Meet Mary: Volunteer Ambassador and Difference-Maker
In this installment of Wider Circle’s Member Spotlight series, our editorial team had a chance to chat with Mary Ransom of Millbrae, California. A Wider Circle member-turned-ambassador, Mary has been a passionate leader for her San Francisco Peninsula chapter since 2018, currently dedicating all of her spare time to lend a helping hand and ear to her fellow neighbors in need during the pandemic. Find out why Mary’s favorite activity — besides baseball — involves toilet paper and hand sanitizer!
Mary, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today! Before we dive in and learn about what you have been up to lately, tell us what inspired you to get involved with Wider Circle?
Three years ago, I received a phone call through my health plan asking if I’d be interested in attending an informational meeting about Wider Circle. I didn’t know what to expect, but I like investigating new things so I decided to sign up for the [Connect for Life] program. I met with the same group each time and we began to learn more about each other and just naturally formed friendships.
I really liked the different events Wider Circle offered, especially the potlucks where we would all bring foods that represented our different cultures and backgrounds, and the small group events where we would learn about different health topics. A lot of people were very lonely and they really looked forward to the meetings. I decided I wanted to help other folks like me benefit from the program so when Wider Circle asked me if I would become a Member Ambassador and help spread the word in my community, I said: “Of course! As long as it doesn’t interfere with my baseball!”
“If fellow members need help with other things like getting signed up with our food bank partner [Second Harvest], or scheduling doctor’s appointments, we’ll connect them to the right people at Wider Circle who can help. If I can help them I will, if I can’t I will find out the answer. There is always someone at Wider Circle who knows how to help.”Mary
Now fast forward three years later. Not only are you the vice president of your local chapter’s ambassador program, but you have helped continue the mission of Wider Circle even during this unprecedented pandemic. Tell us more!
When the pandemic struck, there were so many Wider Circle members and other seniors in our communities who needed supplies but they couldn’t get them. So I, along with other ambassadors, started distribution events at different locations in my area. And if someone didn’t have transportation, we’d go and pick them up.
Since we can’t gather through our usual in-person events yet, just knowing that we were there for them with the supplies and a friendly face to ask how they are doing, they really liked that.
“There are so many benefits to Wider Circle, it’s impossible to name them all. But the main thing for me is the camaraderie with the other members. We are one big family community and we all try to help one another. That’s why this organization works so well and why I stick with it.”Mary
I can hear the emotion in your voice, and I can tell that you really care about your neighbors, Mary.
Yes, it really is a gift to be able to help others in this way. Some of them are more lonely than ever and they just want to come out and feel connected. More than the supplies themselves, it’s very rewarding to see the smile on their faces – behind masks of course!
Can you share an experience with a neighbor in need that has been especially meaningful for you during COVID-19?
I joined Wider Circle’s buddy program and one of my phone tree recipients had just gotten out of the hospital. He did not have any supplies. I went to the store to buy him what he needed and deliver them to his door. He was so appreciative, we became regular phone buddies, and I continue to check on him to this day. There are many others like this gentleman I’ve gotten to know and continue to check on several times a month. It gives me a sense of purpose and I just really like talking to people and sharing stories. Some are great joke tellers which I love; others can’t get out of the house and I just want to make sure they are OK and see if they need anything.
I heard that you are also helping to educate fellow seniors about the COVID-19 vaccine? Do you have any advice to share?
Yes, I just got my first shot last week. It didn’t hurt at all, not even where they shot me in the arm! If it weren’t for Wider Circle I would have never gotten my shot. Our group facilitator called us with the information of the two locations in our area and I got on my phone tree right away to help spread the word to other senior members who were interested in getting their shots. I think that’s the best thing we can do right now — just share the information we know in our community because the whole process can be confusing. And remind folks to talk with their doctor, of course.
Also, here in California, the Department of Health’s “My Turn” website [https://myturn.ca.gov/] is a great place to find out when and where you can sign up for the vaccine in your community.
Thank you so much for chatting with us, Mary. One final question for you: What are you looking forward to when it’s safe to gather again?
I can’t wait to help organize a Wider Circle-style get-together where I can meet all the new buddies I’ve talked to on the phone, and who have come to the supply distribution events. So many others keep asking when we can do this. I’m also looking forward to going to baseball games again!
The information included in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.