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Giving Energizes

Mary Zarybnisky

Idaho’s AARP Community Service Award-Winner Mary Zarybnisky

By Dianna Troyer

Notified that she received Idaho’s highest award for community service, Mary Zarybnisky immediately thought of others instead of herself.

“There are so many others who make an impact on a larger scale than I do,” says the retired teacher and resident of Burley in southeastern Idaho. “At first, I felt so unworthy. At the same time, I was humbled, honored, and surprised.”

In November, she was named recipient of the 2023 AARP Idaho Andrus Award for Community Service. The award honors the legacy of Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus.

At the awards ceremony, Zarybnisky asked that her husband, Jack, be recognized, too, based on their decades-long philanthropic partnership in distributing food, clothing, hygiene kits, and blankets in their area. They also pack those items in their car to give away whenever they travel and see someone in need.

A native of nearby Oakley, Debbie Critchfield, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction, recommended Mary for the award, having known her for decades.

“Her work for senior citizens, the homeless, school kids and women and children is not just an act of an incredible humanitarian, it is simply inspiring,” Critchfield posted on the department’s Twitter account. “I am constantly in awe of the energy she has for the work and the unmatched ability to see a need and then fulfill it.”

To her surprise, Jack nominated Mary. “She takes on any challenge when it comes to providing essentials to members of the local community,” he wrote in the nomination. “I nominated Mary because I felt the recognition was always on me, and she does at least 60% of the work—so it was her time to be recognized, and she has several projects she does by herself. When we take food each week to local schools, it is always Mary who makes the contacts and packs some of the food into the schools.”

Zarybnisky said her goals for the coming year are to continue delivering commodities to food pantries, senior centers, and students. She also provides blankets to assisted living centers, Christmas gifts to children, and helps prepare a Thanksgiving meal at the local senior center.
She said her parents are her role models. “Growing up, I watched them help those in need, so I’ve continued doing that. Homelessness could happen to any of us for all kinds of reasons—losing a job, a medical emergency.”

She said a Bible verse, 1st Thessalonians 5:14, reminds her to be patient with all and support the weak, an ideal she strived to accomplish during her 39-year education career, teaching children, adults, and special education students.

Mary and Jack say that giving to others energizes them.

“We’ve been blessed, so we want to be a blessing to others and allow God to use us to express his love on Earth,” said Jack, a semi-retired optometrist. “We’ll go wherever the Heavenly Father guides us and give what we can. There’s so much to do, and we’ve never been the type to sit around.” ISI

The couple established the Jack and Mary Zarybnisky Foundation in 2019 and accepts checks at 504 Riverside Drive, Burley, Idaho 83318.

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