At Grain Valley Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheons, the moderator will look around the room and call on community leaders for quick updates.

For years, Mary Strack was one of those leaders, and she would invariably have word about an upcoming fundraiser for the Grain Valley Assistance Council or a tally of how many children got Christmas presents or how many families got food in the previous month.

Strack, who was in her 22nd year as site manager for the Assistance Council, died Wednesday. She was 82.

“She just really was the model for how to care for people,” said Doug Cowan, president and CEO of the Community Services League, the Grain Valley Assistance Council’s partner.

He said her work went beyond being a case manager and extended to fundraising and collaborating to bring others on board.

“She meant so much,” Cowan said. “She was the person in Grain Valley that gave leadership in serving people. … Of course, she had an army of supporters in a wonderfully caring community surrounding her.”

Cowan said many of those who would get help from Strack would later pay back that assistance – not a CSL requirement, he stressed – something they did out of gratitude and because of the connection with Strack.

“That to me symbolizes a lot about Mary Strack,” he said.

Her health had caused her to slow down this year, and Cowan said she suggested her own replacement, Donna Compton, who has long worked with the Assistance Council.