MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In the last 30 years, Mary Jo Copeland has made quite a name for herself in the Twin Cities. You may not know who she is, but President Obama does.
Copeland is one of 18 people chosen by the president to receive the nation’s second highest civilian honor – the Presidential Citizens Award. The countless people who’ve been helped by Copeland know quite well how she can light up a room.
At Sharing and Caring Hands, her joy and energy is contagious. She’s also known for starting the shelter next door called Mary’s Place, which helps thousands of people a month with everything from housing to healthcare. Copeland will even wash their feet.
She says it’s all funded by donations – no tax dollars.
“I never wanted to take anything for taking care of the poor, I didn’t need anything. I wanted to make sure the poor got it all,” Copeland said.
In her 30 years of helping the poor, she’s been through scandal.
“All of the fighting I did to stay here. You know, I fought cities, I’ve sued the city, I’ve fought to get this property,” she said.
And she’s also been though rewarding moments, like when she received a shipment of handmade Italian shoes for the kids in her shelter – direct from the Pope.
And when Copeland receives the Presidential Citizens Award next week, she has a message for President Obama.
“These are people, through no fault of their own. And I’m glad I’m gonna go out to Washington and be able to say: ‘We need to address this in every city,’” she said.
The president picked Mary Jo Copeland out of 6,000 nominees. She’s not sure who nominated her, but she would sure like to find out. She’ll receive the award Friday at the White House.