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November 19: Mary Hoodhood
Mary K. Roach Hoodhood: Founder of Kids' Food Basket
Mary Hoodhood created Kids’ Food Basket in 2001 after she learned that local children were digging through the trash looking for food because they hadn’t eaten since their school lunch the day before.
Mary Kathleen Roach Hoodhood
Mary K. Roach Hoodhood was born the youngest of six children and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She earned a degree in education from Michigan State University in 1973. Teaching positions were scarce at the time, so Mary became an administrative assistant for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan. She worked with high school and community college guidance counselors and also the Michigan legislature.
A defining moment of Mary’s life came in May 1980, when she was injured in a car accident, resulting in a C 4-5 spinal cord injury. She has been a wheelchair user ever since. In 1981, Mary married Jeff Hoodhood, who has been her supportive husband for 29 years.
Despite daily physical challenges that require patience, good humor and pluck, Mary’s physical limitations have never prevented her from working and contributing to the community.
The year following her accident, Mary began to volunteer for the Meals on Wheels program at God’s Kitchen, the local soup kitchen. The program delivers meals to the elderly, the mentally and physically challenged, the chronically ill and those recovering from injuries. Mary was hired in 1996 as the Manager of Volunteer Services for Meals on Wheels, and during the next six years she developed two auxiliary programs: Special Delivery, a grocery delivery program; and Total Life Care, a student internship program. During this time Mary also earned her master’s degree in social work from Western Michigan University with a concentration in policy planning and administration.
The program closest to Mary’s heart is one she founded in 2001 in response to stories she heard about local childhood hunger. At its inception, Kids’ Food Basket provided a sack supper to 125 children at three Grand Rapids public schools. Due to Mary’s leadership and inspiration, Kids’ Food Basket currently feeds 3,208 children at 25 area schools. Mary is now the past chair of the board of Kids’ Food Basket and volunteers about 30 hours a week, concentrating on public relations and fund development efforts.
From May 2002 to April 2004 Mary was a community organizer for the Outreach Cooperative and the Manager of Volunteer Services at Disability Advocates of Kent County. At the same time, Mary’s energy and compassion led to other volunteer positions, including board member at Indian Trails Camp (a specialized camp for people with disabilities), member of the Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory Committee for the City of Grand Rapids, member of the Advisory Board for the Kent County Juvenile Court, Citizen’s Representative to the Board for the Kent County Chapter of the American Red Cross, and six-year member of the Community Relations Commission for the City of Grand Rapids.
Her awards and honors include the Unsung Hero Award given by Wood TV in 1998, The Friend to the Physically Challenged Award from the Ambucs in 2000, the YWCA Tribute Award in the professional category in 2000, a Black Belt from the Western Michigan Tae Kwon Do Association in 2006, inclusion in The Grand Rapids Business Journal 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan, and The U.S. Presidential Citizens Medal in 2010.
Mary continues to be a strong and respected voice for the physically challenged.