By Karen Billing
Mary Murray, a Rancho Santa Fe Wells Fargo wealth advisor, recently received one of the company’s Annual Volunteer Service Awards for her “outstanding volunteer spirit.” Along with recognition for her service, Wells Fargo also made a $10,000 contribution in Murray’s honor to Angel Faces, which serves adolescent girls who have been burned and helps them overcome their physical scars as well as the scars within.
Murray has been a volunteer for Angel Faces for the past six years and now serves on the board of directors.
“(The award) meant a lot to me but it meant much more to me to be able to help Angel Faces,” Murray said. “Angel Faces is such a small non-profit that $10,000 is a lot of money and can serve a lot of girls. Really, with this economy, it’s so difficult to raise money…That’s always our struggle, that if we want to serve more girls, we need more money.”
Murray has worked for Wells Fargo for 27 years and came to Rancho Santa Fe 16 years ago to open the private bank office on Paseo Delicias. She makes it a priority to support her clients’ non-profits and is very involved with the Rancho Santa Fe Rotary Club, one of her big passions in life along with Angel Faces.
Murray’s involvement with Angel Faces resulted from an introduction by one of her clients to Angel Faces founder Lesia Cartelli, an Encinitas resident.
When Cartelli was 9 she endured a serious burn injury over 50 percent of her face and body in a natural gas explosion. She worked at the Burn Institute; UC San Diego’s Regional Burn Center; and was the executive director of the Orange County Burn Association before founding Angel Faces in 2003.
“It was an instant connection and I felt like I had known her forever,” Murray said.
With Angel Faces, Cartelli wanted to focus on adolescent girls with burn/trauma injuries, to do more to help them learn to handle life’s challenges, set goals and set boundaries which are vulnerable areas to a teenage girl with disfigurement just trying to “fit in.”
To help the girls, Angel Faces hosts a yearly week-long retreat in June. The girls take yoga classes, work with a therapist from Children’s Hospital, and volunteer aestheticians come and treat the girls to facials and massages. A makeup artist, who specializes in corrective cosmetics, teaches the girls how to put on their makeup, much of which is donated by cosmetic companies.
“I see growth in that one week they’re there,” Murray said, noting that in some girls who are in their third year at the retreat, their growth is “unbelievable.”
Angel Faces pays for the retreat and the travel expenses and girls have come from Mexico, Canada and England.
Murray’s role at the retreat has become one of a “mother” — photos on her Wells Fargo desk show Murray with many of her Angels, swimming in the pool or posing with smiles filling the frames.
“Mary is consistent in bringing her business development expertise, her passion and humor to not only Angel Faces but for all the girls we have served over the years,” said Cartelli. “She is truly an angel herself, touching the lives of many, and we are so grateful to have a volunteer like Mary.”
Murray said the girls deal with a lot of self-esteem issues as they cope with people staring or with even wanting to be out in public, some girls opt to hide in their home or car rather than face the world.
“We try to instill in them that they have the power within themselves to look someone in the eyes, approach them and even talk about their physical appearance,” Murray said.
She said they’ve had so many success stories, like a girl with severely burned arms gaining the confidence to wear a halter dress to a dance.
“Lesia always teaches them to do one or two new things a month, really put themselves out there, try new things and not get stuck and realize they have a future,” Murray said. “She teaches them not to identify themselves as a victim or a burned girl. Yes, they have been burned but that’s not who they are. Just because they are burned doesn’t mean they can’t achieve everything they want to achieve.”
Angel Faces’ goals for the future include expanding on its follow-up program with the girls, possibly creating college scholarships and growing the non-profit internationally. Additionally, they are also looking into starting a program for boys.
Along with Murray, the Wells Fargo Volunteer Service Award program has been more successful than ever. A total of 236 team members were awarded a total of nearly $545,000 to their organizations.
In 2011, San Diego County team members reported 17,000 volunteer hours and Wells Fargo donated $2.5 million to 280 non-profits and schools in San Diego.
“I truly believe that giving back brings so much more back to you,” Murray said. “It’s always been one of my passions.”
An Angel Faces fundraising event, “An Evening with Angels,” will be held on Oct. 6 at a private Encinitas home. At the event, attendees will be able to dine with the Angels and hear their extraordinary stories. To learn more, visit angelfacesretreat.org or call (760) 487-1720.