MURRAY — In 2020, the Extra Mile Hero award was started by a national organization called Extra Mile America who wanted to recognize people in their communities who went above and beyond.
Three residents from Murray and Calloway County were nominated after both Murray Main Street Inc. and the City of Murray chose to promote this program. After all, it is a community with a long history of producing citizens who fit that description when it comes to trying to make their community better.
Apparently, the people charged with selecting the recipients believe it too. All three of Murray-Calloway’s nominees — The Murray Art Guild, Tim Stark and Mary Scott Buck — were accepted to join about 500 other honorees. Friday, they were officially recognized in a ceremony at the Main Street office.
“I have no idea (how many other communities may have had every nominee awarded). I can’t think it’s many, though,” said Main Street Program Manager Deana Wright, when asked about the significance of her community batting 1,000 in the first year of submitting nominees for this honor. “I think it’s a big deal. We’re the Friendliest Small Town in America, remember? And you know what? We know we’re the friendliest small town in America and we work and try to help each other in any way we can.
“I think these three show that at a top level and I’m so proud that they were recognized on a national level.”
All three Murray-Calloway recipients were nominated through residents submitting their names for consideration last year through The Murray Ledger & Times, which took the role as facilitator after Wright and City of Murray Mayor Bob Rogers agreed that was the best avenue. From those nominations, the final three were selected locally before being submitted to the national nominating committee.
All three winners were recognized for efforts that launched during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic striking the Murray area in late March.
The Art Guild, which was represented in Friday morning’s ceremony by Executive Director Debi Danielson and Assistant Director Brittney Falwell, organized several programs designed to give people the chance to engage in art projects safely. This included workshops that not only included local participation, as well as from artists throughout the nation. It also included the Pandemic Postcard Project that encouraged residents to create art on postcards that expressed their feelings about COVID-19, as well as a community art canvas project that encouraged residents to safely add their creativity to a single work.
Stark, who is the vice president and marketing director of The Murray Bank, tried to help local restaurants suddenly crippled by being limited to drive-thru or carryout service by organizing Takeout Tuesday, where businesses were able to purchase lunches from local eateries and where random customers received gift cards. He also utilized bank’s Ice Cream Mobile to hand out free ice cream to customers at the banks’ drive-thru window.
Buck organized the Calloway County Collective, which started on Facebook with little more than her idea to help residents obtain essentials, such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer, using her own money. It has now swelled into a community-wide effort that is now supported by funding from others.
“We have a very special place here in Murray, Kentucky and I think (that all three nominees won) says everything,” Buck said. “That’s a great part of our success with the Calloway County Collective because we have so many wonderful people here and having three nominees for this award and having all three of them to win says that we’re stronger because people really care for one another.”
Stark said he was particularly happy to be named with Buck.
“Mary and I go way back. We we went to school together,” he said. “Just to be nominated with those great organizations, though, is just an amazing honor.
“I love Murray. I love Calloway County. I love this great community and the pandemic brought so many bad things, but it was rewarding to see so many good things come out of it as well and just to be part of something like that, something that made people feel good, it’s just an honor.”
Danielson said that all MAG was doing was what she believed comes naturally, spread an activity with which most people can identify.
“I think very much about what we do for artists, but the big picture is what we do for this community, so it’s very humbling to be recognized for what we bring to this community,” she said. “Murray’s a small town, but there’s a lot here and there’s a lot of love in this community and I know it’s not all easy and, sometimes, it’s not without controversy.
“But when it gets down to it, I think people work really hard to make this a community we want to live in.”
Though it was not advertised too emphatically, namely because, at the time, Murray and Calloway County was reeling from the coronavirus as cases had soared, Extra Mile Hero Day was declared in the city. That was on Nov. 1 and the words Rogers included in the proclamation that went with that occasion seemed to summarize the ideas of the winners.
“The City of Murray recognizes that a special vibrancy exists in the community when its individual citizens collectively go the extra mile through personal effort, voluntarism and service,” the document starts. “Murray, Kentucky is a community that encourages its citizens to maximize their personal contribution to the community by giving of themselves wholeheartedly and with total effort and commitment and conviction to their family, friends and the community.
“Murray, Kentucky is a community that chooses to shine a light on and celebrates individuals in the community who go the extra mile in order to make a difference and lift up fellow members of their community and acknowledges the mission of Extra Mile America to create 550 Extra Mile Cities.”
“I was surprised when Deana told me that all three of our nominees had won,” Rogers said Friday, remembering back to December when Wright officially learned of the national selection committee’s decision. “She was excited and I was excited. But I also thought all three were very deserving.
“I was happy that the city was able to have a role in this. After all, we’re all for recognizing anyone who is helping people.”
A complete list of the Extra Mile Hero winners from across the nation, along with their stories of why they were selected, can be viewed at www.extramileamerica.org.