WHO WAS MARY A. SCHMECKER?
Gram is the reason for our efforts to provide a outlets kids and adults to access the kinds of creative tools and inspiration that they might not otherwise encounter in our schools today, or in in the middle of their busy lives.
Gram taught her craft to kids (and adults) in the Valley area for 35 years starting in 1970 at the old Community Center Boys’ Club. She stayed with the Club as it moved around and changed through the years (in 1980 it became The Boys and Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley, and girls were invited to join, to Mary’s delight). A fire destroyed the old club building in 1991 and there were many subsequent moves to temporary homes before it came to its current location.
Gram provided her spare time and materials, and was able to rely on the tireless assistance of her husband, Lou Schmecker, to ensure that the kids had a consistent experience and place to explore their creativity.
In 2007 the Club inducted Gram into the inaugural class of their Hall of Fame. As she looked back on all the years in which she had been at the Club, she said that the hugs were the best part. To Mary they were all her kids, and if you ask anyone who went to her classes, she was everyone’s Gram.
When she passed in 2008 the community lost a valuable champion of artistic expression, and we, her family and friends, lost a beacon of light in our lives. Gram’s actual grandkids initially created the Mary A. Schmecker Turtle Shell Fund in 2009 as a charity fund managed by the Valley Community Foundation to honor Gram and her ideals.
In 2012 we incorporated the Mary A. Schmecker Turtle Shell Fund as the tax-exempt nonprofit organization it is today — in order to expand our ability to connect our community with creative outlets. Since then we have supported many local school systems and students with arts funding and scholarships, in addition to the local Boys and Girls Clubs and other vital community-based organizations.
…And why the turtle shell?! Gram loved turtles and was often seen with some jewelry or clothing featuring these beautiful creatures. We think of her whenever we see turtles, so we adopted the turtle shell as our icon.