These women have gone above and beyond for their communities. Now, after decades of giving, it’s their turn to receive some much-deserved thanks. Assemblyman Brian Curran honored these outstanding citizens at Crossroads Farm on Sunday. Each woman has made the world a better place through their decades of service to others.
“The one thing that all eight of these women have in common is their love and devotion to their community and their neighbors,” Curran said. “Whether it is their contributions to public safety, in local government, drug prevention, boy scouting, or children with disabilities or allergies, these eight honorees have made the conscious decision to bring their expertise and efforts to better their community.”
Mary Ann Hanson, from Malverne, has been giving back to others for as long as she can remember. It’s not something she does for recognition, or an award — it’s simply something she has felt compelled to do since her youth.
“It’s just something I was raised with and drawn to,” Hanson said. “It’s very rewarding and fulfilling, to see that you’re fulfilling someone else’s life.”
That’s what Hanson has been doing for the past 24 years at the Town of Hempstead’s ANCHOR Program in Lido Beach, a nonprofit organization that gives people of all ages and abilities the camp experience they deserve. At ANCHOR, programs like surfing, horseback riding, camp-wide shows and more are made accessible to people who may not have the opportunity elsewhere.
ANCHOR’s summer camp is their most popular program, but the organization provides services year-round. Hanson is Overall Coordinator, where she organizes nearly 700 campers and 400 staff members to help the program be the best it can be.
“The more outreach, the more people will understand and recognize them as a typical person,” Hanson said. “And how loved they are by their families and us.”
Though she cares for people from 5 years old all the way into their 70s, she refers to all of them as her “kids.” The love she has for her campers makes them family.
“I don’t see them as having special needs, I see them as being typical to themselves,” Hanson said. “And I think when you feel that way, and you feel like you're giving the life they deserve — it feels good.”
“You can get them to see how they should be treated, and make sure they're treated that way,” Hanson said. “And make sure that they're given opportunities that other kids have — like they go to camp in the summer, just like any other kid might do.”
Hanson began working with ANCHOR in 1999, but decided she wanted to do more. In 2001 she went back to school, getting an undergraduate degree at Adelphi University. Not yet satisfied, she then pursued a Master’s degree in social work from Fordham University.
“I picked social work because it’s who I am,” Hanson said. “That’s what I like to do. I’ve used it in so many other ways at ANCHOR, and even in the community. Even with employees. So that was a perfect avenue for me.”
Now even better equipped to serve the campers and staff at ANCHOR, Hanson returned. As Overall Coordinator, she is able to not only connect with individual campers and their parents, but look at the big picture to ensure the program is fulfilling its potential.
“I feel like I'm doing something for the betterment of people, every day in my life there,” Hanson said. “Any way I can make a place better, or a situation that could help a parent out with a child when I talk to them, I feel like it is something that makes me happy and it also is for the better good of everyone.”
Though it can be stressful trying to organize more than 1,000 people, Hanson said working at ANCHOR is her dream job. When speaking of how wonderful the program is, she redirected the spotlight toward those she works with.
“It’s the happiest place in the world,” Hanson said. “And it’s happy because all the employees are dedicated and loving and caring employees.”
Hanson has tangibly improved thousands of lives during her decades of service. Her impact has made Long Island a better home for people, regardless of ability.
“It is important to recognize these eight women because their contributions to the communities of the 21st Assembly District are truly impactful, but can be overlooked by many going about their day to day,” Curran said. “Each one of them have busy lives and are pulled in so many different directions, but they still find the time to be active in their community.
“They inspire me to keep working to make our district a better place.”