By Dwight Hobbes
Immediately on meeting Mary Anderson, one is impressed by a sense of innate, self-possessed authority. And graceful cordiality. Professionalism personified.
Sitting with her at Pow Wow Grounds coffee house in South Minneapolis, you have to believe she is a most welcome addition to the administration at the City of Brooklyn Park. Anderson signed on in February for a year-long stint as Community Engagement VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). “My driving passion is people,” she readily attests.
“I love people. After years of volunteering with the city, building rapport with and advocating for many of the residents, I am now working on behalf of our community at the City of Brooklyn Park.”
Anderson’s primary purpose will be to work with members of the African American and Latino communities as well as youth, period. “We all know,” she says, “that the African American, Latino, and youth communities have been hit very hard. The City of Brooklyn Park has acknowledged that fact by partnering with MAVA [Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration] for a VISTA grant in order to address the issues of poverty, homelessness, civic engagement, unemployment, and much more.”
Mary Anderson comes to this position with an interesting skill set. Along with what she describes as an “adept knowledge of North Metro and Brooklyn Park minority communities,” on the technical end of things, aspects that can be gauged on a résumé, she has five years under her belt as a community organizer, having established rapport in Brooklyn Park’s minority communities. That includes organizing the city’s 2011 Special Election Mayoral Youth Forum.
She was 2011 Policy Link Equity Summit delegate for Minnesota.
For good measure, she has a 2011 bachelor’s degree in business administration from National American University. All of which is further strengthened by intangibles.
Coming up, learning the ropes of community involvement, Anderson enjoys personal relationships with Twin Cities individuals who know more than few things about life in the area, about interacting with the public, and who took her under their wings. Individuals who at this point are local household names.
Anderson recalls that “among my mentors [have been] Mahmoud El-Kati, Robin Hickman, Frank Warden, Kwame McDonald. Just all these great people. They began to really instill in me the whole concept of, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ So, I call myself the Village Child.”
“As I began to have goals in my life and as I met those goals, I decided it was time to give back.”
Add to her documented qualifications the inestimable value of her lifelong associations with such vastly accomplished, community-oriented persons, and the City of Brooklyn Park has done well by itself to partner with the likes of Mary Anderson.
Anderson’s attitude, in and of itself, is an asset. “As I began to have goals in my life and as I met those goals, I decided it was time to give back. It needed to come full circle. So, I started a nonprofit organization, Village Child. It was based upon all the same things that were instilled in me.”
It also prompted her to think hard about her career. She had been focusing on the financial industry, successfully employed at Wells Fargo Bank as a service manager. “I wasn’t really happy, because I wanted to help people the way I had been helped.” That’s how she switched into working with people and their lives instead of just with their money.
It is expected to put one’s proverbial best foot forward when stepping into a position to which the public has access. Given Anderson’s background, it’s hard to be cynical in weighing the words of her press release announcing the appointment as Community Engagement VISTA.
“My first step to building capacity,” she states, “begins with you. Each one of you touches the lives of the people whom we would like to reach in some way, shape, or form. As the Community Engagement Vista, I would like to extend a personal invitation where we can begin to talk about how all of us together can collaborate in order to make Brooklyn Park ‘a thriving community inspiring pride where opportunities exist for all.’
“You may ask, ‘How can I help?’ The answer is quite simple. Some of you may work directly with the African American and Latino population, while others may have the vehicle needed to reach those audiences. Many of you may be nonprofits with limited resources and could use the support and resources which the City of Brooklyn Park could offer. On the other hand, all of you are the people we are trying to reach in our community. You may not live in Brooklyn Park, but you may know someone who lives, worships in Brooklyn Park, have children in the Brooklyn Park school district or know somebody thinking of moving to the area. I would like to meet with your youth groups, church groups, organizations, family, and you personally to discuss how we can build rapport with each other.”
Mary Anderson concludes that statement of initial outreach, “If you are interested in collaborating, have any suggestions, would like to share some concerns or would like to schedule a one-on-one, please do not hesitate to call [me] at 763-493-8187.”
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.