just that,” said McDonald. “So, I do truly accept this honor on their behalf.”

In addition to her work with older adults, McDonald has served on numerous boards, including United Way, Mansfield Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program,

Alzheimer’s Association, Neighborhood Watch Leaders, Citizen Participation Committee, the Board of Elections, and MRM Affordable Housing. She also served as the Mansfield Ohio American Business Women’s Association Hospitality chairperson, and was on the board of Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging for six years.

McDonald still runs an Alzheimer’s grief support group and continues to attend Providence Baptist Church, where she has been a member for 62 years. But perhaps her greatest joy comes in part during the three days a week she continues to work for "Yes We Can Seniors,” where she leads members in providing health screenings and referral services and collaborates with organizations in the community.

Members also remain active in the community by supporting local levies, attending and promoting senior events, raising funds for charitable organizations and providing services and supports for other seniors.

Visit http://aging.ohio.gov/halloffame for more information on the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame and to view all inductee bios.

Mary McDonald

Throughout her life, Mary L. McDonald has demonstrated her strength, patience and passion to help others as an advocate and a visionary leader. Her career put her in a position to change the lives of many in her Mansfield community, especially older adults, for whom she has provided opportunities and resource so that they may continue to thrive and contribute.

Her career put McDonald in a position to change the lives of many in her Mansfield community. Her service to seniors began in 1975, after her husband passed away and she raised her two children as a single mother. She applied to work with the Mansfield Community Action Senior Outreach Program. While she didn’t have social work experience, her prospective employers were impressed by her extensive church service and decided to give her a chance.

A year later, she was named project director by the board of trustees. The board applied for and won a grant under the leadership of Paul A. Stillwell for the construction of a senior center. The Friendship Center opened in 1978 with McDonald as its director.

Under her leadership, the center connected area seniors with available services, such as home delivered and congregate meals, and collaborated with other agencies in Richland County to identify and fill service gaps. The Friendship Center provided a variety of creative outlets for seniors, including crafts, male chorus, bible study, bingo and an award-winning garden program.

It was also a place of learning for future leaders in the aging field, with college students often completing their practical curricula there. She remained at the helm for 20 years, retiring in 1998 to care for her ailing mother.

McDonald implemented a new senior group and formed 'Yes We Can Seniors.' After her mother passed away in 2000, McDonald began volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association and started a support group at her church.

When she decided to return to the workforce, she sought out Experience Works, an organization she knew from her time at the center, for help. Experience Works provides on-the-job training opportunities for older adults by placing them with nonprofit organizations. Based on her background and her passions, she insisted she be placed with organizations that served seniors as their primary focus.

When McDonald learned that the Friendship Center had lost its funding and had to close, she sprung to action to address the void that was created. Under Central City Economic Development, she implemented a new senior group and formed "Yes We Can Seniors." The group got a permanent home in 2010, when the City of Mansfield donated the city’s armory to the Mary McLeod-Bethune Intervention and Enrichment Center, which hosts "Yes We Can Seniors."

"Yes We Can Seniors" provides health screenings and referral services and collaborates with organizations in the community, just as the Friendship Center did four decades ago, but it is completely independent and self-funding. It serves elders in the community whose parents had been members of the previous center.

Members remain active in the community by supporting local levies, attending and promoting senior events, raising funds for charitable organizations and providing services and supports for other seniors.

McDonald has served on the boards of many local organizations.Mrs. McDonald has served on the boards of many local organizations, including United Way, Mansfield Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program, Alzheimer’s Association, Neighborhood Watch Leaders, Citizen Participation Committee, the Board of Elections, and MRM Affordable Housing.

She served as the Mansfield Ohio American Business Women’s Association Hospitality chairperson, and was on the board of Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging for six years.

Her service has been honored many times. The American Business Women’s Association named Mrs. McDonald “Woman of the Year” in 2000. The Midwest Affordable Housing Management Association gave her its Award of Achievement in 2003.

She has received commendations for her career and service by local and state leaders, including being named Outstanding Senior Citizen by the Richland County Commissioner. The Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging presented her with the Outstanding Senior Award in 2006. In April 2018, she was given the Lifetime Membership Award by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) unit 3190.

Today, Mrs. McDonald remains active in the Alzheimer’s grief support group and Providence Baptist Church, where she has been a member for 62 years. But perhaps her greatest joy comes in part during the three days a week she continues to work for "Yes We Can Seniors."

This Solutions Journalism story is brought to you in part by the generous support of our Newsroom Partners: Spherion, Visiting Nurses Association, PR Machine Works, Nanogate/Jay Systems, DRM Productions, OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, Richland Bank, Mechanics Bank, Area Agency on Aging, and many others. To learn more about Solutions Journalism at Richland Source click the "About Solutions Journalism."