I was employed by the City of Philadelphia in the mid 60s, starting as a Clerk Typist, then moved up to Clerk Stenographer. My first job was with the Free Library of
Philadelphia – the Northeast Regional Library. Some years later I worked at the Philadelphia General Hospital , followed by Health District #1, Broad & Lombard. In the late 70’s I became the
Secretary to Mrs. Victorina Peralta, Director of Adult & Aging Services. It was this position that changed the direction of my life. Mrs. Peralta was a brilliant woman who challenged every skill
I possessed. She was also a religious woman who was deeply committed to her work.
Her irascible personality caused many of her secretaries to transfer to other departments with little notice. It took months of patience and prayer for me to understand why the Lord had allowed our paths to cross. She was demanding and knew what you wanted; she expected each employee to do his/her best. The more I watched her commitment to her job, clients and staff, the more I understood the importance of taking pride in your work. It was a growing experience for me and I learned to follow instructions and not to spend time complaining. I am happy that I didn't "jump ship" during contentious times. Her work ethic was something to embrace. I was being prepared for a fantastic experience.
In 1980, Mrs. Peralta was asked by President Jimmy Carter to move to Washington, D.C. for 18 months to work on the 1981 White House Conference On Aging – held once every 10 years. President Carter had planned to include her in his staff had he won the next election. Mrs. Peralta asked the White house to hire me stating, “I’ll get more accomplished as Mary understands my accent”. She told me, “Mary, you bring peace” THAT was a testimony to the Lord.
There was much opposition, for NOBODY in history had ever been allowed to bring a secretary to the White House Conference, only professionals who were nationally known in the field of Gerontology were invited to attend. However, I was finally approved under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act ( personnel are assigned to the government “on loan” and then returned to their city/positions. I was packed and moved by the U.S. government and salaried. This would not have happen, had I quit the first time I felt humiliated.
It would take a book to write about the people I rubbed shoulders with – their attitudes and fabulous lifestyles. I also had the opportunity to minister to some of most powerful people in the country. I returned home with enough experience under my belt to receive credits in “Political Science” from Antioch University as part of a Prior Learning Petition. Mrs. Peralta made me Coordinator for Project: HEAD II (a coalition of church-based senior clubs) as part of my college practicum; the Philadelphia Senate On Aging had organized in 1977 to allow these clubs to become a non-profit organization… continuing to receive technical assistance from us in programming and the sharing of information pertinent to their members.
Mrs. Peralta retired and she and her husband moved to Spain. The Project was transferred to the Mayor’s Commission On Aging and I choose to run it, even when there was no budget; it was 10 years before I received a salary. I became Director of Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (trained by AARP) - it later became the APPRISE program. I also directed Health Care Fraud (under CARIE – Center for Advocacy for Rights and Interest of the Elderly). My work with Apprise was recognized by Harrisburg and the MCOA was given a budget which included a salary for me.
Members of the Philadelphia Senate on Aging received training from me for the Apprise Program as well as training from CARIE for Health Care Fraud.
Although I am retired , we continue to have a rapport with the Mayor’s Commission on Aging and are welcomed to conduct monthly meetings and trainings there throughout the year.
We continue to serve our peers with the goal to enhance their quality of life by informing them of their rights and benefits
I am blessed to have the experience, knowledge and passion to serve the seniors of the City of Philadelphia and anticipate the fulfillment of our new goals with much excitement.
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Philadelphia Senate On Aging
Mail 47 E. Haines Street
Philadelphia, Pa 19144
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