When birthday presents arrive with the governor’s signature, hand-delivered by a state representative, it’s kind of a big deal.
Don Murfin got just such a gift Wednesday night when he received the Order of the Silver Crescent.
“It’s the highest honor the governor can bestow for community service,” said state Rep. Raye Felder, who presented it at a surprise 74th birthday party for Murfin.
The Order of the Silver Crescent began in 1997. It is, according to the state, a lifetime achievement award for “significant contributions, leadership, volunteerism, and lifelong influence within a region or community.”
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Murfin, founder of the Community Cafe, is no stranger to awards. He thought he’d won as high a community service award as there was — the top of the heap — when AARP awarded him its Andrus Award. He didn’t know there was a Silver Crescent until Felder handed it to him.
"Now I find out the heap is higher than I thought," Murfin said.
The Cafe now has three sites in Lake Wylie and Fort Mill. It offers free, hot meals once a week at each location. It began in 2009.
“You look at that,” Felder said. “He’s dedicated a good eight years of his life to making this happen, to growing it.”
Likely in June, the Cafe will celebrate its 250,000th free meal served.
“You could definitely see, it’s a ministry not only from the volunteers that get together and do the work, but also the people who actually benefit from the hot meals,” Felder said.
Paula Levi met Don and Linda Murfin through The Journey at Lake Wylie. Levi volunteered some with the Cafe, her husband more, and she saw what a difference it made for people.
“The way that I saw families,” she said. “I saw the impact that it made on families. Especially in the summer time. These are working people, too, that come, who aren't able to feed their family a meal in the summertime.”
Older guests who don’t have as many food options. Large groups looking to get out of a facility for an afternoon. Event volunteers wanting to help, and getting an avenue for it through the Cafe.
“I saw the impact and I saw the camaraderie that you build,” Levi said.
Which is why Levi sent the letter that got the ball rolling toward the Silver Crescent recognition.
“I said I don't know anybody that deserves that more than Don,” she said.
Murfin said even having won personal and Cafe-wide awards before, he was honored to have the state recognize him.
“It is a big deal,” he said. “It sure caught me by surprise. It just, I don’t know. I don’t have great words. It’s humbling but I’m grateful. I’m thankful.”
As he has while holding previous awards, Murfin looked to the dozens of volunteers and organizations that keep the Cafes going.
“That's what makes it work,” he said. “It wouldn't work without you. I truly believe that.”
About 80 people joined in the celebration Wednesday. By Thursday morning, it was back to work preparing for the weekly lunch at Sisk Memorial Baptist Church. Murfin has a holiday to plan around, planning to do for the quarter million meal mark he expects to hit. He wants to invite the sponsors who last year contributed $16,000 worth of in-kind items from to-go cups to baked goods to seasonings.
He means Cafe work, but Murfin just as easily could be describing the list of awards it brought volunteers since it began.
“The list just goes and goes and goes,” Murfin said.