By Robert Lucke
When Cyndi Murphy leaves Havre, it will take at least five or six people to fill her shoes.
She has been a busy lady since arriving here in the fall of 1990.
Murphy and her husband, Rodney, moved to Havre so he could attend Northern Montana College. He had recently retired from the Navy. He was from Richey, Mont. She was from Los Angeles. They had toured the world before settling here.
"We spent 23 years in the Navy," Cyndi Murphy said. "Havre was very easy for us to adapt to as we had come from a small town in Spain. Before that we lived in a small town just out of London. We had lived all over. I am not complaining. I have had a wonderful life and got to go places I had never thought I would get to see."
The Murphys have one daughter, Kimberly, who started her career as an assistant manger in Corral West in Havre. Now she has her own store in Denver. They have one grandchild, Stacy, and another due in January.
Cyndi Murphy's name is synonymous with the North Havre Community Food Bank. Running it has been the only job she has had since coming to Havre.
"I was looking for a job and the food bank was the first one I applied for. I got it. That was in 1990. I am one week short of working for the food bank 11 years on the nose," Murphy said.
She is proud of its many accomplishments while she has been at its head.
"I think one thing I am proud of is that we are getting so much more food to give out and that more of our clients just need one-time help. Maybe they have just come to town or they have had some catastrophe in their lives but just one time helps them.
"It is good that when they do come in for help, we can help them," she added. "And we have so much fresh produce. We did not used to ever have that. IGA donates all of their discarded produce to us and Albertson's keeps us supplied with baked goods. People can come in once a week for those things. And this time of year we get so much garden produce, carrots, plums, crab apples. So many people can't afford to buy that stuff. It can be very expensive."
There are dreams that never did come true for Murphy.
"We did get our freezer. I always wanted a blanching kitchen so we could blanch the produce and put it in the freezer. That has not been accomplished yet," Murphy said.
The number of people the food bank helps grows every year. And yet one figure impresses Murphy the most.
"Our most impressive figure is that in 2000 we gave away 84,000 pounds of food. Yes, there is spoilage. We can't help that. It is just amazing that we can give that much away.
"And we give lots of it to seniors," she said. "Now food stamps are being cut. It used to be that you could deduct your energy costs from your income. Now you can't. That will reduce some food stamps as much as 85 percent. My wish is to put one half of the Congress on food stamps and the other half on SSI and see how they get along."
While Murphy was busy with the food bank, she had time to attend Northern herself, and get a degree in liberal arts. In the meantime, Rodney Murphy graduated from Northern and went to work for General Electric in the Havre diesel shops. And that is the reason the Murphys are leaving Havre.
"Now Rodney has been transferred to St. Paul by GE," Murphy said. He will be working for GE in St. Paul with the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Of the 10 or so moves the Murphys have made, GE has made this one the easiest of all.
"This move is very similar to being a military move," she said. "They come in and pack us up and they even have a division that does your relocation. They will find you a new house, a job, schools, even an interest-free loan for a down payment for a house and sell our old house here in Havre. It is a good deal and benefits quite a few Northern graduates. GE has hired 70 Northern grads here in Havre."
Going to school. Running the food bank. If all that was not enough, Murphy got involved with the VFW as well.
"We were charter members of the Northern Veterans Organization. Then we got involved with the Vets in Havre and I became the president of the VFW Auxiliary, District 2 president of the VFW Auxiliary, commander of the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary and state commander of the Disabled Veterans Auxiliary. Those are the highest offices. There are more," Murphy said, laughing.
Still not busy enough, Murphy volunteered to help out at Havre's Crisis Line.
"I volunteered for nine years. It is an excellent program for community service and really all you have to do is to be a good listener. And they are always looking for volunteers," Murphy said.
But her best effort was managing the Community Thanksgiving Dinner last year.
"That is an extremely important event in Havre. It brings many of the members of the community together to share dinner. Last year we even had entertainment," Murphy said. "It was a wonderful day and you know it is not all that hard. I had thought I would be cooking and cooking but you get so many volunteers that it is mostly being a coordinator and making sure everything gets in the oven and out in a timely fashion. All we really do is make the stuffing and cook the corn."
Last year they served from 600 to 700 in the basement of Havre Central Junior High School.
"How I got involved is that I opened mouth and inserted foot," she said, laughing. "I knew it was an important meal because of my work with the food bank. I was told that no one had volunteered to do it last year so I did. There is even a whole crew that comes in and prepares and delivers go boxes. It all was an eye-opener for me. From a basketball team at Northern to Senior Citizens to the Key Club at the high school. They all came in and did most of the work."
One of Murphy's worries is that no one will step up and take charge of this important event this year.
"It is not too soon to start your planning. The sooner you get started the better. You have to coordinate with St. Jude's and it is good to start now," Murphy said.
Soon Cyndi Murphy will be leaving. She doesn't have to think a moment to come up with what she will miss most about the community. Well, two things, really.
"I will miss Beaver Creek Park. I love the people around here and enjoy talking to my clients. And it was always nice to know that there was a place as close as Beaver Creek Park to run away to. I love the peace and quiet," Murphy said. "And I would like to give the town a huge thank you for the support for the food bank. The very generous support. Keep doing it.
"You know it truly is the people around here," she said, referring to Havre's motto. "I know I am going to miss them a lot."