TAMPA — Mary Lee Farrior, a champion for children since she was a youngster, herself, received the Citizen of the Year Award from the Tampa Metro Civitans on Thursday during the Governor’s Luncheon on opening day of the Florida State Fair.
Farrior, 76, founder of Mary Lee’s House, a non-profit assessment center in Tampa for abused and unwanted children, said she was completely surprised when she heard her story being told from the podium.
Farrior moved to Tampa in 1958 when she was in her early 20s and in 2008, she founded Mary Lee’s House to provide a child-friendly environment for the neglected and the abused and for those who work them, from law enforcement, to prosecutors, mental health counselors and social workers.
Richard Gonzmart, the 2013 Citizen of the Year, presented the award, saying Farrior embodies the principals of faith, peace, passion and integrity, using her “God-given energy to help anyone” she comes across.
She is the type of person who gives constantly to those who have less than she does, whether it is turning over her Yankees spring training box seats to valets and waiters or helping to fund someone making a mission trip to Africa.
Farrior has dished out meals for the homeless, worked with her church to help the community’s children in need and worked tirelessly to create her child-friendly sanctuary, Gonzmart said.
Admitting her knees were shaking as she accepted the award, Farrior said there are many angels among the volunteers and staff at Mary Lee’s House that make it all work. Afterward, she acknowledge that she has always had a passion for children in need.
Holding the bouquet of pink roses presented to her on stage, Farrior said she felt humbled. “I really thought this award was going to someone else,” she said.
The Tampa Metro Civitan’s Club has been honoring a Citizen of the Year since its inception in 1927.