Mary Kearns - Food Resources volunteer gives of herself

April 21, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

Three days a week, Mary Kearns volunteers at the Food Resources Inc. warehouse west of Hagerstown, where she files paperwork, answers the telephone, takes orders and greets clients in the office.

Kearns - who was born with cerebral palsy - easily could be mistaken for a person who would need services rather than someone who provides them. But Kearns doesn't want to be viewed that way.

"I've always tried to push myself," Kearns said. "And my parents didn't baby me, either."

Born and raised in upstate New York, Kearns is the oldest of three sisters. Diagnosed when she was just 1 year old, Kearns, 52, wasn't able to walk until she was 3 years old.

Cerebral palsy is a disorder of the central nervous system resulting from brain damage.

Like most youngsters, her childhood was filled with school and family activities. But she also had to deal with years of therapy.


School was a good time for her, Kearns said, noting that she graduated from high school despite having to walk with crutches.

"I tried to get a job in New York, but was unable to," she said.

After one of her sisters married and moved to Frederick, Md., Kearns moved in with her in the early 1980s. For a while, she was affiliated with a workshop there, where she worked in a laundry.

When her sister moved to Florida, Kearns came to Hagerstown, where she found a job working on a computer at Citicorp. She held that job for 13 years until that department was closed in October 2001.

"The United Cerebral Palsy organization van provided me with transportation to and from work," Kearns said. "They have been very good to me."

For a while after her Citicorp job ended, Kearns said she did nothing, knowing that she could live on her disability allotment. But she found a life of inactivity to be foreign to her nature, and she began looking around for a way to contribute her skills.

Her volunteer work at Food Resources Inc. came about through the local United Cerebral Palsy agency, Kearns said.

"It started in December 2004 with me coming in one day a week from 10 a.m. to noon to do filing," she said.

That quickly expanded to three days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., as per a request from Food Resources Inc.

Each day, Kearns wakes up and gets going right away - that's part of her secret for living a rich, full life, she said.

"I always wanted to do things for myself rather than having someone helping me," she said.

When she arrives at work, Kearns gets off the van using her two arm crutches and walks at her own pace into the Food Resources office.

She begins filing, stuffing envelopes, answering the telephone and whatever else that needs to be done.

"People come in and I help them," she said.

On her days off, Kearns said, she does what many other people do - she cooks her meals, goes shopping, or to the movies and restaurants.

"I also clean my house, which is like anybody else's house, not specially-designed for a disabled person," Kearns said, noting that it is all on one floor for convenience.

Feeling sorry for herself isn't part of Kearns' daily routine.

"I have a good life. Sometimes I think of myself as disabled but not all the time," Kearns said.


Name - Mary Kearns

Address - Hagerstown

Date of birth - Aug. 3, 1953

Occupation - Volunteers at Food Resources Inc.

Most notable achievement - Buying my own house

Your proudest moment - My parents got to see me out in the world living independently

Who is the person you most admire and why? - My parents. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be where I am today.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Who gave it to you? - Never give up. If you ever have a downfall, just continue on. My parents told me that.

What is the next goal you would like to achieve? - I'd like to do some traveling.

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