DELPHOS — Mary Jane Mullenhour said she “nearly choked on her food” when she heard on the evening news that she had been selected as the winner of a 2022 Jefferson Prize for Public Service.
“I was totally shocked…speechless,” Mullenhour, 74, said earlier this week of his unexpected award. “I appreciate the nomination, but I’m an actress, not someone who likes to talk about herself.”
The Delphos wife retired 10 years ago from Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center, after 46 years as a nurse in the hospital’s psychiatric unit, continues to this day to volunteer with a handful of mental health-related agencies and organizations.
She spends much of her time at Westwood Behavioral Health in Van Wert, where she has worked part-time since 2013.
She is also a longtime volunteer with the Allen County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services, the agency that nominated her for the Jefferson Prize, and is a volunteer facilitator for the family support group at the National Alliance for Mental Illness in Lima, leading meetings twice. monthly for families of people with mental health issues.
“We educate people that mental illness is not a character flaw; it’s a disease – just like any other disease,” Mullenhour said.
Former board director Mike Schoenhofer said Mullenhour was a sounding board in the development of new programs.
“Mary Jane was a very important part of our whole mental health system,” he said. “She provided critical support to family members of loved ones with mental illness and helped them find the support and treatment they needed.”
The Delphos resident has helped plan the annual Lima Suicide Prevention Walk for years, is an active board member of the Marimor Legacy Foundation and also regularly volunteers at St. John’s Catholic Church in Delphis.
“Mary Jane truly has a servant’s heart. She is well deserving of the Jefferson Prize,” said Esther Baldridge on behalf of the Marimor Legacy Foundation.
Her desire to be a force for positive change in her community is so intense that Mullenhour and her daughter, Theresa Schnipke, recently embarked on a new adventure.
“We started a military banner project which has so far resulted in 203 military banners being hung on the streets of Delphos,” Mullenhour said. “The project was unveiled late last year and the response has been overwhelming.”
Families pay $150 for a banner that bears the faces of their loved ones, “and we coordinate with the city to have them hung. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for two years,” Mullenhour said.
Mary Jane Mullenhour retired 10 years ago after 46 years in the nursing field, but she continues to donate her time and talents to a number of agencies and endeavors.
Contact J Swygart at 567-242-0464.