This Closet Lifts Spirits With Love and Dignity

Daily Point of Light # 6476 Mar 15, 2019
Working with the Red Cross, Mary O’Farell helped this man and his family after a devastating fire./Courtesy Mary O'Farell

Mary O’Farell takes Matthew 25:36 quite literally.  “I needed clothes and you clothed me,” says that Gospel verse, and since 2011, working with her church at First United Methodist Church in downtown Texarkana, she’s been doing exactly that.  The retired education administrator has volunteered for years, both through the Junior League of Texarkana and Rotary, making history by becoming the first female Rotarian in Texarkana.  The proud grandmother of six wanted to do more when she retired and providing clothing and household goods to families in need and folks in the local homeless community was what spoke to her heart. Whether it’s helping a family who lost everything in a fire or giving homeless people the dignity of making choices for themselves, Mary makes a huge impact on her community.

Mary is committed to making a difference in her community and she is today’s Daily Point of Light Award honoree. Points of Light spoke with her about her commitment to service.

What inspires you to volunteer?                    

I was taught about volunteerism through my family and the examples they set. I was trained as a volunteer through the Junior League of Texarkana.  

Describe your volunteer role.

I currently serve on numerous boards and many of them relate to homelessness and to Mary’s Closet. I founded the Closet in 2011 and it has grown every year – we now have nine rooms in the church.  We partner with the Red Cross to help people when they have a house fire

Mary O’Farell helped this couple outfit a new apartment after a bed bug infestation left them homeless./Courtesy Mary O'Farell

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

The most rewarding part of my work is the hugs that come from the people we help. I have grown in my understanding of homelessness and the “working poor” people in our community. A large percent of the congregation is made up of homeless people and we are in a wonderful location between two shelters.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?                                

I have learned that I live in a very generous community and people are willing to help but just don’t know what to do. It is difficult to understand what little things can mean to someone who has nothing but the clothes they can carryI have learned that each one of us must take responsibility for the well-being of every person in our community especially those who are not just like us. I agree with Margaret Mead who said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.'”

Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?                                                                  

I am excited about finding new grants in my area to help us expand. 

The men’s section of Mary’s Closet offers all kinds of options./Courtesy Mary O'Farell

Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?                                                            

Most of us have been given so much and we often forget that there are people in our community who need so much. 

What do you want people to learn from your story?                                                          

I want people to realize how much need there is in our community and that so many of the things we have around our house that we take for granted can mean the world to someone who has nothing or someone who has just lost everything they owned. 

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Mary? Visit All for Good for local volunteer opportunities.

Brenda Solis