Our Story

Mary Lee’s House is a community collaboration committed to protecting, respecting, and healing the children of abuse and neglect who pass through our doors.


Mary Lee’s House is Hillsborough County’s first and only Child Advocacy and Protection Center. Before Mary Lee’s House, key investigative medical, legal, and mental health providers for children who were abused or neglected were spread out throughout all of Hillsborough County. In 2002, the planning for a child advocacy and protection center in our community began with the collaboration of child welfare system stakeholders and community partners.

Representatives from various agencies came together to develop a way to co-locate specialists and work together. However, it was the generosity of private donors that turned the concept into a reality. In the fall of 2008, Mary Lee’s House opened its doors to the children of Hillsborough County. It is a community collaboration of governmental entities, private donors and public agencies, brought together to provide the best protection for the children of our community all “under one-roof”.

Mary Lee Farrior

Mary Lee Nunnally Farrior is the foundation and namesake for Mary Lee’s House, as her generosity allowed the planning and implementation process to move forward. Mary Lee Nunnally Farrior of Tampa has a commitment to improving the lives of Florida’s children that spans 55 years. Upon moving to Tampa in 1958, she began reading to underprivileged children. She continued to volunteer through the Junior League of Tampa, The Children’s Home and The Spring of Tampa Bay while raising her own four boys, and supported education through her commitment to the University of Florida.

In 1998 at a church, Ms. Farrior started Reach Out Community Services which provided mental health counseling for families who could not otherwise afford it. More than 800 children facing abuse sought counseling and it quickly became apparent that the need was so much greater than what those services could provide. Thereafter, the idea was born to create a child-friendly place where children suffering the trauma of abuse could receive all of their needed services – medical, legal and counseling – in one location.

Ms. Farrior’s vision became a reality in Fall 2008 when the only child protection and advocacy center of its kind opened in Hillsborough County. A child advocacy assessment and protection center which houses multiple services in one location, Mary Lee’s House serves more than 2,500 abused and neglected children each year. Ms. Farrior has been the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of her commitment to children in our community, including the 2014 Citizen of the Year Award by the Tampa Metro Civitan Club, Inductee into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame 2014-2015 by the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, and the 2016 Sustainer of the Year of the Junior League of Tampa.

J. Rex Farrior, III

Rex is the founding Chairman of the Board and President of Mary Lee’s House. He and his Mom, Mary Lee Farrior, began working on the project in 2003, locating suitable property sites, construction financing, and working with the existing children’s agencies in coordinating a potential co-location of services. In October 2008, Mary Lee’s House opened to serve the community with a full complement of outstanding and supportive board members. In 2013, as a result of his work at MLH, Rex was honored by the Tampa Bay Lightning as a Tampa Bay Community Hero.

Rex is a strong supporter of many additional community based charities and of law enforcement. He is eternally grateful to all his friends and family who have helped Mary Lee’s House become a reality.

Rex was born and raised in Tampa, where he attended Jesuit High School, and thereafter the University of Florida where he obtained his undergraduate degree in English, and his law degree, cum laude. He practiced for a number of years with the law firm of Fowler White, and is currently President and CEO of Farrior Enterprises LLC, a diversified investment company.

While being active in the community, he serves on the advisory boards to USAmeribank, a fast growing mid-sized community bank, and to Healthedge Investment Partners, an operating-oriented private equity firm focused exclusively on the healthcare industry.