Mother's mission becomes daughter's calling

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Bessie began a nursery program in her home in Boston in 1946. Her daughter, Mary Reid, worked in the nursery alongside her mother.

“I grew up in it, sort of as a worker, trainer, whatever mom needed me to be,” Mary said. “It was truly a family business.”

The nursery has expanded into three child care centers. Mary’s children operate the centers. Reid is now the first African-American woman to head the YMCA.

More opportunities came for Reid.

“I got a call, and they said the ‘Goodwill Industries is looking for a vice president with a varied background and your name has come up,’” she said. “I thought, this would be a great job.”

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Reid’s mother died at 72 — turning her life around full circle.

“Everybody in the family looked to me to make decisions about going forward or closing, Reid said. “So are you going to then kind of walk away?”

Reid decided to step down from her career and step into her mother’s shoes.

Due to community-needed issues, Reid created the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children.

“We’ve tracked 3,200 youngsters and found this is a huge issue for a provider statewide,” Reid said. “A human being is psychologically better prepared for life if their early education is a good experience.”

Additional reporting done by Jaquen Castellanos.