Director of Hephzibah honored to help children have hope
Congratulating Mary Anne Brown on her awared are (left) Phil Gordon West Cook YMCA board chairman and (right) Jan Pate, YMCA president and CEO. | Contributed photo
Updated: January 7, 2013 6:14AM
River Forest resident Mary Anne Brown has earned numerous accolades during her nearly four-decade tenure running Oak Park’s oldest charitable organization.
Most recently the West Cook YMCA honored Brown — executive director of the Hephzibah Children’s Association — with its inaugural Scott Gaalaas YMCA Partnership Award, named for the organization’s late president and CEO.
She said the award is a testament of strong collaborative efforts to enrich children’s lives, to which the longtime child advocate has dedicated her career.
“Helping children and families sits right with me,” Brown said.
Brown grew up in Florida and moved to Oak Park in 1972 before moving to River Forest in 1980. She has been married to her husband, Max, since 1971, who retired as general counsel of Rush Medical Center. Their son, Cuyler, is married to Julie, and they have three sons: Cuyler, Jr., Harrison and Palmer.
Brown recently answered questions about her life, family and issues facing children today.
Q. What is your favorite community event?
A. Fourth of July.
Q. If you were mayor for the day, what would you do?
A. I would give everybody free parking in Oak Park.
Q. What inspired you to pursue a career in child advocacy?
A. The more I got involved in the mission to help children the more I got excited. I love to read research and try to apply it. I think we’ve been successful. For children to have hope in the future, they have to have power in the present.
Q. What is the top issue affecting today’s youth?
A. There’s a lot of stress in today’s world with parents being underemployed and such a high percentage of people in Illinois who don’t graduate from high school. I think it has a cumulative effect.
Q. What about the Hephzibah Children’s Association makes you proud?
A. Everything. The children, the board members, the parents who are working so hard, the staff. Giving children “ah-ha moments” of what their future is.
Q. What are your future goals?
A. To enjoy my life and everything that’s in it. To continue on the same path I’m on. To make sure Hephzibah stays in good hands, and that we continue to prosper and do well with our mission. I probably won’t ever retire.
Q. What is your greatest professional achievement?
A. When kids come back and say what good memories they have of living at Hephzibah. Or when somebody makes it when they were once discouraged. It’s the little things that add up.
Q .What does the Scott Gaalaas YMCA Partnership Award mean to you?
A. I think it represents Oak Park and River Forest and our partnership. It represents a community that makes good use of resources in hard economic times. None of us are alone and none of us are stranded. You can turn to a neighbor and ask “Can you help me?” We’re a community that is dependent on each other in a good way.
Q. What are you reading?
A. “Steve Jobs: A Biography.” He was a foster child. And “A Chance in the World” by Steve Pemberton of Walgreens about his life in foster care.
Q. What is your favorite movie and why?
A. The movie I like most recently is “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
Q. What’s your favorite vacation destination?
A. Florida. I have family there. We go down for the winter for the Christmas week.
Q. Are you a summer or winter person?
A. Probably a fall person. I like every day. Every day is good for me.