Mary Douglas, director of grant administration in Akron Children’s Foundation, learned about volunteerism from her parents. Mary’s 91-year-old mother, who recently passed away, was a lifelong volunteer, serving at Aultman Hospital and the Red Cross and even handmaking over 100 quilts for Akron Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Similarly, Mary’s dad volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. By age 13, Mary followed their lead, becoming a Safety Town volunteer who taught kindergartners safety awareness.
Through her parents, Mary recognized that volunteering benefits the giver and receiver and that philanthropy can come in the form of time, talent and/or treasure. Mary often tapped this knowledge in her role at Children’s, where she wrote grant requests on behalf of health care providers and outreach workers. During her 15 years at Children’s, she wrote 640 grant requests that resulted in nearly $37 million in funding for Akron Children’s programs and equipment.
After working for non-profits and governmental agencies for nearly 4 decades, Mary retires on July 2. She plans to enjoy her family and keep active with gardening, playing pickleball, cooking, kayaking, camping, photography and reading. And, although she’s starting a grant-writing consultancy, Mary intends to stay true to her roots by volunteering as a guardian ad litem for the Stark County Family Court.
What brought you to Children’s?
I worked at the Barberton Health District, where I often wrote grant applications for public health initiatives and funding. Akron Children’s posted a job for a grants coordinator. I had always wanted to work at Children’s. I applied and was hired.
What was going on in your life then?
I was a single parent. I spent a lot of time advocating for my son, Matthew, who has autism spectrum disorder. My daughter, Erin, was getting ready to go to college.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
I started as the grants coordinator before being promoted to director of grants administration. My college undergraduate major, journalism with an advertising concentration, helped greatly in telling Children’s stories. While talking to the person requesting funding, I really listen to what they’re saying and try to capture their passion and its impact on parent-child interactions, improvements in the families’ reported quality of life, etc. The proposals we write are pragmatic, visionary and still tug at the heart strings. We try to focus less on the stats and more on the story of “one,” and the difference a program or piece of equipment makes to the population in question. For instance, one grant we received enabled us to purchase Servo-n ventilators, a type of Servo-n ventilators, where sensors are used to help neonates on ventilators breathe more easily and naturally. Another grant allowed us to add a second year of preschool at Family Child Learning Center for children with autism spectrum disorders.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
I like to think how things I’ve done in my role here have benefited our children and their families. Sometimes, the smallest grants can have the biggest impact for families.
What gave you the most satisfaction at work?
Interacting with the intelligent, caring folks who work here. I feel like I learned something new every day. Also, the volunteering opportunities at work helped me to learn more about the communities we serve.
What’s your most memorable moment at Akron Children’s?
When I received my 10-year service award, Bill Considine (Akron Children’s CEO Emeritus) said complimentary things about me. I learned a lot about professionalism and character from listening to him.
With so many little children here, did someone especially touch your heart?
During the 98.1 KDD Radiothon, I was in the pediatric intensive care unit delivering gifts to patients. The mom of a critically ill teenager asked me to pray for him, which I did. Unfortunately, he died. The experience gave me insight into how fleeting life is, and how truly wonderful our caregivers are.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Embrace the culture. Children’s is an amazing place to work!
What couldn’t you live without?
My husband, children and stepchildren. Also, books. I can’t go a day without reading.
What music do you like? Where and how do you listen to it?
I have an eclectic play list—everything from classical music to folk to pop—and listen to music nearly all day while I’m working. Because of COVID-19 and working from home, I go without headphones and sing along with the music!
What’s the last book your read?
“Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line: A Novel” by Deepa Anappara