Mary Reid, outside her Bay Shore home, said she was inspired by her...

Mary Reid, outside her Bay Shore home, said she was inspired by her late mother's community service and activism. Credit: Barry Sloan

Mary Reid of Bay Shore has long devoted her time and energy to myriad community organizations. But the 84-year-old said she was often the only Black woman in the room making decisions. She hopes that her legacy of volunteering will inspire other residents of color who want a seat at the table where community decisions are made.

"I’m determined even if I’m the only one in the room, I’m going to be there and get a say. And I’m going to keep pushing and I’m going to see that things happen," Reid said.

Over her several decades of volunteerism, Reid said she has challenged organizations to be intentional in their recruiting of Black volunteers.

She said her role in many community conversations is just the beginning of opportunities for other Black residents. "I know the work that I’ve done will continue," she said.

Reid points to examples of role models she had as a child, including her late mother, Mamie Holmes, and former Islip Town Clerk Joan Johnson, who was the first Black woman to hold a public office in the town. Being a role model can feel like a large responsibility, but, she said, if she inspires others "just one iota," then "I've done my work."

Reid said she was inspired by her mother’s community service and activism even as a child. Holmes, who died at 104 years old in 2019, was a founding member of the Bay Shore NAACP branch and secretly saved $14,000 to pay for a neighbor’s home repairs, a Newsday obituary of Holmes said.

"My mom always had us involved," Reid told Newsday. "We were always active. It was just something that stayed with me."

In 1947, Holmes and her four children left North Carolina for Long Island after hearing "money grew on trees in the North," Reid joked. They settled in an integrated neighborhood in Bay Shore. Reid was just 10.

Since those childhood years, Reid’s devotion to community service has won her many praises, from her church, local organizations and the state. She said she feels a personal responsibility to make things better for her community.

"I was always fighting for not just my rights but other people’s rights," she said. "I was born with that drive."

Since retiring from the now-defunct Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in 1995, Reid has only increased her volunteering efforts. She established a revitalization committee at her church, is the president of board of trustees at the Brentwood Public Library and is a board member of the Islip Housing Authority. She also helps seniors with their taxes, pushes for more affordable housing options and ways to improve education locally.

"I look at our children of color and I want more for them," she said. "Every child is not going to college, but every child can learn."

Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter praised Reid’s decades of activism, volunteerism and public presence. She described Reid as a community stalwart who is quick to jump into action.

"Mary Reid was one of the pillars of the community you just always saw," Carpenter said. "People have come and gone, but Mary Reid has never abandoned community service and caring about the community."

Honors

  • Mary Reid was selected as Woman of Distinction by the Islip Town Democratic Committee in 2005 for her work creating community connections.
  • She was honored with the First Baptist Church Woman’s Day Award in 2006 for service.
  • That same year, Reid was selected as a NYS Woman of Distinction by State Sen. Owen Johnson for promoting workforce issues.
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