Unsung Hero: Mary Moreland - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Unsung Hero: Mary Moreland

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MARION -- A local business owner was the center of attention as she received a national award at her own business.

Mary Moreland was surprised when she entered McDonald's earlier this week to a crowd of friends, family, and coworkers.

Mary and her husband, John, are franchise owners of several McDonald's restaurants in southern Illinois.

Mary was nominated by her daughter, fellow McDonald's owner Stephanie Bishop, for the Women Operator Network Founders Award.

"They [Mary] lead people to better themselves, their business and their community," said Stephanie. "Today, we are just so lucky to be able to honor this person."

The award is given to a woman working to improve the community and the lives of women living there.

It's given on a bi-annual basis to one of the 850 female McDonald's owners.

Mary is the first in Illinois to receive this award.

"She inspires and motivates others to see beyond themselves and acts to light the path of those who follow in her footsteps," said McDonald's Indianapolis Region Vice President Cedric Jones.

Mary was involved with West Frankfort Schools for decades.

She volunteered as the high school girls golf coach and served on the school board for 20 years.

"I just feel it's very important to be involved in the community," said Mary. "If you're going to live there, you just need to volunteer and do a few things. You don't always have to get paid." 

Keri White knows Mary through the school district and says it was an honor to work with this award winner.  

"She always took the high road when she took criticism," said Keri. "She did it with a smile and would still call you honey afterward."

Not only are Mary and John's children part of the business, they say all of their employees are treated like family.

"We've always said, 'We're a McDonald's family,' and that's just the way it is," said Mary. "If somebody's hurting, we hurt. If somebody needs help, we try to help them. But yes, it's a family business through and through."

Barb Mileur has worked for the Moreland's for years. She says it's been a joy to work with Mary.

"I'm like family, they treat me like family, John and Mary and the organization as a whole. We are very people focused and it's all driven from Mary and John and the things they do for their people and the community."

Growing up in West Frankfort, Shane Smith says Mary has always been an important figure in his life.

"I always look at Mary as my second mother and I always knew I could go to her and John for advice when I needed it," said Shane Smith. "So when we were opening the gyms and going into the business world, I wanted to emulate wheat they did."

While most of the event was praising Mary and all of her hard work, there were also a few jokes.

Mary's son, Michael Moreland, also a McDonald's owner, remembers when he and his wife visited one of the restaurants several years ago.

"We would hear this sound, this 'kuka-kuka' in the restaurants and we were like, 'Well, what's that mean?' That meant Mary was on her way to the restaurant," he said.

It's easy to see Mary is well known beyond the booths of this restaurant, and her impact has been felt by many.

"I don't even know if you can put into words how much she's inspired young people throughout the years," said Shane. "Myself, my friends, it's just amazing."

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