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A Connection to Caring

Mary Jane Day at Unity House Brings People Together

On May 15th, what would have been her 90th birthday, Unity House celebrated Mary Jane Smith day. In 1971 Mary Jane founded Unity House along with Regis Obijiski and Peter Callaghan. Together, they settled in a low income neighborhood in Troy to respond to the needs of people living in poverty.

The Unity House programs of today evolved from those needs and are dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for:

  • People living in poverty
  • Adults with Mental Illness
  • Victims of domestic violence
  • Children with developmental delays and their families
  • People living with HIV/AIDS
  • And others whose needs can effectively be met by Unity House services and philosophy.

Mary Jane Day was a day dedicated to service. It offered opportunities to connect and honor the legacy of one of our founders. Mary Jane Smith was a beloved member of the community, connecting with staff over decades of volunteer service after she retired from the organization, and connecting with consumers each time she served in a program. For all who knew her she was a kind, warm, funny person who always honored the inherent dignity in each person. She treated people with respect and compassion and served as an example of loving kindness.

Tuesday, May 15th at Unity House’s Front Door saw lots of activity to mark this special day: volunteers cooked a special lunch in the Unity House dining room, a local women’s group brought in a large donation of undergarments for women in shelter, food drive collections were delivered to the pantry, volunteers helped with street cleanups, and staff took on service projects or honored the legacy of Mary Jane in their own way.

One volunteer project was at 309 8th Street, the early home of Unity House. A volunteer designed and made a flower box to fit the entryway of the building once called ‘Street Ministry’. The beautiful flower box was was placed where all could enjoy it, in a building that is still used for outreach. A special volunteer planted the flowerbox with spring blooms in honor of a remarkable legacy. Best of all, a neighbor who had a special connection to Mary Jane has committed to tend to the plants so they will bloom long after they are planted.

In addition to the many volunteers and visitors, proclamations were issued. Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin came to lunch and brought with him a proclamation from the Rensselaer County Legislature proclaiming Tuesday, May 15th as Mary Jane Smith Day. Also, the City of Troy proclaimed it a special day and Troy Mayor Patrick Madden spoke beautifully of Mary Jane’s connection to Troy and all who knew her. We are grateful this special day was commemorated in this unique way.

For photos, please visit our website photo gallery and the Unity House Facebook page.  You can see news coverage in the Troy Record and in this Spectrum News clip.

If you would like to learn more about volunteering at Unity House, consider attending a monthly volunteer information session. The June volunteer information session is on the calendar for Friday, June 22, at 4:00 pm.