Shortly after moving to Florida from Chicago in 2005 with her wife, Debbie Lansing, Mary became a donor for ALSO Youth. Passionate about LGBTQ organizations, she saw firsthand the true need for the services and programs ALSO Youth provides to the Sarasota and Manatee communities and knew she wanted to help. As she got closer to retirement, she decided to become more involved and joined a committee, worked on fundraising events and then became a member of the Board of Directors, supporting ALSO Youth’s mission to create inclusive communities.  

A former Managing Director at one of the largest multinational insurance advisory and brokerage firms in the world, Willis Towers Watson, where she created and led multiple group benefit practices representing $100M in annual revenue, Mary is often described as “driven” by those who know her best. She has worked with a variety of Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States and Canada in the design and implementation of comprehensive workforce health and productivity programs and she is a national expert on workforce productivity including disability, FMLA, ADAA and other paid leave of absence programs. She has been cited in numerous publications on workforce well-being and productivity topics and she is the past chairperson of the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) Board of Directors. Although she retired in 2018, Mary shows no signs of slowing down. Currently, she has her own consulting firm, MLT Advisors, specializing in the design and implementation of employee benefit programs in the areas of health and productivity. And locally, Mary is most well known as the board president of ALSO Youth, the nonprofit organization supporting and empowering LGBTQ+ youth and their allies.

“I have a passion for ensuring our LGBTQ+ youth have a safe space where they are supported and affirmed for who they are, as they are,” Mary says. “All youth should feel safe and supported as they go to school, play, or live in this community.” As part of her dedication to LGBTQ+ youth, Mary is also involved with Equality Florida and she supports GLSEN (a group that advises on, advocates for, and researches comprehensive policies designed to protect LGBTQ students as well as students of marginalized identities) and The Trevor Project. Like most organizations, ALSO Youth faced uncertainty during the pandemic and was forced to shut its doors. Shortly after, the executive director and all the staff left except for one part-time employee. All that remained of this organization that had been so active in the Sarasota community for almost thirty years, was the board of directors, led by Mary Tavarozzi. Mary took control and kept ALSO Youth afloat by running zoom meetings, planning virtual fundraising events, repairing the center in Manatee County so that it would be ready in time to re-open, cleaning the Sarasota center, running financials for the organization, and a million other things without which, the organization would not have survived. Mary led the team to find a new executive director and to hire a new staff when the centers were ready to re-open. Throughout the pandemic, Mary was known by colleagues as the glue that has held ALSO Youth together.

“It was a challenge for the organization and for our youth,” Mary confesses. “The ALSO safe space drop-in centers are vital to the social and emotional health of our youth. We pivoted to zoom to continue virtual programming such as book club, film nights, peer groups, etc. but it was difficult since some youth couldn’t openly and freely participate from home. Sometimes this was lack of computer access and other times it was lack of family support.” For the most part, all of Mary’s work during this time was done virtually. She experimented and tried her best to keep up youth morale and interest. Most of the fundraising was also virtual during this time. “We were fortunate to have very good community and foundation support to keep our finances on track and emerge with financial stability,” she says. After only missing one year due to COVID, the organization was able to hold their annual LGBTQ Prom this past March with 250 youth attending from 30+ local schools. They set a strategic goal over two years ago to focus on and increase services and outreach into Manatee County. They’ve steadily grown the number of youth participants and more than doubled the number of days monthly with open hours and programs. And recently, they completed a real-estate purchase that gives them their first permanent safe space center in Manatee County. “She is a tireless leader whose primary concern is the well-being of the LGBTQ+ youth that ALSO serves,” says ALSO Youth board member Craig Kaplan. “Through Mary’s tireless efforts, she has helped ALSO YOUTH staff up to an all-time high level in order to provide additional counseling services for youth and help foster an inclusive environment in our schools and communities.”

“​​Mary Tavarozzi is tenacious in her work to ensure ALSO Youth’s organization is running on all cylinders,” says Sheila Weiss, Vice President, Board of Directors. “In the three years as President of the Board of ALSO she has helped to grow the organization to include a full-time director and three additional staff members. She led the way to acquire an additional safe space in Bradenton for ALSO and expand the footprint of the programs and counseling services for the youth. Her compassion to the mission of the organization, ‘empowering LGBTQ+ youth and their allies and creating inclusive communities,’ by far exceeds what is expected of a volunteer.” In addition to her dedication to LGBTQ youth, Mary is a mother of two grown children, a son who lives in Boston and a daughter who lives in Napa, and so she naturally has a lot of advice for young people. “No matter what phase of life you’re in, there are ways you can give of yourself to an organization that could use your help,” she advises. “When you’re starting out, money is tight, so give of your time–it is worth its weight in gold to most organizations. You can also advocate and spread the word to others to grow the circle of support for an organization. If you’re able, make a donation–every dollar is precious to a nonprofit. As you grow your career and family, include some volunteering and philanthropy in your life. It makes you a better spouse, parent and coworker.