LBBC Volunteer Awards: Mary Jennings Smith has ‘the Service Gene’

April 24, 2017

Every year, Living Beyond Breast Cancer selects a small group of key volunteers – both individuals and organizations – and recognizes their volunteer efforts with an award. Our 2016 winners received a physical award as a token of our appreciation and will be featured in the Summer 2017 issue of our national newsletter, Insight. We’re also celebrating them here, on LBBC’s blog. We’ve asked a loved one, friend, colleague or employee of each awardee to write about that person or organization as they know them, and about where each awardee’s dedication to volunteerism comes from. 

The Lee Plamondon Volunteer Award is named in memory of Lee Plamondon, one of the first LBBC volunteers trained to answer calls on LBBC’s Breast Cancer Helpline. Lee played a vital role in educating the public and other LBBC volunteers about this service, which she believed could make a significant difference in the lives of people affected by breast cancer.

The 2016 Lee Plamondon Volunteer Award goes to two people, including Mary Jennings Smith, of San Marcos, California.

“We deeply appreciate Mary’s work as a Breast Cancer Helpline volunteer," says Lynn Folkman Auspitz, LBBC’s manager of community engagement.  “Whether volunteering for live shifts or numerous match requests, Mary approaches each call with a warm heart, kind words and puts everyone at ease. She has also been a great help at the Metastatic Breast Cancer conference, volunteering at our first Breast Cancer Helpline lounge. Mary truly helps LBBC advance our mission of connecting people affect by breast cancer to trusted information and a community of support.”

Below, Mary’s friend, Janet Megill, with some input from Mary’s daughter, Shannon Mumenthaler, talks about Mary and her passion for helping others:

Mary and I have been friends for more than 40 years. When I first met her, she was a first-year community college psychology instructor and counselor. By the time she retired from the college, she had moved up the ranks to be transfer and articulation officer. In those years, she was responsible for thousands of students being able to transfer their community college courses seamlessly to the state college and university systems, and myriad private colleges.

I have never seen Mary turn anyone down. As a college librarian, I served a 2-year stint once on the statewide curriculum committee, a committee dedicated to promoting community college students’ transfer to 4-year institutions. I soon found out that our college had one of the highest numbers of courses that transferred. That was because of Mary’s work. She was legendary throughout the state. She spent hours with each instructor who was proposing new courses or rewriting older ones, to make sure every word was one that the 4-year colleges would accept. She was dedicated to our students, and to our school, to provide the best education possible. And she was instrumental in every academic recognition our college received.

Once Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer, she went to work reaching out to everyone she could. She has helped us all be positive and hopeful, about her own situation and that of others. We had several cases of cancer at our college and Mary was always the first one there to help. Now that she is retired, Living Beyond Breast Cancer is a natural fit for her as she continues her dedication to service. Her selfless love of volunteering has offered hope and comfort to so many women with breast cancer. Even while continuing to fight her own cancer battle, Mary’s commitment to helping others has been unwavering.

Mary is endowed with what my husband’s family calls the “service gene.” She is a helper, plain and simple. From being my friend through the ordeal of my husband’s prostate cancer, through the joys of watching our daughters graduate from college and marry and have children of their own, to sharing her own breast cancer experience and helping so many through their cancer, she is quite simply always there, always reaching out with love and compassion.

This is just an example of Mary’s dedication to helping others. She is deserving of every award I can think of!



Mary, Is my sister in law and a truly amazing woman. I am so very proud of her for all she has had to deal with regarding THE cancer and her treatments. She still maintains a sunny disposition and a bright out look. She is an inspiration to all!!! Love you Mary, Clark and Sharon

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