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Rising Stars: Meet Mary Nastukov

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary Nastukov.

Hi Mary, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I have been an entrepreneur since I was eight years old… always thinking of ideas, big or small, to contribute to the world. I was passionate about so many things; writing, photography, traveling, food, relationships, people, but I knew there had to be one thing that I was made to do. It was the one relationship I was desperately searching for; the relationship with my purpose.

Throughout my life, I have had the amazing opportunity to get to know some pretty interesting, influential, and inspiring people in my career. I have worked as an event planner, event host, publicist, food critic, relationship columnist, sales manager and editor (among other things that were completely out in the left-field). I have been in radio, tv and newspapers, but my favorite, by far, has been traveling around the country for six years with a national Christian Women’s Conference (on the merchandise team, but who cares!) I just knew that my life was going somewhere! Look at all the things I had done and the people I had met! Yet still, in my 40’s, I was searching…

And then, it happened. I stopped searching. I got married (finally in my late 30’s), had a couple of kids and forgot that determined, fearless girl that wanted to change the world. Life now became all about my family. Everyone else but me. I’ve heard it said that when you stop looking for the love of your life and start doing what you love, the love of your life will find you. Well, the love of my life was my purpose. And I was desperate to find my place in the world. But now, life was different. I lived in PJs and messy buns. I made lunches and folded tiny clothes. I was now only desperate to find sleep.

Before my father passed in 2019, I remember sitting by his bedside at Moffitt, begging him with tears down my face to just tell me what to do with my life before he leaves me. What he said next, I’ll never forget. He chuckled at me and said, “babe, do you know that YOU are the child that I will never worry about? You have accomplished so many things in your life already, and right now, the only thing you need to think about is being a good mom to those boys and a good wife to your husband. And then one day, when the kids are old enough to go to school, it will fall right in your lap. God will show you exactly what you are supposed to do. You won’t even have to fight for it. It will just come. Just keep doing what you’re doing.

So I did. I embraced my life. I devoted myself to my kids, my husband and my church. I learned how not to kill plants and showed my husband that girls too can lay tile. Maybe even better.

When I lost my dad, I took some of the money he left me to have surgery that I desperately needed. During my recovery, Covid hit. The world shut down. And I had even more time for chores, lol. Randomly I thought of starting a Facebook group with some of the ladies in my circle to post items that we wanted to get rid of but couldn’t donate to thrift stores due to the pandemic. I figured why not try to share our possessions… my dad uses to always say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure! It all started with a few baby items and some clothes.

Since July of 2020, With Love Anonymous, Tampa has become a community of 3.3K neighbors who comes to the aid of complete strangers in need in our community. Regardless of color, class, religion, politics or personal opinions, WE HAVE BECOME THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE unit during one of the hardest years of our lives.

We have fed 28 families for Thanksgiving with 30 volunteers. We have adopted 84 families for Christmas, some with Christmas meals. We have distributed countless of clothes, baby items, groceries, hygiene products, cleaning supplies to families and single moms in need. We have provided blankets, jackets, and tarps for cold and rainy weather to the homeless and elderly. We exchange and share our own possessions and hand-me-downs with someone who needs them every minute of every day.

I wish I could take the credit, but I’m just the head cheerleader… this is all individual members who have stepped up, linked arms, driven miles, sacrificed possessions, given rides and paid attention to the hurting and struggling around us. The truth is, we are all hurting and struggling somehow. Life is tough, but we are tougher… it’s time to inspire the world around us to get up and do their part. There’s no greater feeling… no greater love… than to sacrifice for another.

So that is how WLA Inc. was born and where it is today. Through this beautiful project that began as a fleeting thought, I have rediscovered my passion for people, for meeting needs, and for uniting this world through my love for speaking, writing, connecting, teaching and event planning. Through my work with WLA, I hope to continue my journey as a speaker and encourager, helping to inspire others to connect with those around them on a deeper level… hear their stories… understand their faults because it is only TRULY possible to unite this world, in all of our differences, by learning to love each other well.

My dream, you ask? Well, the dream is to travel the world, write books and speak to hearts about the importance and power of healthy communication. I want to meet as many people as I can and share my story of overcoming pain, trauma, and disappointment in my personal and spiritual life. I want to take my kids on mission trips and show them the beauty in the brokenness. I won’t to lift the burden of providing for our family alone from my husband. I want to build my Mary Dream House somewhere magical.

Do I really think I can do it? Well, it’s a big scary dream, but the desire to help and heal the world far overshadows the fear of rejection. And so I carry on. Wherever this road takes me, I’m sure it’ll be exactly where I’m supposed to be.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Oh goodness… the roller coaster of a lifetime! The life of an entrepreneur has been filled with disappointment, broken promises, loss of funding, personal disagreements, embarrassment, complete and utter chaos, and sometimes no preparation at all… sometimes you just wing it.

As far as WLA, it grew so organically that the only challenges have been minor ones. People not showing up for items they claim, dealing with individuals with their own agenda and not out of a good heart, finding transportation for people who have none and need the items that are being donated. Obstacles with speaking and writing has truly been an internal struggle. Courage to tell a delicate personal story, fear of rejection, feelings of insignificance and unworthiness, fear of asking for money…

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I’m most proud of how our community has shown up for one another in our hardest times. For how much we’ve grown in such a short period of time. For those who have little and still give of their little for those who have nothing.

We are different in the sense that we are not a thrift store. We are not a donation drop of center. WLA is a place where everyone participates. It’s the responsibility of each member to do their part however they can to help another. Whether it’s delivering an item, sending food, giving away items that they could sell, encouraging and being kind to their neighbor in trouble. Our space has not just become a place of exchange, but a place of true community… where they can ask for prayer, advice, resources, and assistance, without judgment, criticism or rejection.

What would you say have been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
Love truly covers a multitude of sins. When we learn to truly love sacrificially, even when it’s undeserved, there is a peace, a joy and a strength that is birthed. It is in our sacrifices and understanding that we find the courage to love, the strength to trust and the faith to believe. Not just in God but in each other!

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1 Comment

  1. carol morrow

    August 31, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    Mary is fabulous!
    check out Harrison Soberanis and Dream Builders Mission too

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