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June 1996

Mary Randolph: A Kid At Heart



by Deanne BARTHA

Mary Randolph could easily be known as the Pied Piper of Buffalo.

The dedicated Project Director of the Bethel Head Start Program has developed quite a following of children through the years.

It all began in 1966 when she wrote the first proposal for the program under the pastoral guidance of G. Grant Crumpley.

By the following year, the program was serving 233 children in three centers.

Today she oversees one of the largest Head Start programs in Erie County. Operating out of 10 locations, the program serves 552 low income children and families. Randolph directs a staff of 88 and several volunteers.

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Groundbreaking of playground.

Since its inception, Bethel Head Start, Inc., has reached over 15,000 children and families. It is well known for its nutritional, educational, health, social services and parent involvement components among low-income preschool children.

As busy as she was, Randolph found time in 1993 to lead a corps of 200 volunteers of all races, colors, creeds and ages to construct a playground on the Main Street and Bailey Avenue campus of the University at Buffalo (UB).

This colorful and functional area for the children and families who use the services of Head Start’s UB center is one of the many tributes she has created to
benefit children.

With a funding source that provided $20,000 for the playground, Randolph enlisted the support of UB’s Director of Resource and Planning Frank Bart-scheck, who volunteered much of his own time for the project.

Together they contacted a playground planner and recruited volunteers and donations from community vendors for materials, supplies and machinery.

This effort provided a $60,000 playground for children, the first community constructed playground in the City of Buffalo built in one day.

Children of the Head Start program as well as those attending language development classes and day care, get great use out of the program when the weather cooperates.

Randolph was also instrumental in adding a center based health clinic at the Head Start center on Michigan Ave. in Buffalo.

One-of-a-kind nationwide as part of a Head Start program, the clinic provides medical care to children including immunizations, hearing tests, first aid and tests for anemia and lead poisoning.

Randolph secured funding for this clinic from the Independent Health Foundation and Fisher- Price Co. Clinical services are provided by Buffalo General Hospital.

Since opening in January of this year, the clinic served 292 children in its first five months, and continues to educate parents on the importance of wellness practices and illness prevention for overall good health. The goal is to help children before they enter kindergarten.

This was recently realized when clinic staff evaluated a little boy and found him to be in need of a hearing aid. The diagnosis will allow him to receive the proper device before starting school in the fall.

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From left, Tom, Toinette, Kimberly and Mary Randolph at a church picnic.

Her extended family of staff, volunteers and area children has, in some ways, benefitted from what Randolph and her husband, Thomas, taught their own two daughters at home.

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Randolph welcomes children to a “Hospital Scene,” booth staffed by Buffalo Oxyden Company, at a Head Start health fair.

The girls were raised to believe in themselves. They understood that they could be anything they wanted to be, as long as they applied themselves and worked to the best of their ability.

Today, Mary and Tom’s pride and joy, Kimberly and Toinette, have grown up to be highly successful professional women.

Kimberly, 29, has been a first grade teacher in the Buffalo Public School System for five years. Toinette, 27, is an associate attorney for Vinal & Vinal Attorneys at Law.

“We gave them space so that they could develop into their own persons,” Randolph said. “We taught them to be truthful, love each other, and emphasized that they’d be sisters for life.”

“Family means everything to me. I wish everyone could experience the love and devotion we share with each other. This security is what helps me to help others.”

The family ties have not weakened over the years since Randolph met her husband back in 1958. Two years later, they were married.

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Mary Randolph and John Chaney with the winning volleyball trophy at an end-of-year picnic.

The couple was on the verge of adopting a child eight years into their marriage when they were blessed with children of their own. Both daughters hold their mother in the highest regard.

“She’s a passionate, career-minded woman who stands up for what she believes,” Kimberly said. “Although she had a very demanding career, she always managed to - sometimes inconceivably - make time for us by being our Girl Scout Leader, attending teacher conferences, chaperoning and being active in our school’s PTA.”

“She’s faced obstacles in her life, but she’s always met them head on and overcome them because of her positive attitude and determination that’s won her the respect of others.”

“When she walks into a room, it is immediately filled with the quiet strength and sophistication she exudes,” Toinette added. “You will be amazed and energized by her tireless work for the betterment of children and young people.”

The Randolph family is also active with the Bethel A.M.E. Church that honored them in 1991, among other citations, as Family of the Year.

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Tom and Mary Randolph.

Randolph feels that the family’s love for one another and devotion to each other’s personal, community and professional goals, played a role in that honor.

Randolph is the second oldest in a family of 14. She holds a Master of Science in Education degree from Buffalo State College and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Education from Allen University.

She is also an avid reader and movie-goer. Currently, she is reading the popular novel “Waiting to Exhale,” that was released as a film. Some of her favorite movies are the “Beverly Hills Cop” series, “Driving Miss Daisy” and “On Golden Pond.”

She is active among several organizations including the Council for the State University of New York at Buffalo (emeritus), National Black Child Development and The Buffalo Links, Inc.

Randolph serves on the board of directors for Housing Opportunities Made Equal, and is chairperson for the Buffalo chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She is also a member of Leadership Buffalo’s Class of 1989.

Her community involvement includes serving with the Language Development Program School Board, American Lung Association of WNY, Roswell Park Cancer Research and Education Committee. She will be the October 1996 Conference Chairperson for the Association for Council Members and Trustees of SUNY.

Randolph has won several awards including the Black Achievers in Industry Leadership and Dedication Award given by 1490 Enterprise, Four Chaplains Legion of Honor presented by the Episcopal Bishop of Region Two, and the American Lung Association Service Award.

Most recently, Randolph and her daughter, Toinette, were co-recipients of the Outstanding Service Award of Housing Opportunities Made Equal. This marked the first time a mother and daughter were honored together in the history of the organization.

Randolph also is listed among the International Who’s Who of Professionals Directory.

Thomas, a sensible and calm person who helped maintain stability in their home, according to Randolph, also has a keen sense of humor that he’s passed on to their daughters. He understands that her drive to “want things to be the best they can” begins with home.

“Her love for family and togetherness carries over to work, organizations, and whatever she is involved with,” he said. “That gives her the drive to put so much into it.”

“I try to be fair to all people,” Randolph added, “and I work very hard to accomplish whatever I set out to do.”

Despite all the activities the family is involved in, they still find time to have dinners together, watch movies, dine out and take some family vacations.

Holidays are always spent together, and the Randolphs support each other in work decisions, sharing and helping each other through illnesses.

So with all of this going on, how does Randolph find time for her hobbies of gardening, camping, sewing and biking?

“Gardening is something I love to do and I will take time to do it,” she said. “When I dig in the earth, I tune everything out and enjoy every minute of it. My family will not call me to the telephone or give me a message. They know that this is my time.”

Randolph’s plans for the future include securing a new building for Head Start children, and making the local Head Start the best child development program in the State.

She intends to maintain good health in her personal and extended Head Start family. She would also like to help parents deal with the many problems associated with violence and poverty that affect how their children are raised.

But, she has no intention of retiring anytime soon.

“I can’t talk about retirement,” she said. “Age is something that I don’t have time to think about, and as long as I’m in good health, I don’t think I will. I don’t feel any different at 59 than when I was 49.”

Deanne Bartha is a Staff Associate of Living Prime Time 50PLUS.
Photos courtesy of the Randolph family.


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