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Life in the Spotlight

A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Michele Murphy Wise

Often, service to one’s community comes through non-profit work. Not often can one incorporate their day job with their service to the community. That’s exactly what Michele Murphy Wise, Vice President of Program Development at Pines Village Retirement Communities, does with her time.

As far as her volunteering is concerned, Murphy Wise currently volunteers for her church, St. Paul Catholic Church, in their youth ministry program called “LIFE TEEN,” where she is a vocal leader for their music program. She also volunteers for a bereavement group through the church. Keeping kids engaged with the message The Church is sending them is a big part of why Murphy Wise does what she does.

“It’s important to be engaged in our community,” said Murphy Wise on why she volunteers with the church. “Specifically with the teens, it’s very important to keep our teens engaged in The Church Through the youth ministry, we’re really able to speak to them with contemporary Christian music that relates to the readings they’re hearing from the priest, so it makes the whole experience of going to church pretty real for them and keeps them engaged.”

She carries that message and mission of community engagement into everything she does. Very much a community-minded person at her job, Murphy Wise and her team at Pines Village revels in the lives of their residents.

“Here at Pines Village, we’re an independent living retirement community,” said Murphy Wise, “and an important part of our mission is to celebrate life. So, we celebrate the lives of our elders.”

Murphy Wise’s job as Vice President of Program Development allows her to celebrate the lives of her residents by finding new ways for them to keep learning and growing, even later in life.

“In my role here, part of what I do is to look for new programs to bring to the village, programs that bring culture, education or music to our residents here,” said Murphy Wise. “I also look for grant opportunities, so we are able to fund those new programs we bring to the village.”

But why bring these programs to our community’s elders? For Murphy Wise, it’s about learning from them as well as enriching their lives.

“They are such a joy,” said Murphy Wise. “They are so wise and teach us so much. One of the things we really strive for here, in terms of the plasticity of someone’s brain, is to bring those new programs and allow the elders to share their wisdom with us. We share with them, of course, but they share equally as much with us.”

The constant engagement that she provides for the residents at Pines Village keeps the senior citizens there sharp and healthy, according to Murphy Wise.

“It keeps them so vital and so connected,” she said. “We know that seniors that are isolated have health issues and die earlier. We certainly don’t want that to happen, so we’re very much about keeping them engaged.”

Through her work, she also assisted with programs that aide seniors through The Banta Activity Center’s Senior Nutrition Site, reducing senior hunger and isolation, Porter County’s Meals on Wheels program, and worked on a partnership with Valpo Parks.

Community Service isn’t just a job for Murphy Wise. For her, it’s a calling.

“I think that for nonprofits in our community, or any community, you need citizens that are engaged in the mission, in driving that forward,” she said. “With ourselves as a nonprofit or any of the nonprofits that I volunteer for now or have in the past, you can never pay enough staff to do the work that you do.”

Murphy Wise feels that paying her own blessings forward is what it’s all about.

“I feel it’s important,” she said. “I’ve been given a lot of gifts in my life, and I feel it’s important to give back.”

In the past, Murphy Wise’s call to engaging her community has taken the form of volunteer work with organizations like The American Heart Association, The Indiana Dietetic Association and The Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana.

“It’s probably been 30 years of volunteerism in some way or another,” said Murphy Wise about her volunteer work.

In her free time, Murphy Wise likes singing every day and playing the guitar with her husband, Jim Wise.

“We enjoy spending time together and just playing,” she said. “We call ourselves ‘living room musicians.’”

She also loves to bond with her husband while cooking.

“He picked up most of the cooking responsibilities when I went to grad school,” she said. “When I completed that degree we decided just to share that. That’s really good time that we have to talk and do some work together.”

For Michele Murphy Wise, she leads her life through sharing her gifts and time with others to enrich not just her life, but the lives of those she cares about and those around her. Why does she give so much to the community and those around her?

“It’s really about the giving,” she said, “and knowing that you are helping a nonprofit do their good works.”

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