Turner Station senior recognized with statewide award
Wednesday, 21 May 2014 13:29

Branch honored by state aging department

by Nicole Rodman

    Mary Branch has always believed in the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
    Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 13 years ago, the now 76-year-old Turner Station resident turned to healthy living (and the power of prayer) to manage her condition.
    As she learned more about maintaining her own health, she began to share her expertise with her fellow members of Fleming Senior Center.
    Now, Branch’s commitment to promoting healthy living by example has earned her statewide recognition.
    Last month, Branch was selected to receive the Governor’s Leadership in Aging Award from the Maryland Department of Aging.
    Established in 2008, the award recognizes the achievements of senior citizens in Maryland.
    Awards are presented in three categories — trailblazer, visual or performing arts and health and vitality.
    Branch was selected to receive the health and vitality award.
    According to the award nomination form, the health and vitality award is presented to a senior citizen who “has demonstrated a commitment to healthy living and who serves as a role model for others.”
    Branch was nominated for the award by Donna Bilz, program coordinator for the Baltimore County Department of Aging, Cynthia Mingo, supervisor of Fleming Senior Center, and Elmira Thornton, former director of Fleming Senior Center.
    In their nominating form, the three women called Branch “a young energetic and vivacious 76-year-old who embodies the principles of healthy living.”

“Mary not only believes but teaches and practices her philosophy on healthy living,” the women noted. “Her commitment to staying healthy and active is demonstrated by her involvement in various organizations and activities.”
    Branch does stay busy, both at Fleming Senior Center and in the Turner Station community at large.
    She has taught numerous healthy living classes and workshops geared toward older adults.
    In 2011 and 2012 she was a leader for the “Health Freedom: A Path to Wellness Celebration Walk.”
    The purpose of the Health Freedom program is to emphasize to seniors the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
    She also served as a chronic disease self-management lay leader and a diabetes self-management lay leader for the “Living Well Chronic Disease Self-Management Program” from 2010 to 2012.
    During her time with the program, Branch helped program participants learn to manage their chronic conditions.
    Branch also received training to teach the “Eat Smart, Live Strong” nutrition education program. She taught the program in at Fleming Senior Center from 2011 to 2013.
    In addition to her work promoting healthy lifestyles to seniors, Branch also stays involved in the wider community.
    She has been a Cub Scout leader for 47 years, first getting involved when her children were Scouts many years ago.
    She also teaches healthy lifestyles to second-graders at Sacred Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church.
    In what little spare time she has left, she cares for her ailing father-in-law.
    Branch is quick to emphasize the importance of serving the community.
    “Over the years I’ve seen the necessity of staying involved,” she said.
    As Branch explained, she looked up to the “pioneers of Turner Station” as mentors.
    “It’s up to us to take the baton,” she added.
    Branch also sees her religious faith as an integral part of her healthy lifestyle.
    “As a Catholic, we were always taught that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” she said.
    When she was diagnosed with diabetes, she relied on her faith — along with research and a lot of hard work — to keep her healthy.
    Through that research and work, today she controls her condition solely with diet and exercise.
    Mary Branch was honored with the Governor’s Leadership in Aging Award at a luncheon ceremony held at the Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville on May 15.
    While she is pleased — and “shocked,” as she noted — to receive the award, she says she is motivated not by kudos but by her desire to spread the message of healthy living.
    “I would just say to everyone, your health is your treasure, and you have to safeguard it.”