Marcia Flaherty’s
Brown County Dream

by Rachel Perry
photo by Cindy Steele

Instructions for “Brown County: The Game” read, “Living the Brown County Dream…that’s the object of this game. Do what so many visitors to Brown County dream of…return to our wooded hills, build a log cabin nestled among the trees and enjoy the pace of a community founded on the love of art.”

The board game is based on the player’s luck in rolling dice to acquire land, a water meter and a building permit. But the game’s creator, Marcia Flaherty, learned long ago what really makes Brown County an enviable community.

Involved in a myriad of volunteer efforts, Ms. Flaherty is living proof that the more you give of yourself, the more you get from the experience. Like many projects in Brown County, the 1999 “Game” resulted from community participation. “It began one New Year’s Eve several years ago,” she recalled. “Some friends and I were talking about Brown County roads and how to allow tourists to take a little bit of our lifestyle home with them. Three years later I got an idea. And when it finally came out in a box the people that were with me had remembered that night.”

“The joy of it was seeing the finished product. I was actually a volunteer with the (Brown County Community) Foundation at that time and Lilly Endowment had a matching funds program. So when the fair came around I worked in the Foundation booth and put that box in the booth, selling the game strictly to Brown Countians for $15.00. I kept $10.00 to cover the expenses of producing that first batch of a thousand and gave $5.00 to the Foundation. Lilly tripled the contribution. So a fifteen dollar purchase created $20 to the operations of the Foundation.”

“Another joy of creating the game is the kids at the Brown County High School created all the art. At the time Mike Beam was the art teacher and we created it so that, for each game sold, a dollar would go to the art club. They brought in about $500. We invited the kids to the first run of the printing so they got the uncut sheet (for the board). The fun was that the whole project was charity based and involved the kids.”

“Brown County: The Game” continues to be available through the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce and in the Community Foundation office (on the second floor of the Professional Building on the corner of Main and Van Buren Streets). All profits now go to the Foundation.

Ms. Flaherty volunteered at the Foundation in 1998 and later became one of its first paid employees. She was recently promoted to the position of vice president for administration. Enthusiastic spokespersons for the Foundation, Ms. Flaherty and Foundation President/CEO Jim Brunnemer spend countless hours and much energy getting the word out about the Foundation’s mission “to enhance the quality of life of the individual and the community in which we live and serve.”

Marcia Flaherty’s commitment to Brown County is not limited to her leadership role in the Foundation. She has been an American Red Cross volunteer for the past three years, organizing blood drives in Morgantown. She has been an avid supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, serving on their Board of Directors since 1999. And she is an active Board member of the Brown County Chapter of the Lion’s club, which she calls “the greatest service organization in the world.”

“I’m just a very busy person,” Ms. Flaherty admits. “I don’t like to just sit still. When I was bringing up my son I was involved in any activity he was. And I’m very fortunate that my son was a healthy bright child. He and I both share this joy of reading. So once he went to school I went to the library and started tutoring non-reading adults. Things grew from there. When my son graduated from high school, I had no one else to care for so I had to go out and find someone to care for.”

Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Ms. Flaherty came to Bloomington when her husband was transferred in 1979. His job was later moved to Indianapolis where he managed a major package delivery service. “We decided that life was too short,” Marcia laughed. “So we both quit our jobs and we spent three months traveling the state deciding where we wanted to be and what we wanted to do.” Their search ended in Morgantown, where they purchased the landmark “Rock House” and restored it into a Bed and Breakfast in 1987. They also owned the Morgantown General Store and Laundromat.

When their sons left for college in 1991, the couple sold everything but the store and moved to Brown County. They eventually opened a store in Ellettsville as well. “Then when I found myself alone and working a hundred hours a week with my family in Virginia and Seattle, I got out of the store business,” Ms. Flaherty said.

Marcia Flaherty’s ability to get things done has benefited Brown County in hidden and, occasionally, more obvious ways. Bill and Pat Lloyd had purchased a huge American flag off of “eBay” and called the Foundation when the terrorist attacks occurred on September 11, 2001. “The idea to put the flag on the side of the Hob Nob—Bill says it was me and I say it was Bill. The only thing wrong with the corner was the incredible amount of traffic and how close to the street it was. It just got so dirty. When we took it down the (Historical Society) Pioneer Women took it and had a ‘Betsy Ross Day’ and repaired all of the points of the stars that had come up. And then Burds Cleaners in Columbus cleaned it for us. I said, ‘I’m calling about cleaning an American flag and getting a price.’ She said, ‘There’s no charge.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, this flag is thirty-eight feet.’ She said, ‘If it’ll fit into the machine, there’s no charge.’”

“When we took the flag down, we knew we couldn’t just take it down because everyone loved it. So I made a couple of phone calls right before Christmas to see if we could have some Veterans help take it down. When I came back from vacation, we had a rifle salute and Jacqueline Cassiday Colwell singing the Star Spangled Banner. We had the jail chaplain delivering an invocation, a gentleman playing taps, and we had 300 people—it shut down the highway—walking the flag to the school cafeteria,” Marcia explained. “This is why I love it here.”