Although she was a finalist for the Citizen/Volunteer of the Year Award earlier this year, Carleen Murray is inclined to shy away from publicity and doesn’t volunteer for the sake of notoriety.
It’s just something she does because she believes it’s important and she has taught her children to do the same.
“I started out volunteering as part of home schooling our children,” she explained. “I just really loved it. It makes you feel so good. We made so many people smile.”
Murray, who home schooled her three children wanted volunteering to be part of their curriculum, so she took the children regularly to volunteer at a senior’s dinner in the community where they lived at the time.
As well as helping to set tables and serve dinner, the children learned to interact with seniors, by playing cards and board games with them.
When the family moved to Summerland in 1999, even though her children were then teenagers, she immediately looked for and found volunteering opportunities.
They got involved at the high school and helped out in the stage production of The Wizard of Oz.
In answer to an ad placed in the paper looking for volunteers to help at the Summerland Drop In Centre, Murray responded and helped out with the senior’s bingo for a couple of years.
Currently, Murray organizes the kitchen at the Drop In Centre, every second Tuesday of each month when Neighbourlink hosts their Soup Social. After the lunch is served it is her responsibility to make sure the kitchen is all cleaned up and left the way it was found.
“What’s really special now is, my daughter and my grandsons help me run the kitchen,” explained Murray. “My grandsons, who are six and nine years old, are helping to serve the people the lunches, handing out the bread and handing out the desserts. It’s kind of gone full circle.”
Murray has also found a way to combine her love of sewing and making crafts with her love for volunteering.
She had read about a mother, whose son was dying of cancer, being dismayed about the gloomy surroundings of the hospital where her son was being treated. The mother decided to sew him a colorful pillowcase to cheer him up and she made them for the other children in the hospital as well.
The story really touched Murray, so she decided it was something that could be done locally. She along with two girlfriends, now sew bright coloured pillowcases for children who are admitted to the pediatric ward of the Penticton Hospital. The children are able to choose a pillowcase to hopefully brighten their stay in the hospital and can take it home with them when they leave.
Also, in order to help promote children’s literacy, Murray makes something special for children to carry their library cards in.
“I make wallets out of children’s book pages and duct tape,” she explained. “Then whenever a child gets a new library card, they get a wallet for free from the library. I make bookmarks also and they are at the front of the library and people can help themselves to them.”
In the future, Murray is looking forward to volunteering with the breakfast program at the Summerland Middle School on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The lessons Murray taught her children about volunteering when they were little, are still what she shares today.
“It is not about getting a huge thank you, because a lot of times no one knows who has done the good deed, but it’s just about making sure it’s part of your life, because it’s really important,” she said. “I just really want young people to realize how important it is to volunteer. It makes our community such a tight unit.”
If you know a positive story about someone in our community, contact Carla McLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Summerland Review newsroom at 250-494-5406.