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"It's been a blessing": Raimondo dedicated to family, community
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"It's been a blessing": Raimondo dedicated to family, community

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Family comes first for longtime Columbus resident Mary Raimondo.

As a wife, mother of five children and grandmother of two, she dedicates her time and energy into making sure her loved ones have everything they need to succeed in life.

From volunteering at her kids’ schools to stepping into leadership roles at the United Way Youth Campaign and Columbus Art Council, Raimondo has a long history of devoting her blood, sweat and tears to good causes.

COMING TO COLUMBUS

Raimondo is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana. She met her future husband, Phil, at Purdue University in Indiana; they married after graduating from college.

The newly-married couple moved around quite a bit due to Phil’s work, having lived in Omaha then Fremont, California, before moving to Columbus, where he started working for Behlen Mgf. Co. The couple then relocated to Goshen, Indiana, for Behlen for a few years before finally moving back to Columbus for good in 1996. Phil Raimondo is president/CEO of Behlen Mfg. Co.

“Through my entire married life, I’ve just volunteered for things,” Raimondo noted. “It’s just something you’re called upon; you should just do your best in any way that you can.”

Even before Raimondo settled in Columbus, she and her husband had been very active in their Catholic church, wherever they had been living at the time. 

“Probably my earliest volunteering would have started with the church,” she said. “Phil and I were both involved with engagement ministry. We worked with engagement ministry through our church in Omaha and Fremont, California, and in Columbus and in Goshen, (Indiana).”

Raimondo participated in a five-week program with her church that assisted newly-engaged couples with preparing for marriage. Couples visit the soon-to-be married to discuss how to adjust with merging families.

“(It focuses) on how it’s not just the two of you who are doing this; it’s two families," she said. "How to plan for things, whether it’s holidays, taking out the trash. It sounds basic but sometimes it gets the couples thinking outside of the wedding.”

That volunteerism took a natural turn when Raimondo had children and her children started school.

“It’s just natural that you get involved with the school so whether you’re doing volunteer things within the school, like a room mom,” Raimondo said, noting that as her kids got older, that focus shifted to fundraising.

Raimondo’s children attended the elementary school at St. Isidore’s, for which she helped raise monies to help fund a trip to Washington D.C., for History Day competitions.

“The fundraising started with trying to make sure the kids had enough money for the airfare, the registration and things like that. It’s always challenging coming up with new ideas on how to raise money because we’re all trying to raise money from the same people in town,” Raimondo said. “One of the things we came up with was… where you could order cookies and have them delivered to your children while they were at school. There’s a bunch of things we did for History Day but that was the biggest thing I worked on, the cookies because I love to bake.”

Raimondo has also been involved in Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and her kids’ various extracurricular activities.

Three of her children graduated from Scotus Central Catholic, while the other two graduated from Columbus Public Schools. From there, her kids’ personalities grew so Raimondo found herself helping out at a wide range of activities from sports to musicals to dancing.

“If they were involved with musicals, a lot of times I would help out with the stage, like makeup or hair costumes. My youngest daughter danced with Lynette (at Lynette’s Dance Studio) so I would help out during recital,” she said. “I helped out with the capital campaign at church and the Scotus Educational Campaign. I helped teach PRE, which was religious education. When they were in sports, I was a team mom, where I helped coordinate the treats and drinks and stuff for after the games.”

Additionally, she’s been involved with fundraising at school events, such as the Scotus Gala held every spring.

Although Raimondo has dedicated countless hours of her time and energy into helping her children succeed in school, she said she’s never given thought about why it’s important to her.

“When your kids are in school, you just naturally are drawn to helping at school because you want things to be successful for the students, the teachers,” she said.

Rachel Hays, Raimondo’s oldest daughter and also of Columbus, said that her mom gives a lot of herself to others.

“She raised all of us five kids and kind of worked in and out of the home but mostly stayed with us while we were growing up,” Hays said. “She’s very committed and passionate about giving back to the community. She’s really focused on the kids as well.”

It’s Raimondo’s dedication to her family that resulted in her having a close, loving relationship with her children and grandchildren.

“We all had very good childhoods,” Hays said. “We had a ton of interaction with my parents, especially when we stayed home with my mom. She always had activities, like afternoon snacks when we got home from school. We pretty much had dinner as a family every night. We had a lot of traditions and family time and we grew all really close.”

Hays has two children, which Raimondo, of course, continues to be very involved with, such as taking them to reading programs at the library.

“She makes sure the kids get exposed to different activities within the community,” Hays said.

IN THE COMMUNITY

With her children approaching adult age, Raimondo became more involved with organizations such as the Columbus Area United Way.

“I’m the chairperson for the Youth Campaign for the United Way Campaign. With the Youth Campaign -- it used to be called the Penny Campaign, that’s how most people remember it -- we take milk jugs into the classrooms and then we ask the kids to bring their spare change in to help with the United Way Campaign,” she said, adding that they would have an idea what the funding would be used for and share that with the kids to make them excited about the fundraiser.

Rewards would be given to the class that raised the most money overall and the class that raised the most per capita as class sizes vary greatly.

The Columbus Area Future Fund is another cause Raimondo is close with.

"I’m a part of the Columbus Area Future Fund. With that, we are trying to raise money for an unrestricted endowment and it’s a half match. The Sherwood Foundation will half match up to $250,000,” Raimondo explained. “Our goal is to have $500,000 by the end of this year. Right now we’re currently sitting at, I believe, $410,000; we’ve gotten like $200,000 matched, which is still great.”

The Future Fund has granted money to such endeavors as the ice skating rink, providing flags at the Andrew Jackson Higgins Memorial and donating to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics/Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics programs at Scotus, Columbus Public Schools and Lakeview.

“It’s money that stays within the community that will benefit the community,” Raimondo added.

One notable cause the Future Fund raised money for is the establishment of a K-9 unit at the Columbus Police Department.

Raimondo is heavily involved in the Columbus Arts Council as well. She’s previously served various leadership positions for the Arts Council. Most recently, she’s assisted in planning the Cattlemen’s Ball of Nebraska, which had been set to take place in Columbus this month but, due to COVID-19, has been postponed until next year.

“They sell tickets, they have entertainment, they have different tents set up (for art and food). I am super excited about it because I’ve never been involved in it. It’s like a huge event,” Raimondo said. “I was very disappointed that it got postponed because it was supposed to happen this past June. Right now, the plan is to hold it June 2021 in Columbus.”

Previously, she’s served on the Big Pals-Little Pals board.

Raimondo has worked a variety of jobs over the years, including teaching cake decorating, serving as a nutritionist for Women, Infant and Children (WIC) and being a Weight Watchers leader for Columbus.

“Otherwise, I’ve been an eternal volunteer and stay-at-home mom,” she joked.

THE PRESENT

These days, Raimondo’s focus remains on her family.

Raimondo said she’s taken a step back from volunteering to help take care of her mother and spend quality time with her children and grandchildren, as much as she can do with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her free time, she enjoys baking and taking walks around town with loved ones. She has also been teaching herself how to crochet.

Despite her long involvement in the community, Raimondo’s greatest achievement is her family.

“The family that we’ve built is what I’m most proud of,” she said. “I’m just glad that I had the opportunity while the kids were growing up to care for them, to be involved in their activities, to watch them all grow up into the young adults they are now. It’s been a blessing.”

Hannah Schrodt is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at hannah.schrodt@lee.net.

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