Making Life Better
Published: January 24, 2013
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All Joanie Murphy of Clarks Summit wanted to do was cross an item off of her bucket list. As it turns out, she brought 22 of her closest friends along for the ride.
"I had always wanted to volunteer, but it was one of those things in life where you say you are going to do it but you never do," Murphy said. "When I turned 50, I decided I was going to do it. I wanted to make a difference in this world and hopefully a more positive one, especially with all of the crazy, messed up stuff that is going on. The more I thought about it, the more I thought, 'why should I do this by myself?' because I have so many friends and family."
Murphy decided on a creative way to invite her loved ones to participate in her group, inviting them to the Riverfront Sports Complex in Scranton for a special meeting. Some of her friends thought she was going to invite them on a trip, while others weren't exactly sure of what the North Scranton native had up her sleeve.
"I told them, 'I am going on a nice adventure for myself and I want to bring all of you along with me. The adventure is all about making things better in our world.' They all just looked at me like I had two heads," she said. "When I asked them if they wanted to do it, the majority of them told me that they had always wanted to volunteer, it was just getting the initial start that they needed."
"I had them commit to me that they would volunteer once a month and I would get them the information and activity for all of us," Murphy continued. "All they had to do was let me know whether they could make it or not and I would send the non-profit organizations our information. Not one person said 'no'."
From those "yes" answers, the "23 Vs," a group of volunteers from both the Abingtons and North Scranton ranging from 43 to 71 years old was born. Now beginning their second year, the "23 Vs" have participated in local and regional volunteer activities, ranging from helping to clean up Weston Field in North Scranton to assisting the annual Race for the Cure in downtown Scranton and cleaning the grounds and tidying up the stalls at Marley's Mission.
"The biggest problem I had was getting our name out there and letting people know about us," Murphy said. "I took a lot of different non-profits and sent our name and information to them. I told them who we were, what we are all about and what our mission is. Because our group is so large, when I call and ask if they have anything for us to do, the organizations see our size and realize they can get something done that really needed to be addressed."
Because of the group's growing popularity, already nine out of the 12 months of 2013 have been spoken for and they are adding Make-A-Wish and the Griffin Pond Animal Shelter in South Abington Twp. to their ever-expanding list of activities.
Murphy explained her criteria for selecting volunteer opportunities.
"The one thing I put in the letters I send to the non-profits introducing our group is the three things I promised the girls - that I would never volunteer where their health will be put at risk, that I will never volunteer for something where we will have to put our own money in to make a goal and that I will never, ever have us do physical activities continuously," she said. "After we volunteer for something, we are told that our group is unique because we are happy, cheerful, outgoing and we all want to meet everyone and please everyone. We get along so well; all we do during our volunteer events is laugh."
Although the "23 Vs" enjoy helping others, Murphy readily admits that the return on their investment of time is tenfold.
"When you become a volunteer, you realize how fortunate you are and how blessed your life is," she said. "If every single person in this world can do one nice thing a month to give back to the community, we'd have a much better world."
"The one thing I wanted people to have was a feel good feeling from volunteering," she added. "When you do something good, like help your community, you can't help but feel good about yourself and you want to do it again."
To have the "23 Vs" volunteer at your organization or to become a part of the group, contact Joanie Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abingtons-based volunteer group seeks to meet others' needs