Coles College alumna Murphy '08 surprised when being named West Cobb Citizen of Year

Shirley MurphyFeb. 8, 2016 – In December, Kennesaw State University alumna Shirley Murphy '08 was named the 2015 West Cobb Citizen of the Year. The award, well deserved for her generous work in the community, came as quite a surprise to Murphy.

Nominated for the honor by Brian Wooten, executive director of community engagement at Kennesaw State, Murphy knew she was being considered for the accolade but had no idea she was the winner until her name was announced at the awards luncheon on Dec. 15.

Leading up to the luncheon, Murphy had not heard from Wooten or anyone at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, which presents the award.

“Then, about two weeks before the award date, he (Wooten) called and said, ‘I have an extra ticket to this luncheon at the Marietta Country Club, do you think you want to go?’”

When Murphy was invited to the luncheon, Wooten stated that he also had an extra ticket for her. So, Murphy was in attendance with a business mentor, Diane Brown.

“I don’t think she (Brown) and I knew what was going on until the presenter, Mark Zangari (the 2014 West Cobb Citizen of the Year), started talking about a person who is a KSU alum, living in the county, has their own business,” Murphy said. “So about halfway through, I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I realized he was talking about me.

“They had really fooled me. They really got me, so it was an honor and a surprise. I had so much fun that day.”  

Citizen of the Year awards are given annually to honor individuals whose impact is recognized and regarded with pride throughout the area. These outstanding citizens are chosen for their definable, exceptional deeds, with which he or she has made their community a better place to live. Deserving individuals are selected for the awards based on local area nominations.

Besides owning and operating Shirley’s Helping Hands LLC, which opened in 2010 and provides in-home healthcare services for senior citizens and children, Murphy has become extremely involved in her community.

“Most of my adult life I’ve found ways to give back,” Murphy said. “My mother was a giver and civic-minded, and I think it kind of started for me as a teenager or young adult.”

Presently, Murphy serves on the advisory board for Loving Arms Cancer Outreach, a non-profit organization that helps those receiving cancer treatment, and is involved with the Cobb Chamber’s Partners in Education program, which is geared toward enriching the learning experiences of Cobb’s children so that all develop a strong academic foundation, skills and core values that will benefit them in their community and in a career. Family Promise of Cobb County, an interfaith organization that addresses the immediate needs of homeless families with children, is another venture that Murphy supports.

Before starting a business and giving so much time to her community, Murphy decided to attend KSU as a nontraditional student. In 2008, she earned her Bachelor of Business Administration in management from the Coles College of Business.

So, why did Murphy make the decision to return to school as a full-time college student?

“After like 14 or 15 years of experience in banking, where I had titles like executive assistant, customer service rep and account executive, I tried to get a promotion and they told me they were no longer promoting what was hourly, non-exempt employees,” Murphy said. “I was told that they wished I had a degree, so I looked at her, gave her a two-week notice and told her I’d go get one, so that’s what I did.”

After acquiring a bachelor’s degree and founding her company, Murphy returned to Kennesaw State to take part in The Edge Connection, a program that empowers and helps develop entrepreneurs. She received her business development certificate in 2012.

“I went to a free course called exploring entrepreneurship and they gave me all of these personality tests and stuff, and they said that I needed to start my own business and be in the service business,” Murphy said.

Shortly after taking the class, Murphy was approached by a friend who had been a home healthcare aide for many years, but never developed her services into a business. The friend needed help with a husband and wife, and Murphy decided to accept the offer.   

“Well, I liked it,” Murphy said after caring for the couple. “So, I talked to my friend about why she didn’t develop it into a business, and she just never looked at it like that.”

Murphy became more focused on the type of business she would like to start and wanted to become a healthcare professional. She completed courses to become a certified nursing assistant.

“Then, I went back to The Edge Connection, told them what I have and asked what they thought I should do,” Murphy said. “They said I needed to take small business development and start my own business.

“It was six months of too much information at one time but I finished it and did get my small business development certificate. I’ve been having fun and doing good work ever since.”

Murphy stated that she still has access to the staff of The Edge Connection when a question about her business may arise. She is not only grateful to what was learned through that program, but to Kennesaw State as a whole.

“All of the instructors were really helpful and they also knew I was serious,” Murphy said. “It was a good thing to attend KSU, probably one of the best decisions I made.”

Shirley’s Helping Hands will be six years old this July and Murphy seems to be enjoying the work with her growing business.

“I work by appointments and do everything that’s related to their personal care, like showers, getting dressed and putting meals on the table,” Murphy said. “It’s been good and I’m having fun.

“I expect that Shirley’s Helping Hands is going to be bigger than me and then I’ll turn my attention to hiring.”

One thing is for sure: Shirley Murphy is a highly motivated, energetic person who is enjoying life. She is bound to lead a successful area business and make an impact in her community for many years to come.

“Coming to KSU and doing something I really enjoy doing has made my life so much better,” Murphy concluded.

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