Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Bell Keeps the Work Flowing

volunteer spotlight

Now fully vaccinated, Mary and Raechel enjoy a brief outdoor visit.

A Volunteer Spotlight by Donor Intake Coordinator Raechel Hackney

Mary Bell was one of the first people I met when I moved to the Boston area 18 years ago.  We became co-workers and friends when I joined the small lactation consulting business in Newton where she worked. In addition to managing the office, she provided follow-up phone support and education to the breastfeeding mothers we saw. Ten years later, as the business was gradually closing, Mary retired, and at that time I was working at Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast.

A few years after Mary’s retirement, I asked her if she would be willing to lend some time at the milk bank. Given her passion for breastfeeding and her love of babies, she didn’t hesitate. Like so many of our volunteers, Mary’s help has been invaluable. The milk bank has always depended on our volunteers—indeed, without their time and effort, the milk bank would not be where it is today!

Mary became one of our most dependable volunteers, coming in once a week to help out where needed—filing charts, helping prepare our thank you certificates, putting together educational material, stuffing annual appeal envelopes, and labeling bottles (not her favorite task).

Volunteering during the pandemic

When the pandemic shut things down, our volunteers were not able to come into the office. But the amount of work didn’t slow down and the need to get donor milk out to hospitals and recipients remained steady. Mary and I worked out a system to keep the work flowing to her, while keeping us both safe. Her house was on my way home from the office, so starting a year ago, I began leaving work for her on her screened-in porch. A few days later, I would pick up the finished packets and files. We got to stay in touch with our distanced and masked conversations. She would occasionally leave me cookies and I would include chocolates or a New Yorker cartoon with the weekly assignments.

Both Mary and her husband, Bill, have been long-time Newton residents and contribute their time to the local community in many ways. Mary has done work with the Newton Conservators, an organization that helps protect and preserve open spaces in Newton. Bill has volunteered many hours at the local library, and in the past year Mary persuaded him to help with some of the paperwork that I sent her way.

In a challenging year, Mary both welcomed a new grandson into her family and helped countless other babies by volunteering her time and energy to Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast. We are deeply grateful to her and to our other volunteers and look forward to the time when we can welcome them back into the office.

Learn more about volunteering at the milk bank.