Mary Morse, Idyllwild’s Spirit Mountain Retreat executive director and Hemet’s Human Relations Council president, is the 2016 Civil Rights Champion for Justice, an annual honor bestowed by the Fair Housing Council of Riverside County Inc.
Morse has been a dedicated pioneer for social justice in the Hemet Valley for many years, as president of the Human Relations Council since 2001. “I’ve always worked with and for the disenfranchised,” said Morse. She has taught at private schools for severely disabled adolescents and has run a homeless shelter in Hemet. “Through those experiences, I began to work for becoming a voice for people who could not speak for themselves,” she said.
In working with disabled youth, Morse used unconventional methods to help these youngsters find their voices, literally. “We started a choir and helped them learn to perform,” Morse recounted. “They were throw-away kids, bucked by the establishment. Throw aways don’t know they have worth and choices.”
In selecting Morse, the Fair Housing Council noted she had exhibited leadership that brought about change in the community, had demonstrated commitment to the furtherance of justice of those who have no voice, had been vilified and misunderstood as she pursued her search for truth and social justice, and that she was clearly a community consensus builder.
About being honored, Morse said, “I’m a bit embarrassed. There are so many other people who work with me in the Human Relations Council. We do this work together.
“I’m extremely proud that the honor is for work in civil rights. It is a nice way to wrap my career, especially with what is going on in our nation and culture today.”
In her years as president of the Human Relations Council, Morse has helped provide 11 Black History Month essay contests, presented human trafficking symposia in Hemet, hosted a Tuskegee Airman presentation, organized a “Seeing Diversity Film Series” at the Rustic Theatre in Idyllwild for three years, co-sponsored the MSJC Martin Luther King breakfast for many years and presented a community forum on hate and violence, “The NIMBY Phenomenon,” in Hemet.
Janet Green, president of the board of directors of the Fair Housing Council hosted the 14th-annual Champions for Justice Awards Banquet at the Riverside Convention Center on Thursday, April 7.
Notes about Morse in the banquet program said, “Mary Morse is the driving force behind the Human Relations Council and has been deeply involved its many activities. She coordinated these events while dealing with chronic health conditions while still holding down a full-time job as director of resource development at a large nonprofit in Hemet. She also serves on the Riverside County Community Action Commission. She is now the executive director of Spirit Mountain Retreat in Idyllwild, a supportive and nurturing environment inspiring individuals to connect with their own truth.
“Her favorite quote is from Mr. Rogers, ‘There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.’ Her goal is to make possible every opportunity for people to share their stories and learn to love and respect each other.”
Honored in addition to Morse were: Monica Telles, Riverside County Housing Authority, for “Housing;” the Hon. Richard Fields, Superior Court of California, for “Justice;” the Assistance League of Riverside, for “Community;” Collette Lee, Riverside Arts Academy, for “Education;” and Rabbi Shmuel Fuss, Chabad Jewish Community Center, for “Faith.”