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Volunteer Profile: Mary Kay Howard

Lifetime volunteer helps Shepherd Center in more ways than one can count.

Anyone who knows Mary Kay Howard knows she devotes a lot of time to helping others, especially people at Shepherd Center.

For more than 25 years, she helped students in the Cobb County School District as a special education teacher. And Mary Kay has supported the Georgia Symphony Orchestra in numerous capacities.

It was while teaching that she learned about Shepherd Center through the hospital’s magazine. Impressed with patients’ stories and Shepherd’s work, Mary Kay decided to become a volunteer in 1999.

Inspired by the positive spirits of Shepherd staff members, Mary Kay took a position as a part-time librarian in the hospital’s Noble Learning Resource Center that same year. She worked in the library and helped families and staff with research needs and other tasks until retiring in 2009.

Meanwhile, Mary Kay has continued to volunteer for Shepherd since 1999. A lifetime member of the Shepherd Center Auxiliary, Mary Kay has served as the Auxiliary’s treasurer, in charge of managing the budget and dues collection; membership chair, in charge of current member and new member solicitation efforts; then historian; and, ultimately, president of the Auxiliary.

She has also chaired the Auxiliary’s annual Pecans on Peachtree fundraiser and has participated in many other fundraisers that have resulted in a new suite at the Woodruff Family Residence Center, a new floor in the Livingston Gym, a patient room in the Shepherd Building and other significant renovations.

“Mary Kay has been with us for such a long time that she’s really a part of Shepherd,” says Alex Seblatnigg, CAVS, associate director of Volunteer Services. “She sees where she can contribute and jumps in with both feet. She is one of a kind, and we are really lucky to have her.”

Visitors who pass by the Welcome Desk when they enter the hospital feel lucky to have Mary Kay, too. Volunteering there each Friday morning, Mary Kay serves as the first friendly face that patients, families and others see when they come to Shepherd Center. Not only does Mary Kay answer questions visitors may have, but she also provides great comfort to patients and families who come to the hospital for the first time and who may be feeling anxious.

Gratified by serving Shepherd Center, Mary Kay encourages others to volunteer at the hospital, as well. “If you want to do something that you’ll feel good about doing and that will make someone else feel good,” Mary Kay says, “then volunteer at Shepherd Center.”

Written by Rachel Franco
Photography by Gary Meek

About Shepherd Center

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 neurological 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.