MITCHELLVILLE – When Mary Armstead interned with St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth and Families in Hyattsville during high school, she carried out various duties such as ensuring the cleanliness and orderliness the toddler playing areas. During that time, she particularly noticed the nurturing care the nuns took in their work with the children.
“I was so struck by the compassion and special care those sisters took in nurturing and caring for those toddlers. It was as if they were their own,” Armstead, a Mitchellville resident, said.
Years passed. She began and completed a career with the National Institutes of Health. Not long after, Armstead’s retirement, someone contacted her to see if she would be interested in joining the Board of Directors for St. Ann’s.
“The memories of those initial impressions I had as a teen came rushing back,” Armstead said.
St. Ann’s was founded in 1860 by the Daughters of Charity, a Catholic religious order, to support vulnerable mothers, children and families living in poverty. Today, the center offers services such as teen mother-baby programs, supportive and transitional housing, clinical and social work services, education and employment programs and a child care center.
Forty-four mothers and 51 children stayed at St. Ann’s during the fiscal year of 2017. During that same time, St. Ann’s provided food, clothing, and other resources to 225.
When Armstead was offered a spot on the board, her “natural inclination to do service” her parents instilled in her at a young age inspired her to accept the position.
She began sitting on the board in September 2014. Or, rather, she launched herself into helping out and serving others and learning more about the organization in September 2014.
“To make your role as a board member effective and worthwhile, you can’t simply just sit on the board,” Armstead said. “You must bring forth your experience, your talents through active work on the board. And in doing so, one gains a deeper understanding of the organization's mission, its operations, its community, i.e. those served and those who support the organization, and the organization's challenges.
"As that understanding is gradually gained over time, then one becomes better positioned to provide the type of service probably expected when you initially were asked to join the board. That's an astounding thing for me, because I thought I was going to sit on a board. It's just so much richer when you're actively involved, because you are actively learning, and then you're able to produce and contribute."
Armstead does not merely sit on the board. Not only does she serve as the board’s secretary, but she also has participated in plentiful committees. These include the Development Committee, Productivity and Continuous Improvement Committee, the Strategic Planning Initiative and an ad hoc Facility Committee.
An active organizer and administrator, Armstead’s work with this organization hits all three points on the "passions, values and talents" triangle.
Armstead said one strong draw to the organization is its mission. St. Ann’s mission is to “strengthen and support families on their journey toward stability. Inspired by Catholic social teaching and Gospel values, St. Ann’s Center provides a nurturing community where families heal from the past, overcome barriers and take hold of their future.”
“How can you not get excited about that?” Armstead asked. “...I have observed St. Ann’s (staff) nurture these young mothers. I’m honored to be part of an organization that includes ‘nurturing’ as part of their values. That’s what excites me."
“It’s the idea that through deliberation, decision making and action as a board member I can actually contribute to helping a mother – and by extension, her family – get over a rough patch or help them break a cycle that’s serving as a barrier to a much more improved quality of life,” said Armstead.