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Grand Forks woman inspires through volunteer work for schools, charity

Twenty students sat attentively on the floor, listening as Mary Adams read from "Clifford, The Big Red Dog," in a classroom at Lake Agassiz Elementary School.

Mary Adams reads to students
Mary Adams, a local Realtor, reads to students at Lake Agassiz Elementary School on a recent morning. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Twenty students sat attentively on the floor, listening as Mary Adams read from "Clifford, The Big Red Dog," in a classroom at Lake Agassiz Elementary School.

Clifford, in this story, was stranded after all four legs had broken through the thin ice of a lake.

Adams turned the book around and displayed the picture.

After reading the passage, she provided a piece of advice: "Never go out on the ice alone, because it isn't safe."

A couple of the students giggled briefly at Clifford's predicament before turning their attention back to the morning reader.


As the bell rang, Adams wished the children a Merry Christmas and then offered a suggestion:

"When you get up on Christmas morning, give Mom and Dad a big hug and a smooch," she said, her twinkling eyes matching the smile on her face. "Don't tell them. Keep it a secret. That would be the best present."

Adams, who reads twice a month to young students at Lake Agassiz, is one of several volunteers to participate in the program, according to Linda Rohloff, a paraprofessional for grades K-2.

Helping the needy

But reading to children is just one of many volunteer activities for Adams, a Grand Forks real estate agent, Rotary International member and grandmother.

She also is a leader in the Rotary's Dictionary Project, which this year is providing dictionaries for nearly 800 third-graders in Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Grand Forks County.

She's a coordinator for the Feed My Starving Children program organized locally through Sharon Lutheran Church.

She's also involved with Rotary's WRAPS program, which provides warm clothes or new shoes to needy children.


For those efforts, Adams was nominated as one of the most inspiring people, an annual Herald series.

"I can't figure how she has enough hours in the day to do all the things she does. A lot of her focus is on kids," said Haley Wamstad, who nominated her. Wamstad is a Grand Forks County assistant state's attorney and a fellow Rotary member.

For Adams, volunteering is just a way of life. Because she doesn't have set office hours, she can arrange her schedule to allow time for volunteer projects.

Feed My Starving Children, for example, holds an annual event in April, gathering and packing more than 300,000 meals over a three-day period. The goal for the next event is 400,000 meals, which are sent to feed children around the world.

"It's just such an awesome thing they do, so you just have to jump in and help," Adams said of the Feed My Starving Children project. "It's a very uplifting thing to do."

As the students filed out of the classroom after the reading session, each was handed a candy cane that was provided, naturally, by Mary Adams.

"I just really love this," she said.

Call Bonham at (701) 780-1110, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1110 or send email to kbonham@gfherald.com .

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