Mary McHale is extraordinary for her character, personality and wide range of services to the community where she has lived for most of her 76 years. In 1971, she co-founded Sancta Maria and volunteered at the shelter at least two nights a week (in addition to working at her job full-time) and for over twenty years, while continuing to work, Mary has been the volunteer "housemother." In this position she has many duties: Mary spends each night at the shelter, recruits and supervises the volunteers, greets and supervises the guests, provides snacks and breakfast, shops for supplies, makes the beds, does the laundry, cleans the house and overseas the many repairs needed for this old building.
Mary remembers each guest and their particular needs and preferences, keeping their clothes at the shelter when they have nowhere else to keep them, visiting them at the hospital when they are sick, attending their funerals, praying for them, listening to their stories. She remembers everything and buys clothes and special gifts for the guests when they have special events in their lives, especially when they find a place to live, when she buys them things for their new places. This has been for 35 years, meaning that she has known and helped thousands of women.
Many women, unfortunate to remain homeless, return to the shelter each month for years for their week at the "bed and breakfast", to be with Mary, a welcome relief from the more impersonal shelters and from the street. They regard Mary as their best and kindest friend, who will always remember just how they like their coffee, what are their special snacks, and will keep them and their things safe at night.