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Volunteers spruce up Murrysville's McGinnis Nature Reserve

| Wednesday, July 1, 2015, 2:29 p.m.
Submitted photo
Above, Westmoreland Conservancy members Dennis Skeers and Bill Byers with Erie Insurance employees Ray Falk, Shaily Jeffers, and Deborah Powell. The insurance company created the Erie Service Corps, which permits its members to take a paid workday to volunteer for a local nonprofit organization. This spring, the Murrysville office took a day to work at the McGinnis Nature Reserve.

A beautiful spring day can be a real drag if you're stuck working all day in an office.

But a group of volunteers from the Murrysville office of Erie Insurance Co. had a chance to get out of the office and spend a recent late-spring day working at the McGinnis Nature Reserve, a 52-acre property off of Wallace Road in Murrysville.

“They helped clean up the walking trails through the reserve,” said Heather McMahon, a senior claims supervisor with the Murrysville office. “They were clearing up trees and brush from the trails and cutting away invasive plant species that are encroaching on them.”

Since its founding 90 years ago, Erie Insurance has had a commitment to giving back in the communities where its offices are located, according to community relations specialist Julia Nene.

“We found that there were a lot of opportunities, but there were even more that we would be able to get done during the regular workday,” Nene said.

The Erie Service Corps program enables office staff to take a full paid day and dedicate it to volunteering.

Nene said the company has a submission-and-approval process for nonprofit organizations such as the Westmoreland Conservancy, which manages the reserve.

“The idea is really to maximize employees' time spent volunteering but also maximizing the productivity on the nonprofits' end, as well,” Nene said.

Conservancy secretary Jackie Stempfer said the group's efforts are appreciated.

“The conservancy really depends on volunteers to help us keep our reserves in good shape,” Stempfer said. “Even though most of the (Erie Insurance) employees live outside Murrysville, they've adopted us as their community.”

McMahon said the corps provides her office with a wonderful opportunity.

“A lot of us want to get out there, help and be a part of the community,” she said. “So it's great to have a chance to go out during the workday and be part of the community we serve.”

The Murrysville office has been involved in a wide range of local projects, including the delivery of emergency food supplies for Meals on Wheels; decorating Redstone Highlands at Christmastime; cleaning up at the Pittsburgh Zoo; and building a garden outside their office, whose produce is donated to local food pantries.

Patrick Varine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2365 or

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