Girl Scouting Sows the Seeds of Community
I met Amy Beamer Murray through a former colleague, Michele Engle, when I was busy with publishing work at the Central Penn Business Journal. Michele told me that I was going to love Amy immediately. She was not wrong.
Amy is smart, kind and has a dry sense of humor that is perfect for late fall afternoon porch conversations. During her daylight hours, Amy is the COO at Pavone Marketing Group, which has its headquarters in Harrisburg and other offices in Philadelphia and Chicago.
Amy is a prolific letter writer and I just recently found out that she was Girl Scout.
I just joined the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania organization in early November. Part of what I want to do with the GSHPA is find former Girl Scouts to share their stories about leadership and the impact Girl Scouts had on their lives.
Here is snapshot of my friend, Amy Beamer Murray.
Tell us a little about yourself: Where did you grow up? Your schooling and how you ended up in the career that you have now with Pavone?
I grew up in a small town – Newport, Pennsylvania – which is about 30 miles northwest of Harrisburg. From there, I went to Elizabethtown College and graduated with a degree in business administration. When I graduated in 1990, the country was in the midst of a recession, and, while I’d love to be able to say I had some grand plan, the truth is I just wanted to find a job that was interesting to me, get some experience and figure it out from there. I started working at an advertising agency in Harrisburg, working in traffic and project management. When the creative team left the agency to start their own shop, I followed about a year later as their first employee. And the rest is history. I’ve been with Pavone Marketing Group for 29 years and am currently its chief operating officer, working with almost 100 marketing and communications professionals.
What are some of your favorite memories regarding your Girl Scout experience?
My mom got me involved in Girl Scouting as a way for me to be more social. Even at an early age, I was an introvert who was in my own head and who enjoyed the company of adults . . . “that Amy, she’s eight going on 80,” they’d say.
So, my mom thought it would be good for me to interact more with kids my own age. As Brownies, we did all kinds of arts and crafts, learned patriotic songs, and made sit-upons and foil packets for our day camp excursions.
We were lucky to have the picturesque Little Buffalo State Park in our backyard – and we did hiking, picnicking and swimming activities there. As Girl Scouts, we did more of the same, but also started volunteering in different ways around the community and we went to overnight camp.
I remember winter camp especially well because I took a transistor radio with me so we could hear if the US hockey team beat the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics (that seems very quaint now, doesn’t it?). Cadettes and Senior involvement meant more opportunities to earn badges and volunteer. And there were cookie sales at each level!
Has your experiences in Girl Scouting affected your leadership style/experience now? If so, can you explain?
I think those experiences sowed the seeds of community service at an early age. When you grow up in a small town, many of the town’s activities center around the school, churches and community groups. In Newport, the adults were involved in the Lions’ Club, Jaycees, and the volunteer fire company and EMS service, and youth sports. And, for the kids, church youth groups and Girl and Boy Scouts were our vehicles for volunteerism. There was a spirit of teamwork and camaraderie within our troops, while instilling the responsibility to give back to the community by identifying needs (like picking up litter, packing food for distribution, visiting nursing home residents and organizing activities for younger kids) and doing something about it. In my role as COO, that’s pretty much the ball game – identifying needs and doing something about it!
You are a prolific letter writer (which I love about you) How did this habit start and why is it important for you. Also, share, on average, how many letters that you write a month?
My mom was always sending greeting cards to sick people and shut-ins in our church and I picked up the knack early on. Once I got to college, writing letters was the only way other than telephone calls to stay in touch with my friends (remember the days of no email or internet?), and so that’s when it really took off. And now I do it because I know people really appreciate it because it’s so uncommon in this day and age. It really has become something between and ministry and an obsession for me. On average, I probably send between 20 and 40 cards per week for a myriad of reasons – birthdays, thank you, thinking of you, get well, sympathy. And I send cards for all holidays and occasions. I’ve become a connoisseur of all different card companies and have even befriended a few of their owners and artists along the way. I simply can’t imagine not doing it!
A few years ago, you started sharing publicly how practicing mindfulness has helped you mentally and physically. Can you explain that and elaborate a little?
About a decade ago, I was dealing with some serious issues with chronic fatigue syndrome, and I started looking at alternative therapies as a way to manage it. Having a mindfulness practice has certainly helped. I think a lot of times people think mindfulness means doing meditation, but that’s only a small part of it. And a form of meditation can be as simple as taking a walk with a friend or your dog. Our pets are wonderful teachers when it comes to mindfulness, in that being mindful really means being present in the current moment – not thinking about the past with regret or the future with anticipation or dread. I do devotions and prayer each morning and try to take time throughout the day to move/walk and do some intentional breathing. I also seek out periods of silence (no tech/media) which is also helpful in calming the mind. And an opportunity for gardening is just around the corner! I believe that having a mindfulness practice has been essential to my ability to deal with the pandemic and the anxiety and uncertainty that it has brought to so many folks.
What are some ways you can recommend participating in the Girl Scouts as a volunteer?
Being a leader has to be a wonderful and fulfilling way to get involved. Working as a part-time chaperone is also a way to be involved. And as Girl Scouts are pursuing a variety of badges, I would imagine there are opportunities to volunteer as a subject matter expert as well. In the past, I volunteered as part of a partnership with Junior Achievement to work with Girl Scouts who were pursuing their business badge.
I know you are big fan of cats. Tell us about your kitties. Their names and personalities.
My husband, Paul, and I are parents to six cats. I always joke that three of them were unplanned, but we couldn’t say no when a kitty was in need. We have two pair of tiger brother/sister siblings and they’re our oldest and youngest cats. So, those four are Jasper (who is Paul’s boy) and Frances, age 12, and Ollie (who is a total train wreck) and Maude, age three. Sandwiched in between them are our two black cats, Otis Jones, age 6, who is totally a momma’s boy, and Fiona, age 10, who is our deaf girl and sleeps 23 hours a day. Truth be told, Frances and Maude are probably the best archetypal house cats that we have. The others are all just a little nuts.