Volunteer Profile – Mary Gilbreath
When Mary Gilbreath began volunteering for Shepherd Center in 1995, she hoped the experience would help her meet new people and make a meaningful difference in the community. Little did she know then the impact that the hospital would ultimately have on her life.
Today, Mary is well-established in Atlanta with a large community of friends and a rewarding job as managing director of the National Alliance of Private Clubs. Back in 1995, however, she was still relatively new to Atlanta and was looking for ways to make new friends. At the suggestion of a colleague, Mary joined the Shepherd Center’s Junior Committee, a young professionals group that raises funds for the hospital through its annual Derby Day event.
“I thought it would be nice to join a volunteer- oriented group,” Mary says. “Seeing these young people dedicating so much time toward volunteering was refreshing and inspiring.”
Mary was so inspired that she went on to dedicate just as much (if not more) time to volunteering for Shepherd – for more than 16 years to date. After a year of serving on the Junior Committee, Mary began assuming more leadership roles. First, she chaired the Derby Day transportation committee in 1996, then served on its executive committee from 1997 to 2000 and, finally, co-chaired the entire Derby Day event in 2000. That year, Derby Day raised $235,000 for the Center’s therapeutic recreation program.
Through her fundraising and other activities with the Junior Committee, Mary learned about the invaluable difference Shepherd makes in the community. Wanting to continue volunteering for Shepherd, but faced with a busier schedule because of her burgeoning career, she joined Peach Corps, a group geared toward people with families and/or busy professional lives. As a member and an eventual co-chair of Peach Corps, she helped plan two to three smaller-scale events per year, including an ice cream social and a cookout for Shepherd Center patients and their families.
Impressed with Mary’s enthusiasm and dedicated record of service, Shepherd Center invited her to join the Advisory Board in 2005. As a board member, Mary learns about Shepherd’s capital campaign initiatives and other development initiatives and then networks with members of the community in hopes of attracting potential donors to the Center. Shepherd also recently invited her (in 2011) to serve on the executive committee of the Advisory Board. On this committee, Mary works intimately with the other 15 members to review donor prospects and opportunities more closely.
“It’s very meaningful for me to be part of the executive committee because I can see how and where I can make an impact,” Mary says.
Her volunteerism is meaningful to Shepherd Center, as well. “Mary is the kind of person that you can call at the last minute, and she’ll come through with whatever is needed,” says Midge Tracy, director of Volunteer Services. “She’s a joy to work with, and we hope to have her volunteering with us for another 20 years.”
In making friends and making a difference in the community, Mary has more than succeeded in her original mission. In fact, it was through some former Junior Committee friends that she met her fiancé, Hugh Pope, whom she’ll be marrying in her hometown of Savannah, Ga., on Oct. 6, 2012.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.