The impact from Caroline Murray's volunteer efforts can be measured in numbers.
"The number of senior residents who needed transportation served by the Call a Car program that she ran from her kitchen table; the Darien Senior Center which she and her friend, Marge Harrington, began in 1978; the number of affordable housing units developed by Mutual Housing Association of Southwestern Connecticut, which she helped found in the early 1990s; or the number of families she's counseled at Neighbors Link Stamford, which she helped start in 2010; by any standard, those numbers are robust," wrote Catalina Horak, of Neighbors Link Stamford, in her nomination of Murray for the 10th annual Obie Harrington-Howes Community Spirit Award.
Murray, along with more than 50 Darien volunteers, was recognized at the 35th annual Community Fund of Darien luncheon May 16.
Murray, 75, has been an instrumental volunteer in town going as far back as 1978, when she and Harrington created the Darien Senior Center.
"There was a need," Murray, who moved to Darien in 1974, said. "Plain and simple."
The two started the senior center in St. John's Church until the center moved to its current location on Edgerton Street.
From there, she was involved with and helped create the Mutual Housing Association of Southwestern Connecticut along with Neighbors Link Stamford.
"She's counseled young mothers, rejoiced with a father who's found work to support his family, warmly welcomed day laborers who come to the center to escape the loneliness of being far from home and families, nurtured our small cadre of staff members and mentored our volunteers," Horak wrote.
Neighbors Link Stamford seeks to accelerate immigrant integration into the area. The nonprofit is a resource center equipped with programs and services that educate, empower and employ recent immigrants.
"I don't know if you know this, but 40 percent of Stamford residents are foreign-born," Murray said after receiving her award. "To see these people work so hard and to get jobs to provide for their families and learn to navigate the system -- the health system, the education system -- is a joy."
Murray also was involved with the Call a Car program for seniors, St. Joseph's Community Fund, Darien Senior Housing Initiative and the Community Fund of Darien. Murray also dedicated more than 30 years to Person-to-Person.
"I'm very lucky to have been able to volunteer for such wonderful organizations," Murray said. "We're so lucky to have so many organizations in our area."
Each year, agencies in town nominate a member for the award.
The Obie Harrington-Howes Community Spirit Award is presented to a volunteer who has served several organizations and has made a difference through active volunteer work. Harrington-Howes is the founder of the Obie Harrington-Howes Foundation, which seeks to help and improve the lives of people who suffer spinal cord injuries. In 1997, Harrington-Howes injured his spinal cord while swimming at the beach and was paralyzed. Harrington-Howes is active in the community and is a longtime coach and board member of the Darien Youth Hockey and Lacrosse associations. He served as the chairman of the Community Fund of Darien and has been active in a plethora of town organizations.
"(Murray's) constant engagement and efforts to help families in need is remarkable," Ceci Maher, Person-to-Person executive director, wrote in Murray's nomination. "Her efforts as the director of social services for P2P, as a committed board member for over six years and her continuing support as a volunteer have helped thousands of families in our area."
"Caroline's knowledge about the needs of the less-fortunate people who live in our community, her commitment to helping others and her highly effective, quiet and unassuming leadership style are the reasons she has had such a significant impact in all her volunteer endeavors," Horak wrote.
"There are so many people in town who volunteer many, many more hours and they give so much," Murray said. "Anyhow, I am very flattered and very honored."
A proclamation from First Selectman Jayme Stevenson was read declaring May 16, 2014, as Volunteer Recognition Day in Darien. Halstead Property was the title sponsor of the event.
In 2013, the Community Fund of Darien raised more than $675,000 in grants to local agencies in the Fairfield County. The grants are given to organizations that promote family strengthening, special needs, basic needs (such as food, shelter and health care), at-risk youth support, self-sufficiency, and crisis and abuse support.
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