Epilogue: Heather Murphy


  I don’t know where to begin! Do I start with all the amazing people (dogs and cats too) I met through my Volunteer Odyssey week? Or with the vital services the organizations I volunteered with bring to our community? Or with how great it felt to support these organizations and make a difference? Or with how important it is to make time to volunteer? Seven organizations in seven days: MIFA, Memphis Medical District Collaborative, Mid-South Spay and Neuter Services, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Page Robbins Adult Day Center, Room In The Inn/Peace Lutheran Church, and Dorothy Day House. Dr. Sarah Petschonek and Caroline Borron with Volunteer Odyssey scheduled the perfect week for me based on my interests and causes I’m most passionate about. I embarked on this journey….this odyssey…to explore the world of non-profit organizations, to see if I … Continue reading

Memphis volunteer opportunities your kids can do during winter break


People often ask how soon they can take their kids to volunteer. We have good news: It’s never too early to start volunteering with your kids! There are several great volunteer opportunities in Memphis where your whole family can get involved. Your winter break is the perfect time to get involved and to start volunteering as a family. Here are our top picks: 1) Meals on Wheels You deliver meals to home-bound seniors. These folks light up when they see kids and it will definitely be the highlight of their day. Here’s a 90 second video about how it works: voliovolunteers.com/mifa-meals-on-wheels If you’re interested, just click the “Tell me more” button and Isaiah will get right back to you! We can also connect you personally, just email sarah@volunteerodyssey.com 2) Dorothy Day House This amazing place keeps homeless families together. Your children will meet other … Continue reading

Day 1: Creating Space

Stuffing gift bags for the CAG Christmas party

“Promises to children are sacred.” This mantra from my days as a KIPP teacher kept scrolling through my mind as I promised several dozen elementary school kids that they would absolutely all get to have one of the pieces of cake spread out on the table between us- after a short graduation ceremony. Fortunately, the cake was massive, so it was an easy promise to both make and keep. Plus, we were standing in the Carpenter Art Garden (CAG), where staff and volunteers have worked daily to build trust and create empowering relationships with the children in this Binghampton neighborhood. These kids had every reason to believe me. When I first pulled up in front of the Carpenter Art Garden and the adjacent Purple House just before 3:00, my eye was drawn to a house on the other side of … Continue reading

Prologue: Kathleen Quinlen

Life on the Mississippi

I think of myself as a Memphian. After all, I spent the first 18 years of my life in this city. I went ice skating at the Mall of Memphis, ate my weight in Danver’s cheeseburgers, and still refer to the flagship university as “Memphis State.” But after spending 18 subsequent years living elsewhere, I realize that much has changed in the city I still think of as home. For the past seven years, I have been living and working in the rural Arkansas Delta. I started there as a public school teacher, then transitioned into a program director role at the county chamber of commerce three years ago. Over the course of my time in the Delta, I developed a love for working in the public and nonprofit sectors. For the first time in my life, I felt like … Continue reading

Day 7: What Does Homelessness Look Like?

Homemade chess squares for the Sunday evening gathering.

  I had driven by the building thousands of times but never knew of the kindness and generosity happening inside. If I hadn’t known I was visiting the Dorothy Day House  and sharing dessert with homeless families and other volunteers, I would have thought I was celebrating the holidays at a friend’s house. Walking in the backdoor like all family members do, I met a large group of volunteers toting boxes and bags of presents and armfuls of desserts. I immediately felt humbled as I walked in with my small box of chess squares as meager contribution to the evening’s dessert buffet. “What organization are you with?” I asked the mass of volunteers. “Oh, we aren’t with an organization. We are family and friends just helping out.” My feelings of humility increased. As I walked into the home, the green nametags … Continue reading

Day 6: Yes, There Is Room For You Here

Serving breakfast at Peace Lutheran Church

It was 26⁰ with a wind chill of 19⁰. At 5:00 this morning, frost covered the trees, coated grass on the ground and reflected the season’s festive holiday light decorations. It was quiet and still with few if any people traveling the roads. My car was just starting to feel warmer as I arrived early at Peace Lutheran Church. Sitting in the parking lot looking at the darkened church, I thought of the people inside, taking brief shelter from the cold and insecurity of homelessness. They spent the night at the church. I wondered if they too felt as though they had just gotten warm when it was time to step out into the elements again. Peace Lutheran Church is one of the many local communities of faith partnering with Room In The Inn to provide dinner, breakfast, a snack … Continue reading

Day 5: Meeting People Where They Are On Their Journey

Joining Cookie in the sing-a-long!

It’s the natural course of life, losing our parents, but just because it’s natural doesn’t make it easier. Whether it is sudden or a child loses their parent little by little over a period of time, losing a parent brings heartbreak like no other. “I said goodbye to my mom two years ago,” said a dear friend whose mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago. My friend still sees her mother nearly every day but the woman she visits isn’t the mother she once was. For patients and those caring for family members diagnosed with memory loss, the days can be stressful, long and filled with sadness of loss. For these, the Page Robbins Adult Day Center is a blessing and a reprieve. The center offers daytime programs for middle-aged and older adults challenged with memory loss. Safe, … Continue reading

Day 4: Le Bonheur Specials and Friendly Smiles

Gordon, the awesome Le Bonheur volunteer and his amazing hot beverage cart!

“Hey, Hot Chocolate Lady! My mom wants some, too!” the younger sibling of a Le Bonheur patient excitedly hollered as he placed his order with me at the Hot Drinks Beverage Cart. Four donated hot beverage dispensers and one awesome Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital volunteer is all it took to create the Hot Drinks Beverage Cart. Gordon is the awesome volunteer and mastermind behind it all! Tapping into his creative side, carpentry skills and passion for delivering happiness, Gordon constructed wooden structures that, when attached, turn your ordinary office cart into a festive traveling coffee shop that any barista would envy. Today, I had the pleasure of accompanying Gordon on his morning route. The lights and Gordon’s hand-crafted seasonal decorations that adorn the beverage cart draw the attention of staff, patients and parents of patients as we meander through the … Continue reading

Day 3: Memphis’ Other Neglected

Sorting donated newspapers so dog and cat kennels can be quickly lined by staff and volunteers.

After delivering the last meal to a senior in our community earlier this week, I glanced in my rearview mirror. There she was. Her eyes met mine. She was wet, cold, emaciated, and by the looks of her, had given birth to who-knows-how many litters of puppies. It didn’t matter one bit that I was in an unfamiliar part of town. I had to try to help her. Grabbing the last of my stash of pre-packaged peanut butter and cracker snacks that I keep on hand for just this occasion, I tried to lure her closer to me. As she backed away, she wouldn’t take her eyes off me, wanting so desperately to trust a human. I put the crackers on the sidewalk, out of the street traffic, and walked away. The further I retreated from the food, the closer … Continue reading

Day 2: It Isn’t Magic

Still looking for that light pole number!

Remember the days when downtown Memphis wasn’t anywhere you wanted to be after dark, and Overton Square was a barren wasteland? These areas didn’t become the lively, thriving, hot spots of Memphis they are today with the wave of a magic wand. It took planning, investing and a lot of hard work. Great news! Our city’s revitalization focus is expanding! The Memphis Medical District is long overdue for much needed attention. Bordered by Poplar Avenue, I-240, Vance Avenue and Danny Thomas Boulevard, the area between midtown and downtown is home to esteemed institutions such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Methodist LeBonheur, Regional One Health, and many others. The Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC) was formed less than a year ago by the Chief Executive Officers and leaders from the medical and higher education … Continue reading