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PONTIAC A woman who has dedicated her career to those needing health care has been named the 2005 Athena Award winner.

Mary Jo Parsons, admissions and marketing coordinator for Livingston Manor, learned of the honor Wednesday. It is given by the Pontiac Area Chamber of Commerce.

"I've watched all the people who won the award in the past," she said. "It's an achievement. I never thought I was among those ranks."

The award recognizes individuals who help the community and further the leadership of women in business.

Parsons will formally accept it at a banquet Monday. Past recipients include Rose Smith, Betty Estes and Kathy McMillan.

"There is so much to say about her (Parsons)," said chamber executive director Cheri Lambert. "She is a huge advocate for people. She's a great lady."

Before starting at Livingston Manor 21 years ago, Parsons worked at OSF Saint James Hospital in Pontiac. She is active in several organizations including Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, the chamber's health services committee and the Zonta Club.

"I just have a love of people," she said. "In health care, I am able to help those who are in need."

Parsons was nominated by her co-workers at Livingston Manor.

In the nomination letter for Parsons, they said: "Anyone who knows Mary Jo Parsons knows that at the core of all she does is her heart. For that reason, separating her business accomplishments and her community service is nearly impossible. Her job is just the paid part of her community service."

Parsons, who was raised in Livingston County, has four children and 10 grandchildren. She is married to Roy Parsons.

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