Pick­ing for a pur­pose

Cou­ple holds flower fundraiser in honor of son

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

RIS­ING SUN

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

Shirley Mur­ray-Bailiff has al­ready raised $600 sell­ing the bou­quets of zin­nias she and her hus­band, Teddy, planted on the Ebenezer Church Road property.

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