In 1979 she became the administrator of the Mary D. Fund, a charity that raises money for needy residents in the area. Many of the residents only have seasonal incomes when the vacationers come to the island. During the winter months, the unemployment rate can hit in the high 20 percent. Thanks to funds raised at the Mary D. charity, islanders are able to keep the lights on, pay mortgage payments or get needed health treatment.The charity gave away 50,000 dollars in 2010.
Mary takes care of the homebound and the chronically ill and in her words, “knows more about the people on the island than they know about themselves”. Some say she could be considered the glue that holds the people together. She sees so many that she can bring people together that need to be.
Mary will cut your toenails and take your blood pressure. She might just have tea with you while she changes your bandages. Mostly she listens to the Block Islanders stories, leave and head out doing what she does best, paying bills. It might be 13.95 for a ferry ticket or 2500 to pay a mortgage bill. She does have a few she calls “chronic” that she has to bail them out constantly.
Outspoken and direct, she has told some residents that they could use a course in money management. When questioned, she replies that they may think that she’s rude, but it still needs to be said. The charity has only two stipulations to provide aid. First, they have to live on the island year round and second, Mary has to pay the bill herself. She takes a dim view of spending money in bars and such. She states that giving some people money is not a good idea.
While filing the latest requests she talks of how she loves her job. She admits she may retire soon and hopes to give the job to the other Block Island nurse, Linda Closter. The citizens of Block Island are blessed by the philanthropic heart of Mary Donnelly.