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At 81, there's no slowing down for Sharing and Caring Hands' Mary Jo Copeland

Meet Mary Jo Copeland, founder of Minneapolis' Sharing & Caring Hands and Mary’s Place
Meet Mary Jo Copeland, founder of Minneapolis' Sharing & Caring Hands and Mary’s Place 02:35

MINNEAPOLIS — It's a name many in Minnesota have heard: Mary Jo Copeland.

She's the woman behind Sharing & Caring Hands and Mary's Place in Minneapolis.

"I've been wanting to change the world since I've been a little girl," Copeland said.

And there's little doubt that Copeland has changed the world, or at least her small corner of it.

RELATED: Sharing & Caring Hands' Copeland meets with Pope Francis (from 2015)

"I think the most gratifying thing is the power that, the grace that God has given me to bring people hope," she said. "Hope is not just a wish, it's a promise."

It's a promise that started in the 1980s when she volunteered for Catholic Charities, then branched out on her own.

"I found a little storefront over on Glenwood Avenue and I got my own place in 1985," she said.

That was the start of Sharing & Caring Hands. In 1995, she opened Mary's Place, a transitional housing complex. Two years later, a drop-in center was added that serves more than 1,000 people a day.

One of the people Copeland has served is Phillip Wylie.

Mary Jo Copeland WCCO

"She changed my life around," Wylie said. 

Wylie came to Minneapolis from Chicago and says if it wasn't for Copeland, he'd be living a very different life.  

"When I came here she said, 'Hold your head up. You arrive here and me and God is gonna take care of you.' And I was like whoa (laughs)! I'd never heard nothing like that in my life, ever, and it kind of changed me."

Wylie now works for Copeland, as does Missy Brown.

"Me and my children stay here and she offered me a job," Brown said.

RELATED: Mary Jo Copeland receives 2nd highest civilian honor from President Obama (from 2013)

She thanks Copeland for believing in her.

"Hope, life in general. She taught me actually how to live my life again, instead of just being, 'Oh I can't do this, I can't do that,'" she said. "She made me stand up and look at myself like you can do anything. And I was like I got it, I can do anything."

Copeland gives all her thanks to God.

"I think Jesus in heaven said, 'Now this is a stubborn little girl, I'm gonna use her,'" Copeland said. "And ever since then I was just, I was always trying to be better."

Copeland is 81, but she doesn't let that slow her down. She did tell us she now takes Fridays off.

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