Mary L.C. Leon began her 60-plus years of 4-H involvement as a club member in Marion County in 1940. During her eight years there she was mainly involved with home economics related projects.
“4-H gave me a place to learn and grow and succeed,” said Leon. “It was the most important part of my childhood and influenced my choice of careers and ability to graduate from FAMU. I am dedicated to 4-H because I know firsthand what it has to offer our children.”
Leon eventually became a volunteer leader in Collier County where she organized several 4-H clubs. The Parker Perry Patches, Leon’s Leaders and Shadowlawn Seahawks 4-H Clubs reached hundreds of children in high-risk areas thanks to her efforts. She singlehandedly brought 4-H to racially mixed neighborhoods and recruited an integrated group of adults to help lead the clubs.
In addition to her volunteer work with 4-H, Leon worked as both a home economics teacher and an elementary school teacher. She earned a Master’s degree in home economics from Florida A&M University (FAMU).
Community members regard Leon as a woman of strength and conviction who is dedicated to her community.
“Mary’s dedication to educating youth to be the best they can be has motivated her to do great things,” said Linda Denning, retired Collier County 4-H agent. “Because of her efforts, many youth have increased their knowledge and skills in clothing, horticulture, bicycle safety and public speaking.”
Leon has been the recipient of a number of awards, including the NAACP’s Life Blood Award, 1998 Woman of the Year, and a member of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.
She has served on the Board of Directors of the Naples Alliance for Children, acted as Chair for the Naples Alliance for Children’s Back to School events for the River Park community, and is an active member of Macedonia Baptist Church. Her passion and commitment to 4-H has never wavered.