Five Questions with Mary Voiland, Naperville Cares

When Mary Voiland retired as the city of Naperville social worker in 2008, it didn’t take long before she headed back to work.

“It’s just in my blood, I can’t help it,” said Voiland, of Naperville.

Within a few months, she started volunteering at local nonprofit Naperville Cares, and she’s been at it ever since. For Voiland, who helped found the organization in 1999 while working for the city, Naperville Cares was an obvious choice.

“Naperville Cares’s mission is to help people gain or regain self-sufficiency,” she said. “It’s not just a hand out; they really want to come alongside people, look at what the underlying issues are, and help people get back on their feet.”

For more than five years, Voiland has been helping people when they need it most, and according to Cares Executive Director Janet Derrick, she’s doing it well.

“Mary brings invaluable experience to her role,” Derrick said. “She can help our clients not only with their emergency request for assistance, but can also connect them to the community resources that will help them mitigate the circumstances that resulted in them not being able to pay for their basic needs.”

Voiland recently was named Volunteer of the Year by Naperville Cares, and joins the ranks of nine others who have been honored in the organization’s history.

“I was surprised (to be recognized),” Voiland said. “I am just an old retired social worker, so I just keep doing what I used to do. The people there are so wonderful.”

Voiland grew up in Washington, and while a student at Eastern Washington State University, her family moved across the country to Naperville. After serving in the Army, her career led her to Chicago and then Naperville. A resident for 23 years, she and husband Bob and dog Kaiser are proud to call it home.

We caught up with the Naperville Cares Volunteer of the Year to learn more.

1. After retiring, why did you want to be part of Naperville Cares?

“They help with a lot of ideas and resources. That is what I love about Naperville Cares. It is really paying attention to the basic needs of the people.”

2. How have you seen Naperville Cares make a difference in the community?

“Mainly what they can do is address an emergency; they keep people from becoming homeless. One of the other great things Cares does — because it has such a big connection all around town — is look ahead at the person’s situation because we really want to make sure they can do it going forward. They advocate on behalf of people all the time, it is one of the ‘red letter’ things they do.”

3. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

“It’s all the things I did before I retired, but now I just have more time for them. I redid the whole garden and had a ball digging around in the dirt. We go fishing on Lake Michigan, and the dog gets to go which is fun.”

4. Do you have a favorite spot in Naperville?

“I dearly love the Riverwalk. You can stop at any section of the Riverwalk and have a completely different walk. It is such a neat place. As far as a favorite restaurant, one of the places we like to go hang because we have loved the people for so long is Quincy’s.”

5. What are three words that describe you?

“Sincere, persistent and gentle.”

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