Picking for a purpose
Couple holds flower fundraiser in honor of son
— The field of zinnias outside of Shirley Murray-Bailiff and her husband Teddy’s Ebenezer Church Road home aren’t just pretty to look at — they also serve a bigger purpose.
Passersby can borrow the shears left in a garden wagon and cruise the rows of abundant blooms. A dozen of these beauties are $1 with all proceeds going to
the Mike Murray Memorial Outreach Fund, which donates to charities that help the hungry and those with mental health issues.
Planting the zinnias was Teddy’s idea. Selling them to help the needy was a project delivered to Murray-Bailiff as she prayed one evening after losing her son, Mike, for whom the fund is named, to suicide in January 2011.
“I was talking to Mike one evening and then to God,” she recalled. “I said, ‘OK Mikey, we’re going to do something, make something good come out of all this.’”
From there she turned her petitions to God who said to her, “Church lady, what are you going to do?”
“Church Lady” was one of Mike’s nicknames for his mother. She equated “church lady” with fundraising.
Practically newlyweds — they’ll be married two years in November — Shirley and Teddy both share a love of zinnias.
“I grew up with zinnias. He did too. They’re so easy to grow,” she said.
Teddy had a friend till three long rows, and the couple planted seeds in May. By July, the flowers were in full glory.
“We watered them faithfully and they took off, like zinnias do,” she said.
So far, the pick-your-own bouquet fundraiser has raised more than $600 for local charities.
“Ray of Hope Mission Center is my No. 1 charity,” Murray-Bailiff said Thursday as she watched numerous butterflies flit through her rows of zinnias.
She also sends funds to the HELP Center and On Our Own in Elkton and Meals With Love, a school feeding program operated by Shelemiah United Methodist Church that serves at risk students at Bay View Elementary School. The fund also supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention “Out of the Darkness” walk to be held Oct. 1 in Elkton.
Murray-Bailiff has heard some of the stories of where her flowers were to be delivered. One of the ladies in the support group for suicide survivors that she and her daughter-inlaw Becky Murray facilitate recognized the flowers at one particular gathering. The flowers were on display around the room in vases and the woman told her that her own daughter had received one of the bouquets.
“I just melted,” MurrayBailiff recalled. “She’s 5 years old and she just lost her daddy.”
North East High School Class of 1980 held a class reunion and used the zinnias to decorate their hall.
“I was so honored that she wanted the flowers,” Murray-Bailiff said.
The story behind the flowers compelled Mike’s former classmates to donate $300 to the memorial outreach in his name.
Although there is still a sea of bright yellow, pink and orange blooms, Mur- ray-Bailiff said the zinnias are starting to fade. She’s not sure how much longer there will be anything to pick. She’s been dead-heading and removing seeds for the season.
“Next year we’re probably going to do more because now Teddy has his own til- ler and tractor. So look out, yard!” she said, laughing.
She expects that, along with the zinnias, they will also plant multi-head sunflowers.
Shirley Murray-Bailiff stands in the midst of her field full of zinnias, which were grown as a fundraiser in her late son’s honor.
Butterflies are almost as abundant as the zinnias that Shirley Murray-Bailiff and her husband, Teddy, have planted on their Ebenezer Church Road property near Rising Sun.
Shirley Murray-Bailiff has already raised $600 selling the bouquets of zinnias she and her husband, Teddy, planted on the Ebenezer Church Road property.