Battling child abuse. Delivering sandwiches to the homeless. Rounding up volunteers for school organizations. If quality of life is measured in sound-bites or newspaper stories, the neighborhood residents responsible for these activities don’t have much to show for their efforts. But publicity isn’t necessarily the best measure of a person’s actions. Deeds, particularly good deeds, still count for something. That’s what makes our annual slate of neighborhood Unsung Heroes so refreshing. You aren’t likely to read about these people somewhere else, and most of them typically go unrewarded. But thanks to Doctors Hospital, which is sponsoring this year’s Unsung Heroes section, the Advocate is taking this opportunity to highlight the accomplishments of people who would rather we didn’t. They’re not the type who want to draw attention to themselves. Instead of praise and back-slapping, these Unsung Heroes have a much simpler request: Will the rest of us roll up our sleeves and pitch in to help?

Mary Douthit

Bringing Children Together Is Her Passion In Life

Inspired by a belief that people of all races and backgrounds should feel like they are a part of the community in which they live, Mary Douthit traded her job as a professional secretary for a career in volunteerism.

“This is important because if the parents don’t feel welcome, they’ll move on, and kids will lose out,” Douthit says. “I did this so the kids would have some sense of continuum.”

Mary Douthit’s giving-back to her community dates to 1985 with her involvement at her daughter’s school, Skyview Elementary.

As president of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization, Douthit worked diligently to see that “apartment parents,” often single working mothers and fathers, were included in the list of school and classroom volunteers.

With the school’s diminishing population of homeowners, the area must have people such as Mary Douthit to help recruit single-parent volunteers, according to Anne Barab, an RISD school board member and neighbor of Douthit’s.

“These people need a Mary to help them get plugged into the community,” Barab says. “Her outreach to single mothers and the ethnic make-up of the community has really made a difference.”

Barab says she began working with Douthit when their daughters were first-graders at Skyview Elementary.

“It became obvious to me that Mary does these things because they need to be done.” Barab says. “She sees where there is a need, pitches in, and takes care of it. She’s always the one we can depend on.”

Douthit says she quit her job as the secretary for a Dallas accountant to rear her three children: Erin, 15, a sophomore at Lake Highlands High School; Chris, 14, an eighth-grader at Forest Meadow Junior High; and Robert, 11, a fifth-grader at Skyview Elementary. Husband David is CEO for Carpet Services in Dallas.

Douthit is serving her third term on the RISD Council of PTAs, chairs the high school’s Parent Education Committee and is serving as secretary of the Forest Meadow PTA.

She is a coach for Odyssey of the Mind, a creative problem solving program for 5th-7th graders and heads a service unit team for the orientation of new Girl Scout troops.

She is a founder of the Forest Meadows I and II Homeowners Association, and she is serving as the organization’s president.

A resident of Lake Highlands for 11 years, Douthit says she made volunteerism and giving back to the community a priority. She says she volunteers between 25-30 hours a week for various community and school projects.

“I have lots of jobs now, but none of them pay,” Douthit says.

Today, Douthit says there is a noticeable difference at Skyview. Where there were once no minority volunteers, there are at least four black parents serving as room parents in the fourth grade alone.

“Skyview was made up of a multi-cultural group of people, and I felt the need to try to get the people together,” she says.

Douthit says the impetus for her volunteerism was simply her love for children and a desire for a better sense of community to exist.

“It’s also very fulfilling, and I feel like I’m giving something back. If everyone would just give a little, we could accomplish a whole lot.”