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12 Who Care: Mary McElroy provides care to those in need

McElroy helps out those in their time of need, many of them during the end of their lives.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The COVID-19 pandemic posed many challenges, especially for those in the health care industry.

A Duval County woman with more than four decades of helping those in need is one of First Coast News' 12 Who Care.

“I ran down the hall, and I was dancing a jig," said Char Miller. "She had people in her office, and she was having a meeting. I kind of snuck away to my office, and I heard her yell, ‘Char!’”

That's now Mary McElroy learned her coworker, Miller, nominated her for 12 Who Care.

“I was just shocked because everyone knows I am all about, it’s all of us as a team," McElroy said.

McElroy's interest in becoming a nurse started as a child. She even dressed up as a nurse for Halloween.

“When I was a young girl, I was always fascinated with health care, and medicine and nursing," McElroy said. 

Fast forward 40 years later, and her nursing career led to her serving as the senior vice president of community hospice and palliative care for Alivia Care. The company has about 1,200 employees. 

Mary not only oversees operations here in Jacksonville but in 16 Florida counties. She helps out those in their time of need, many of them during the end of their lives.

“Mary is a servant leader and a selfless leader. Mary is an unsung hero," Miller said. "What she does every day and what her team does every day is a blessing to anybody who needs our care and needs our services.”

Part of that leadership included developing COVID-19 protocols and training for employees. 

“We had 500 volunteers sewing masks," McElroy said. "We didn’t even have enough N-95 masks and gowns for the nurses and aids to take care of the patients.”

Mary created the first coronavirus inpatient care unit in the area.

She calls the success a symphony of teamwork among employees she leads.

“We were saying 12 Who Care. It’s 1,200 who care," McElroy said.