Kathleen Murray is not the typical volunteer. Her life can be summed up in one word – “service.” Her story begins at the age of two, when a childhood accident almost cost her life and her vision. She ended up losing vision in her right eye at the age of five and is half-blind. She endured more than 12 operations growing up and a lasting scar on her eye “set her aside in the eyes of society” for a good part of her life. She now wears her hair where she is able to “hide” her eye a little bit. It still draws attention and stares, but she has become confident to handle it with dignity, style and grace. Dealing with these experiences and her lifelong physical flaw has formed who she is as a human being.
Kathleen Murray attended an all women’s college in Washington, DC, but left to be with her grandmother was dying. Afterward, she left for New Orleans where she worked for Covenant House as a full-time volunteer working more than 60 hours per week in exchange for room and board and $15 a week. She worked with “throw-away” kids on the streets, kids that came from situations that are often only read about. The work was arduous for her and her co-workers, but upon her return home to Delaware she decided to open her own social service agency and once again put her dreams on hold to take care of her Aunt that helped to raise her and her brother until she died.
The process of caring for her Aunt lasted 24/7 for a period of five years. She took care of her dying Aunt selflessly and with grace despite the fact that her 20’s were passing her by. She would sometimes say that you do something just because you know it’s the right thing to do. In addition to her role as a family caregiver, she supported every charity she found worthy and networked with and for her friends doing the same. She is very vocal and active for women and children’s rights and enlists others to do the same. Every year she has several events going on.
Starting in January 2002, Murray will be leaving to travel around the United States and volunteer at 12 different programs in 12 different states with a 6-month concentration on children. She will be spending 30-45 days at each program depending upon how she calendars out her year. She will be going to Atlanta to work in a hospital with premies, New Orleans to work at an assisted living community for the elderly, Santa Fe to work at a food bank, San Diego to work on the streets with homeless teens, a crisis hospice in Spokane, working with people with HIV/AIDS in Anchorage, teen home in Helena for moms and their babies, working and living on an Indian Reservation in South Dakota, a therapeutic riding center for the disabled in Indiana, an orphanage in Maryland and an umbrella organization in New York City. She will also be making a documentary of the process.
She is currently in the process of raising money to do all of this work and travel. Despite the fact that she has never done this before, she calls and writes everyone and their mother for whatever she needs for this project. Her efforts at outreach are relentless. She says that the spirit of her project is the stories out there; she wants to give them a voice with an emphasis on volunteerism. She was selected by Working Woman magazine as working woman of the month for July/August 2001. Murray is making the most of the “second chance” at life she was given as a child and using her time to help others in any way she can.