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Born in Honesdale, PA, Josh Murphy has always been tied to the Upper Delaware River region. After graduating from Oneonta State, he found himself moving to New York City, working on a number of money-making projects with high-profile clients, but feeling less connected to the community around him—something that he sorely missed.
“Life happened during my 15 years away from home,” Murphy told me during breakfast a few days ago. “After my divorce, I felt an even greater desire to return to my roots here in the country, and I knew it was time to come home. People who aren’t from around here just don’t understand what small town life is all about, but it’s this,” he said referring to the upcoming seventh annual “Murph’s Toy Drive,” which gets underway this Saturday, November 30 at 6 p.m.
During his time in the city, he was involved with charities, but, he explained, it always revolved around donating just money. “And then, I had an epiphany,” he said with a smile. “I realized that I was not participating in a way that anyone would remember after I was gone, and I wanted to make a real contribution.” So he spoke with the executive director for the Boys and Girls Club (BGC) of Northern Orange and Sullivan counties, Alexis Eggleton. The two “joined forces,” and that’s how Murph’s Toy Drive was born. “With her amazing fundraising expertise and friendship, I realized that I could help make a difference in a genuine hands-on way and give back to the community that has always been there for me.”
The toy drive, which is in association with the Boys and Girls Club Giving Tree program, began with Murph hosting events in NYC, where he received assistance from some of those big-name clients who helped get toys and other items donated to the cause—but it wasn’t enough. “It wasn’t here, at a grass-roots level,” he explained. “If I’m going to do this to benefit kids and families here at home, why am I not doing it in Sullivan County?” So, with help from Eggleton and the “just-plain-amazing” BGC staff and volunteers, he moved his life, and the toy drive, back to Sullivan County.
“The first year here, we experienced a blizzard, and the second, [a blizzard] that was even worse. Last year, Mother Nature was kind, and our event at the Villa Roma Clubhouse was a huge success, with more than 1,000 new, unwrapped toys and items (gloves, scarves, hats) being donated by our friends and neighbors, for their friends and neighbors in need of a helping hand.”
What makes this toy drive different than any other is Josh Murphy himself, and his passion for organizing this event. “I didn’t just want this to be a drop-off thing,” he said, “even though there are, indeed, drop-off boxes scattered around the county. But I really wanted to give something back to those generous enough to donate new, unwrapped toys to the program, so why not throw a party?” And that’s exactly what Murph does. “We don’t take a dime of the ticket money,” he said of the tickets that cost $40 advance and $50 at the door. Those proceeds go to the Villa Roma Clubhouse, which donates the space for the event. The tickets cover the cost of “a fantastic dinner, replete with delicious carving stations, pasta stations, gluten-free options and more greens than we’ve had in the past,” Murphy described. Aside from dinner and dancing, the price of admission includes a three-hour-long open bar in addition to the food and live entertainment. “Oh! And our great raffle,” he exclaimed, “comprised of scores of amazing prizes donated by dozens of generous companies, individuals and organizations.
“For every toy donated under the tree,” he explained, “you receive one raffle ticket. So we get to give you all gifts to take home, too!”
“It’s not just a toy drive: it’s a really good time. That’s the whole point.” Josh commented, “I didn’t want to simply ask people to donate gifts that can literally make Christmas happen for those who might otherwise go without. I wanted to give something back to the community in return for their contribution.”
The entertainment this year promises to be stellar as well. Hosted By Master of Ceremonies Paul Ciliberto from the Bold Gold Media Group and Thunder 102 radio, the evening will feature a photo booth donated by Cory Nash Gipps of Prestige Productions; live entertainment provided by BJ and Greg; Jazzmosis, featuring guest vocalist Joanna Gass; and DJ Joe Curreri, all of whom are generously donating their time and considerable talents to ensure that guests have a great time. In addition, the Villa Roma is offering a special $99 room rate with $50 being donated right back to the Boys and Girls Club.
For more information on rooms, tickets and how to make reservations for the seventh annual Murph’s Toy Drive, visit their Facebook page and the Boys and Girls club Giving Tree program, at www.bgcorange.org.