By Tanisha Singh
Perhaps one of the most recognizable faces at the Center, Mary Todisco has been a central figure since her arrival three years ago. After speaking with her about her life and bearing witness to the role she plays at BRC, it is clear that her life mission has been about helping people. From a job at Red Tape Cutters as an Office Manager, a 27-year career as a Substance Abuse Counselor, and her work at the Bowery Residence Committee, where she would bake 80-dozen cookies for everyone during Christmas, Mary has continued to be a giver. At BRC she volunteers her time and materials to run the Coloring class as well as Jewelry-Making. She has thoughtfully hand-made jewelry for every staff member and client at the Center during the holidays. When asked what compels her to be such a giver, Mary says she doesn’t know; it is simply her personality.
Mary first set foot at the Center for an art class that she signed up for through the Brooklyn College Lifelong Learning Program and has been here ever since. She was previously a member at another center but left soon after joining BRC because their lack of programs made her feel like she was growing older by the second! One of her favorite things about BRC is the wide variety of programs that keep her healthy as well as creatively and intellectually stimulated — from Mary Ann’s Exercise classes, to Tech classes with David, to Rock Painting.
Her love for the Center is apparent when she speaks about the way the members and staff rallied around her when she lost her son during the Pandemic in April 2020:
“The Center supported me throughout; they organized a grief counselor for me to speak with over Zoom, which really helped me through. Everyone at the Center was calling me regularly to check in — from Receptionist extraordinaire, Kathy Boyle, to Theresa, a Case Worker at BRC, to my dear friend and fellow BRC member, Beatrice.”
The bonds Mary has created at the BRC clearly run deep as she references a time during Covid where the members would sit together on the benches outside in an effort to socialize and check in on one another. Mary is looking forward to seeing how the Center expands at its new location at 15 Bay Ridge Avenue and hopes to see plenty more faces. She is particularly excited to see the exercise facilities and the Art Room. When asked what the Bay Ridge Center means to her, Mary answers that the Center has provided her with a sense of purpose, expression, and community.
Tanisha Singh is an intern with BRC and an MSW student at Columbia University. This profile appeared in the March 2022 Chatterbox newsletter.