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Mary Nelson Honored as FOCUS’ Greater Syacuse Wisdom Keeper

Humanitarian Mary Nelson embodies the spirit of giving to others, many calling her “a true vessel of God.” She is committed to empowering and inspiring others to give back as well. In her hometown (Syracuse, NY), she is the founder of the Annual Youth Day BBQ, and President/CEO of The Mary Nelson Youth Center, a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit agency.

Mary began organizing the Back to School BBQ in 2002, as part of an effort to reduce violence in her neighborhood. Along with providing school supplies, she treats children and their families to a barbeque, which facilitates the community coming together in peace and showing love for one another.

In 2009, Mary Nelson’s Youth Center was opened and continues to offer- Education, Health, Career Services, Violence Intervention, Mentorship, and now a Women’s Support Group and Book Club, and FREE Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner to all needy families in her community, and a Food Pantry every Monday.

The Mary Nelson Youth Center operates daily with a staff of volunteers, a Part-time Executive Director, Program Coordinator, Part-time Cook, Food Servers, Mentors, and Afterschool tutoring 4 days a week who together provide a SAFE HAVEN for youth, as well as host a numerous of community events each month and a Full-service Barbershop in-house at the center

Mrs. Nelson is presently a Full-Time employee at Upstate Medical University in the Department of Radiology, and a volunteer worker at the Onondaga County District Attorney Office in the Crime Victim Witness Department as well represents NYS as their lead with VBMU Voice of Black Mother’s United under the leadership of Robert Woodson, Woodson Center out of Washington, DC beginning on November 21, 2020. The center’s Administrative expenses are paid for by Mary herself, with support from her proud and committed sponsors.

Over the years, Mary’s BBQ has grown to accommodate nearly 16,000 community members. She was a “Mom’s Dream Come True” award recipient of the Live with Regis and Kelly show 2008, and is featured on Oprah’s Angel Network. In 2008 she was an Obama delegate. Mary was flown out to Los Angeles, California in September 2010 to tape a segment for NBC Universal School Pride in Los Angeles. Each and every year The Mary Nelson Annual School Supply Give Away has grown in record numbers and every youth goes home ready to begin the school year with the necessary school supplies, we are more than a School Supply event, we serve the entire family and community with Food, Household items, clothing, shoes, and so much more. Each month The Mary Nelsons Youth Resource hosts a FREE Clothing & Household items Mega giveaway to provide resources to our community and youth, each and every item is donated from 6 Central New York Walmarts Stores, where Mary Nelsons picks up all donations every Saturday, and we are now partnering with AMAZON picking up donation 40 to 100 pallets a week.

Among the many awards Mary has received are the Post-Standard Achievement Award, The Harriet Tubman Humanitarian Award in Albany New York, The National Council Negro Women Award, and the YWCA Academy of Diversity Achievers Award. She was a Black History (2011) Hope & Healing Upstate Medical University honoree, New York State Senate 49th District Women of Distinction Award, Featured in Syracuse Women Magazine August 2022 and WOMElle Magazine May 2023, Mary Nelson attended Oprah Life You Want Weekend, on September 26 & 27 in Newark New Jersey. Ms Oprah Winfrey visited The Mary Nelson’s Youth Center and Blessed the center with a very generous monetary donation, September 2021 The Mary Nelsons Youth Center, received a complete makeover from LOWES & HGTV segment BUILD IT FORWARD host was Taniya Nayak & Matt Blashaw and Jim and Julie Boeheim, and many other generous sponsors, who made it possible to received this beautiful new space, for our youth and their families and our community.

Mrs. Nelson lives in Syracuse NY with her husband Robert. Together they have 9 children Mary and Robert are also raising 4 more children of whom they are Legal Guardians Jamea Brown, Simani Brewer, Sivon Brewer. Pablo Joseph.

Mary Nelson, a vessel from God, as she views herself, is a true and committed mom, sister, aunt, cousin, and good friend. A humble woman, she shows love and support in countless ways to all. By her example and mandate, she encourages others to pay it forward by giving to others in order to make communities and our nation a better place.

Mary Nelson

Hometown hero, visionary, and caregiver, Mary Nelson is dedicated to providing services to at-risk greater-Syracuse area youth to unleash their unlocked potential. From mentorships to financial assistance programs, Mary has built an empire of “helpers” to step in for the challenging moments in our children’s lives.