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Woodridge resident receives cancer society's St. George Medal

Published: Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 1:44 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:43 a.m. CDT

WOODRIDGE – For the past two decades, Mary E. Pierce has been volunteering with the American Cancer Society and as a result of her time and dedication, Pierce was recently awarded the 2013 St. George Medal – the highest honor for volunteer services.

Reminiscing about her involvement with ACS, Pierce said she began in the early 1990s as a volunteer with the DuPage County branch in Naperville and then in 1994, she was placed on the division board covering the DuPage region.

“That really started my involvement,” Pierce said. “Time flies when you’re doing something you enjoy.”

Winning the St. George Medal – awarded to two women for the first time ever – in early December came as a shock to the Woodridge resident. Pierce said she and Debra Cohen, the second recipient, were both thrilled.

“I did not anticipate this at all,” Pierce said. “I always considered myself to be a volunteer representing the other volunteers… I was really honored to receive the award.”

In her 20 years with the ACS, Pierce served as the immediate past chair of the society’s division board of directors, led the division’s annual Volunteer Conference for the last seven years and has chaired the Communications, Executive, Compensation and Nominating committees along with the Bylaws Task Force.

Throughout her time at the organization, the most rewarding aspect has been the number of accomplishments the organization has achieved, Pierce said, adding that those accomplishments include patient navigation systems in hospitals and the Illinois ban on smoking in restaurants.

And while there have been great rewards, what’s really kept Pierce active in the ACS is the fact that it’s her passion. She said it never occurred to her to not volunteer.

“When you dedicate a part of your life to something, you just don’t even give it a second thought,” Pierce said.

Moving forward, Pierce plans to keep the same mentality and continue to volunteer but this time around, she wants to focus on a more local level. She said volunteering leaves a joyous feeling.

“It’s a passion to me,” Pierce said “It’s really being an approachable person that people can come to for hope and help.”

When a person is fighting cancer, it’s crucial for them to know who they can turn to or count on, she said.

“It’s always been a personal mission of mine to be sure employees, families and loved ones understand what’s available through ACS,” Pierce said. 

“We’ve come a long way but it’s not over yet. We still have to fight.”

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