October 23, 1942 – Born in Rochester, Minnesota
June 1960 – Graduated from Holy Angels Academy.
April 1961 – Married Dick Copeland, a DeLaSalle graduate and St.Thomas College student.
1961-1981 – Had 12 children (6 boys and 6 girls) and was a full time mother until the youngest child began school
Volunteer & Work History:
- 1981 – 1985 — Volunteer at Catholic Charities; recognized for her efforts with the 11 Who Kare Award.
- 1985 — Started Sharing & Caring Hands, a volunteer organization with few salaries and no bureaucracy. Mary Jo has never taken a salary for this work, money and donations go directly to the needs of the poor. Sharing & Caring Hands is a vehicle for concerned people to get directly involved in helping meet the needs of the less fortunate of our society.
- 1995 — Built Mary’s Place, a beautiful $7.5 million transitional housing apartment complex, born out of love, compassion, and concern for women and children in poverty. This building was made possible through private donations alone. It was expanded to 92 units in 2000 at a cost of $6 million and now houses over 500 people, most of them children.
- 1997 — Built new $5 million, 27,000 square-foot Sharing & Caring Hands drop-in center that serves the needs of over 1,000 each day.
- 1998 — Converted old Sharing & Caring Hands building into a Children’s Activity Center and Teen Center for the children living at Mary’s Place.
- 1998 – Present — Sharing & Caring Hands grew from a small volunteer organization with a $5,000/mth budget working out of a 2,000 sq. ft. storefront, to a large volunteer organization that spends over $350,000/mth on the needs of over 20,000 people who come through our doors monthly. This work is now being done out of three buildings, worth $19 million, totaling 13000 sq. ft. located at the edge of downtown Minneapolis.
Mary Jo is currently the Director of Sharing & Caring Hands and Mary’s Place, working daily with the needs of the poor.
Honors & Awards:
- 1984 & 1987 — Rotary Hope Award
- 1987 — McKnight Foundation Award
- 1990 — Person of the Week on NBC’s Nightly News with Peter Jennings
- 1990 — The Caring Institute’s “One of the Most Caring People in America”
- 1991 — David W. Preus Award
- 1991 — Minnesota’s Best Entrepreneur in the Social Responsibility Category
- 1993 — Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Macalester College
- 1994 — Norman Vincent Peal Unsung Hero Award
- 1995 — Pax Christi Award
- 1997 — Toastmaster’s International Award
- 1998 — John A. Ryan Award from University of St. Thomas
- 1999 — Visit by then Gov. George W. Bush
- 2000 — Cited in Pres. George W. Bush’s acceptance speech
- 2000 — Franciscan International Award
- 2000 — Crosier Award for Outstanding Ministry
- 2004 — Dominican Award
- 2012 — Presidential Citizens Award
Featured in the Following:
- 1988 — Catholic Digest
- 1989 & 2003 — St. Anthony Messenger
- 1990 — Signs of the Times
- 1991 — Reader’s Digest; Minnesota Ventures
- 1992 — Star Tribune Magazine
- 1994 — Good Housekeeping Magazine
- 1995 & 1996 — Parade Magazine
- 1995 — Positive Living “Minnesota’s Mother Theresa”
- 1996 — Farm Industry News; Youth Alive
- 1999 — People Magazine
- 2000 — Our Sunday Visitor
- 2001 — Liguorian; Philanthropy Today
- 2002 — New York Times
- Peterson, M. (2002) Great Love: The Story of Mary Jo Copeland. Ohio: Quixote Publications.
- Sullivan, N. (2003) My Mondays with Mary Jo Copeland. Missouri: Liguori Publications.
- Nelson, M. (2004) Saving Body & Soul: The Mission of Mary Jo Copeland.
Shaw Books, a division of Random House.
- Hinck, M. (2013) Great Love: The Story of Mary Jo Copeland. Ohio: Quixote Publications