Mark and Mary O’ Riley have been recognized as the 2018 Creston Chamber of Commerce Citizens of the Year. Together, they run the Creston Area Food Pantry, where people can go to get food assistance once a week when times are lean.
Comments from people who nominated Mark and Mary talk about their selfless and giving nature, and how they are always willing to help those in need.
“They give a lot of their time and money to a lot of organizations,” said Ron Riley who volunteers from time to time at the food pantry.
Mary is the pastor at Prescott United Church Disciples of Christ in Prescott, and through her clergy associations she provides services for everything from weddings and funerals to providing services to nursing homes. She is also involved with the Union County Food Coalition through MATURA, helping make sure food needs are met for people in the community.
Mark has been involved with the Appalachia Service Project since 2001, and when he’s not driving back and forth to Des Moines with one or two volunteers picking up food for the pantry or assisting at the pantry on Sundays, he spends one week each summer in the Appalachian Mountains doing mission work. He’s also part of the Creston Christmas Basket Fund project.
They both said they are inspired by Mother Teresa who was well known for her kindness and compassion.
“What inspires me to keep doing this is the little old ladies coming through, and they cry when they get their food or give me a hug,” said Mark. “I can’t not do it.”
The motivation to keep going and keep giving can be found in the hearts of Mark and Mary. Although they wish the help they provide wasn’t needed, they are glad to be there when people need them.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Mary.
In the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2018, the food pantry purchased more than 140,000 pounds of food and served 3,634 households. During distribution last Sunday, they provided food to 124 families, and 24 of those families had never visited the food pantry before.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” said Mary. “If that’s what we’re called to do, to be of service to other people, we’re grateful that we’ve had the means to make that possible. There’s a quote that we use in our trainings by Mother Teresa and it says, ‘The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it.’”
Without the help of volunteers and the community, Mark and Mary said they wouldn’t be able to do what they do.
“This definitely is not a Mary and Mark operation,” said Mary. “It’s a community operation. It’s a team effort, and we couldn’t do it without the dedicated volunteers day to day helping out with things. We couldn’t do it without support of the community. The community has been absolutely wonderful.”
“God’s blessed us to be able to do what we need to do, and then God has spread that to other people,” added Mark. “We’ve got five different churches that support this place besides organizations, and without those we couldn’t operate.”
They didn’t know they had been nominated until they got a phone call from Rich Paulsen at the Creston News Advertiser informing them of the recognition, and still, they are humble in their acceptance.
“It’s not about us,” said Mary, fighting back tears. “It’s about the team that makes this place go. The board of directors, the many dedicated volunteers, the community. It’s just all a family effort.”
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PAST CITIZEN OF THE YEAR WINNERS
2017 — Mycale Downey
2016 — Roger Lanning
2015 — Curt Turner
2014 — Arlan Biere
2013 — Denny Abel
2012 — Gary Borcherding and John Kawa
2011 — Martha Musmaker
2010 — Darwin West
2009 — Bob and Betty Jungst
2008 — Flossie Roberts
2007 — Jack Keuter
2006 — Vaughn Seckington
2005 — Dr. Robert Kuhl
2004 — Don Mosman
2003 — Ron Levine
2002 — Ken Hudson
2001 — Ed Ritter
2000 — Tim Kinkade
1999 — Ralph Edwards
1998 — Glen Weaver
1997 — Fannie Luther
1996 — Darlene Loudon
1995 — Galen Zumbach