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Citizen of the Year

She’s generous, hardworking, often tireless. She’s been named “fabulous.” And there’s no keeping her a secret now.

     Mary Manny operates a local daycare, is known for her devotion to the children she cares for and the annual Easter egg hunt she hosts, and, now, she’s been named The DAILY LEADER Citizen of the Year by the newspaper’s readers.

     “I’m very excited,” Manny said of the honor. “It tells me I’m not hidden from the world that much.”

     The 2012 candidates were drawn from each the five individuals featured in this year’s three editions of FOCUS. The “Fab 5” in each edition were selected based on reader nominations.

     Readers had the opportunity to vote on their choice for Citizen of the Year. Those readers selected Manny, who was featured in the Spring 2012 edition of Focus.

     For Manny, though, above any accolade or praise, the most important thing will always be the children she devotes her time to.

     “I have to give them a happy day,” Manny said.

     Manny has found the work to be its own reward.

     “The children in my life are a blessing,” Manny said. “You wouldn’t believe the blessings I’ve seen with these children.”

     Manny, originally from Louisiana, moved to Brookhaven about 25 years ago and opened a restaurant, The Yellow Rose. After a few years in that business, she opened a daycare at her Zetus Road home about 21 years ago.

     The daycare began with only a few, but, during her two decades of childcare, she’s kept as many as 18 or more at one time.

     Those children and their families are much more to Manny than clients. Most of the children she’s kept have come from low-income families, and Manny is determined not to see a child in need.

     “I’ll find a way for these kids to have,” Manny said. “You have to give them your heart.”

     Manny comes especially equipped for this. She believes God made her “heart” a little bit bigger than normal so she could share it with others.

     The children Manny shares herself with don’t often forget her or the attention she shows them. Manny said children she kept will continue to visit her long after they’ve outgrown daycare.

     She also has a way of attracting repeat customers. Some of the children she kept early in her business are now grown with children of their own, and would go nowhere else but to Manny for daycare services.

     Beyond her childcare, Manny also hosts an annual Easter egg hunt at her home that’s grown from about 10 kids the first year to over 100 this year, which was the 21st annual egg hunt.

     Manny lives with her husband, Steve, and near her daughter, Shelley Griffith. Her oldest daughter, Sherry Burns, lives in Alexandria, La. A third daughter, Kelly Steinert, was killed in Colorado in 2009.

     Even with the help and support of her family, none of Manny’s work is easy.

     Manny said she’s “drained” at the end of each day. She doesn’t take holidays or vacations either, because someone almost always needs her to be there.

     She has a surefire way to find the energy she needs for each day and prepare for whatever is ahead of her, though. She spends each morning in prayer asking God to be with her.

     “The Spirit’s always with me with the children,” Manny said.

     No matter how tired she may be, though, she remains satisfied with her work.

     “I’m not doing this for the money,” Manny said. “It doesn’t take a big job to be happy.”

     And Manny is happy.

     “I love life,” she said. “I love to do for people.”