Mary Andrews Scholarship Fund
More than 60 years ago, in Dunkirk, New York state's westernmost city that borders Lake Erie, one woman's quest for quality programming and job opportunities for her daughter became her life's passion and work.
By the time Mary Andrews moved to St. Petersburg in 1993, her legacy as a change maker and advocate for individuals with disabilities was well-known in her home state. Mary was well aware that in 1960, meaningful opportunities for learning and social interaction were limited. She knew this because of her daughter Carolyn, an adult with a developmental disability who has attended Creative Clay's Community Arts Program since 2000.
"The reason I got into this work was that there were no programs available for Carolyn in New York," said Mary, in a 2014 interview with Creative Clay CEO Kim Dohrman. "I wanted to make sure that they learned skills so that they could be more independent and earn a little bit of money for themselves, which helped their self-esteem." Mary accomplished that and much more by lobbying the local schools, businesses, and residents to educate them about abilities versus disabilities and to seek a place for them to find meaning, purpose and learn valuable skills.
Mary's tireless work at The Resource Center, where she and her husband Edward were charter members, and where she later served as a program chairperson where her efforts secured educational resources for individuals who relied on the center. Mary served on the Center's board of directors and was named Employee of the Year in 1989. Mary received the Center's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996, and in 2007, the Center's building on East Chestnut Street in Dunkirk was named the “Mary Andrews Center” A quote from the ceremony states: "We congratulate and thank her for all that she has done to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Her impact cannot be overstated."
When the family moved to Florida in 1993, Mary's advocacy continued as she sought meaningful employment for Carolyn. Carolyn held a job at a medical firm before finding her passion in art making. When Carolyn joined Creative Clay's Community Arts Program in 2000, she found her home.
"Over the years Carolyn has developed a sense of self-worth. She has become more aware of things that are going on, not only locally, but in the state, in regards to funding," said Mary in 2014. "She’s able to express herself better and to be involved in what’s going on around her."
Retirement was not in Mary's vocabulary, and she continued her advocacy for access for individuals with disabilities in her employment at Creative Clay. Her title? Chief Wisdom Dispenser. Mary could be found filing, answering phones, giving tours of Creative Clay's Good Folk Gallery, working with member artists and always supporting Creative Clay at ArtWalk, Folkfest St. Pete and other special events.
"I met her in 2008 and she was a really good friend," said Creative Clay member artist Lindsay J. "She always had a smile on her face."
Mary officially retired from Creative Clay in 2013 and was honored for her years of advocacy and service with the naming of the Mary Andrews Studio and Gallery in her honor. Appreciation citywide for Mary's tireless work on behalf of others was well-known. Mayor Rick Kriseman inducted Mary into the City of St. Petersburg Senior Hall of Fame in 2014 and presented her with a key to the city.
Mary continued to pop into the Community Arts Program or take in a new exhibit in the Good Folk Gallery, as recently as last fall. Mary's long life of service, as advocate to many, mother to Carolyn, Janie, Thom and Timm, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend to all, ended Mother's Day, May 12, when Mary passed away at 95.
Mary is missed by all who knew her, especially her large Creative Clay family.
"I liked her," said Creative Clay member artist Artemisa M. "She was a beautiful lady. I love her so much from the bottom of my heart."