Donor Profile: Mary Ann Norris by DeeAnn Veeder (of the MaryAnn and Bob Norris Community Stewardship Award)
Gardening is a passion and an art to Mary Ann Norris, and she draws a beautiful parallel between gardens and multiculturalism; the more variety of flowers in the garden, the more brilliant the garden – just as the more variety of people in a community, the more brilliant the community. She has been an integral part of BRIDGE in many ways.
Through the Lennox Foundation, Mary Ann and Bob Norris helped co-founders Gwendolyn and Marta establish Multicultural BRIDGE in 2008 by supplying the seed money, and Mary Ann has continued to nurture this garden. She goes deep with a few non-profits where education is key, and BRIDGE is one of these.
Her background includes a Masters Degree in Human Performance Systems, with years at the U.S. Department of Justice as a Management Analyst where she worked on such projects as running conferences on how to follow the money with drug dealers as well as training others how to articulate and communicate. She went on to be a Life Coach, working with individuals, posing questions to facilitate them coming to their own conclusions in their quests for more fulfilling, productive lives.
With her background and knowledge, Mary Ann has been a most treasured mentor to Gwendolyn; and from the beginning, Gwendolyn has wowed Mary with her instinctive ability to educate people positively and clearly. Mary Ann was amazed to see a police chief, in a seminar with Gwendolyn, recognize and admit to his biases. She has seen time after time school superintendents, principals, hospital employees, police forces won over by Gwendolyn’s grace, dignity and composure. Mary Ann believes Gwendolyn is an exceptional person and a true leader dedicated to truly important work.
She has seen, coming from Washington D.C., the reticence in small communities to change, to understand that what used to be the way may not be the way; and she has seen people everywhere in Berkshire County respond to Gwendolyn and her natural gift to help individuals and communities grow and learn about themselves within the difficult subject of the realities of systemic racism and white privilege.
Just as in her garden, Mary Ann likes to nurture beauty, and she is committed to helping BRIDGE and Gwendolyn continue to expand and enlighten the beauty that is in the people of Berkshire County.