Mary Ann Tupper
Ever taken the Polar Bear Plunge? Mary Ann Tupper has for ten years in a row! Her efforts are one of the main reasons this local Southampton ritual has become such an overwhelming success in raising nearly one hundred thousand dollars for Human Resources of the Hamptons in 2013. Serving as Executive Director of HRH for the past ten years and being one of its only two employees for the past twenty one years, Mary Ann Tupper along with over one hundred and twenty volunteers, assist approximately six thousand local individuals in need annually. In fact, the Polar Bear Plunge donated 10% of it’s net revenue to Schmidt’s very own Greene family after the devastating loss of their beloved Keith.
The Human Resource Center is a dynamic charitable organization whose mission is “to help those in need, without discrimination, including those who face poverty, hunger, illness or homelessness. HRH seeks to raise community awareness of the disenfranchised among us and to provide help in a dignified manner that lends a “hand up,” not a “hand out.””
Although HRH is a non-denominational entity, it is located at 168 Hillstreet, in the basement of the Sacred Hearts Church. The programs provided by the HRH include a Food Pantry, Clothing Room, Medical Transportation, Lunch Box Kids, After School Academy, Serve our Seniors, Senior Lunch, Back Pack Kids, Kids in Safety Seats, Emergency Help, and Holiday Meals and Toys.
At the center of it all is Mary Ann Tupper. “You can’t put a salary on making other peoples lives better. And you don’t need a big college degree, or be rich and famous to make a difference. If you have a caring, compassionate heart and a giving spirit, you can do this job.” She says. “I am not paid for what I know, but who I know! I will give anyone an answer within 24 hours as to what we can help with.
In 1992 Mary Ann began working with HRH as a part time assistant. At the time the main line of charitable organizations were coming from a variety of well meaning institutions. However it was difficult to fund raise successfully and keep track of which families had been helped. They desperately needed a single hub of giving. The redefining of Human Resources of the Hamptons, and the expansion of their programs has tremendously improved their effectiveness within the community.
Mary Ann states that once she started this work, she never looked back. It has been the most challenging endeavor in her life. Everyday it provides a new surprise. The stories she recollects are deeply profound and moving, involving everyone from our youngest community members, to our oldest. From clothing infants to helping single mothers pay their heating bills, from offering after school tutoring, to supplying senior lunches, the scope of the help offered by HRH is vast. “You never know who is coming in and what their problems are,” says Mary Ann. “You would be surprised by how many prominent members of the community find themselves in need. ”
One of the more difficult aspects of Mary Ann’s role with HRH is determining who can be awarded financial help. All money that is given out is money that comes from donations and raising it is an endless endeavor. It is extremely important to be fiscally responsible. Sometimes Mary Ann is faced with tough decisions. A great spiritual challenge related to this position is not to get caught in comparing one persons hardship to another - “the Sin of Comparison” as Mary Ann put it. “They are all struggling, and to them it is very hard and very real,” expresses Mary Ann. “It is heart wrenching when it boils down to determining weather to help someone whose lights are about to be shut out verses having to help someone who has terminal cancer. And yet, one must learn to separate their emotions from other people’s hard ships. One must be equally sympathetic” says Mary Ann. “At the end of the day you hope that in some small way you can contribute to making their lives even just a little better.
Mary Ann, grew up in Yonkers, and attended private schools throughout her life. She attended St Clare’s Academy- an all girl Catholic High School. Her family began summering in the Hamptons in 1956. In 1969 She went to St Johns University, a private Catholic College. Her first job after college was selling pig fat to cosmetic companies for its chemical constituents.
Mary Ann came from what she describes as wonderful and very loving home. Her father was a blue-collar man, working for Con Edison and digging ditches to earn a living. Her mother too, worked long hard hours for Met Life. An only child, Mary Ann had always dreamed of having a sibling as a young girl. She openly admits that perhaps she was a bit spoiled, for she never wanted for anything. As she became a young adult she became less interested in material gain. Perhaps her mother’s generous spirit influenced her in this regard. Mary Ann recalls how during the holidays her mother made sure all her nieces and nephews celebrated the holidays in equal measure and she went out of her way to take care of any one she felt was in need.
In 1972 Mary Ann met her husband and they married in 1974. Although she had always wanted to be a lawyer, Mary Ann decided rather to take the path of motherhood, as was the way of the majority of young married women in those days. She became a full throttle hands on mom, becoming the president for the nursery school, of the soccer teams, and of the Parent Teachers Association. She chaperoned school dances, waited up every night that her children were out and made certain they had designated drivers when necessary. In reflection she exclaims what most of us parents find frustration with; “You cannot explain to your children how much you love them. It is something they must find out when they have children of their own.”
“Faith, Family then Job,” is what Mary Ann states when asked how she prioritizes what is important to her, “If you don’t have faith, I don’t know how you can get up and function every day. There is a higher power that moves us out of harms way” She said. I asked her to explain. She relates a story that tells of how while on her way to pick up a donation in the back roads of Southampton, a young child of about two years old was walking in the middle of an intersection with a wagon. She pulled over and put the child in her car. As soon as the car door was shut, a speeding car smashed the wagon to bits. Had she not been there at that precise moment, for sure the child would have been killed. “Faith is an important part of everybody’s life, regardless of religious persuasion”, says Mary Ann, “People complain why bad things are happening to them, yet they don’t see the grace that surrounds them, I don’t now what I would do without faith…”
Mary Ann Tupper belongs to the First Presbyterian Church, and was elected for three years to “The Board of Elders”. She has received the “Paul Harris Fellowship Award” from the rotary, which is one of the highest honors. Mary Ann Tupper was elected as “Woman of the Year” by Zonta – a woman’s organization and received the “Highest Civil Award” by the Masonic Temple in Southampton. New York state senator Ken LaValle also honored her.
For a while all these achievements and awards adorned the walls of her office, but after a while Mary Ann felt that it was tacky to display these before the eyes of struggling individuals. Although she is deeply honored by the recognition and appreciation of her efforts, it is far more fulfilling to go home and know that she has helped.
Mary Ann goes on to express how truly grateful she is to all the wonderful dedicated volunteers that lend a hand week after week and month after month. She states “They are the heart and soul of Human Resources. They do all the work and I get all the glory.” With that being said, Mary Ann has never asked an individual to do anything she has not already done herself.
Mary Ann Tupper encourages the community to come and take a look at all of the preparation that goes into the holidays and making Santa appear on Christmas morning! “It is truly a sight to behold!” As community members she reminds us that we all should do our part to contribute. “You never know when you or someone you love will find themselves in need of Human Resources of the Hamptons.
To make donations or to find out more information about Human Resources of the Hamptons, please call Tel: 631.283.6415 or visit their website : www.hrhamptons.org.
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