Mary Lou Garrett's our heart and soul--and the 2017 T-J Star
By Jim Poole
Mary Lou Garrett is the epitome of Schoharie County caring.
Like many in the area, she volunteers for fine causes. But Ms. Garrett also demonstrates a caring nature in her professional life, daily life, all her life, for us two-legged folks and those with four legs.
That’s why Ms. Garrett, who lives in Cobleskill, is the 2017 Times-Journal Star.
“Mary Lou doesn’t crow about her achievements––not at all,” said T-J Editor Patsy Nicosia, who’s organized the Star project for 26 years.
“I think people will be amazed at what she’s done and is still doing.”
Ms. Garrett is probably best known for two causes: the Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley and the Cobleskill Regional Hospital Auxiliary.
For the Shelter, she was there at the very beginning, working with Gerta Karker. She later volunteered with Shelter standouts Bill and Shirley Shaffer.
Ms. Garrett is the Shelter president––again––and has also been treasurer and secretary. She’s seen the Shelter through rough times and good times, and the good times are now.
“We have the best board we’ve ever had,” Ms. Garrett said. “Everyone gets along, and each member has special talents.”
Ms. Garrett and her partner, Todd Smith, have adopted difficult dogs and cats, and Ms. Garrett cares for them all, at home and in the Shelter.
“I love to go to the Shelter and just sit with the animals,” she said. “I’m so happy and peaceful.”
With the Hospital Auxiliary, Ms. Garrett works with Colleen Benson, manager of volunteer services, and fellow volunteer Barbara Edwards in the coffee shop.
Ms. Garrett and another volunteer, Jeanne Stefanik, organize the hospital’s six Red Cross blood drives. The two make calls and schedule appointments, and Ms. Garrett bakes five dozen cookies.
“My donors come year after year after year,” Ms. Garrett said.
She’s usually one of the Auxiliary members who logs 1,000 or more service hours every year.
The Shelter and Auxiliary are longtime caring causes, but there are others.
Years ago, she volunteered with Schoharie County ARC, collecting donations. She also served on the ARC board and later worked there 16 years before stopping in 2000 to take care of her mother, who had Alzheimer’s.
“I loved them all, loved all the people I worked with,” Ms. Garrett said of her ARC years. “It was fun to go to work every day.”
She also volunteered at the Schoharie County Jail. Ms. Garrett wrote letters for inmates, served as the jail librarian and was also a bail bondsman, standing in court with them.
“Some of the guys I bailed out more than once,” she said with a smile.
There were special moments. One of the inmates needed one English class to get his high school diploma. Ms. Garrett organized his curriculum and coursework.
“When he had his final, I was so nervous,” she said. “But he passed.
“I see him around sometimes. Once he pointed me out to his wife and said, ‘That’s the lady that helped me get my diploma.’ It was so cool!”
Ms. Garrett has also been a Hospice volunteer for 20 years, and she regularly takes elderly neighbors shopping or to appointments.
Professionally, besides her stint at ARC, Ms. Garrett had other jobs in the caring field. She was a foster mother for newborns––“I had six or seven of them”––and also a home health aide.
Both Ms. Garrett and Mr. Smith trace her caring nature to her parents, Dr. Wilhelm Moser and his wife, Catherine. Mr. Smith, who lived near the Mosers’ Central Bridge home and office, was best friends with Ms. Garrett’s younger brother.
“The door was always open,” Mr. Smith said. “They were friendly, caring. . .anyone could come in and sit at the kitchen table.”
Ms. Garrett agreed that her parents taught her that volunteering is an essential responsibility.
“If you live in a free society, you need to give back,” she said. “It’s the nice thing to do. Somebody has to step up and do it.”
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