St. Marys native Kara O'Dell Mulvany is preparing to embark on a career of advocating for others as a social worker. She graduated from Bethany College in 2008 with a B.S. in Psychology and is currently in her last semester at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. In December, she will graduate with an M.S. in Social Work and will then take a licensure test to become a Licensed Social Worker.
Mulvany is currently employed at the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living (TRCIL) as a Service Coordinator.
"At TRCIL, I work with adults with physical disabilities on the Obra, Independence and CommCare Waiver, to coordinate in-home and community-based services, where without these services they would more than likely have to be in a nursing facility," Mulvany said.
This past July, she also attended a national conference in Washington, D.C. for work. While there, she participated in a march on the Capitol and also met with U.S. Representative Tim Murphy’s staff to advocate for the rights of individuals with a disability.
"Prior to working at TRCIL, I worked for several agencies that provide services to adults with a variety of disabilities. While in college, I worked during the summers for Dickinson Mental Health Center," Mulvany said. "It was while working with these individuals that I discovered that I wanted to go into the social service field so that I could have a positive impact on the lives of those who have a disability. It is my hope to continue to work with the disability community once I have my MSW.
"I enjoy working in this field because no two days are ever the same. It is also satisfying to know that I am able to make a difference in a person’s life."
Mulvany is the daughter of Barbara and Dennis "Digger" O’Dell. Her brother, Eric, recently married his wife, Kim. Mulvany is herself a newlywed, having married her husband, Doug, in March in Las Vegas. They currently reside in Greensburg.
A 2004 graduate of Elk County Catholic High School, Mulvany has always enjoyed athletics and was a member of the school's girls' soccer, basketball and softball teams. She prowess on the softball field gave her the opportunity to play on her college team as well.
"My softball coach, Dr. Joseph Coroso, and my dad played a huge role in me continuing on to play college softball at Bethany College in West Virginia," Mulvany said. "My dad and I spent countless hours in the basement practicing my swing. My dad was one of those parents who made playing a sport fun. I never felt like I had to go practice-- I was always the one dragging him downstairs so I could practice.
"As a result of all of the practice, I was able to be a four-year starter for Bethany College."
While at Bethany, Mulvany was a three-time First Team All-Conference selection in softball, and in her senior year was named to ESPN The Magazine’s 1st Academic All-District Team. Her team won the conference championship in 2008.
"As a result of winning the conference, we played in the NCAA Tournament in Ithaca, N.Y., and placed third in the Regional Tournament," Mulvany said. "I am still ranked seventh all-time in RBI, and fifth all-time in doubles at Bethany."
Mulvany said her parents have always given her a great deal of support and inspiration in whatever she has chosen to undertake.
"Both of my parents have had a major influence in my life. Their love and guidance have made me the person I am today," Mulvany said. "They have always taught me to live my life to the fullest and to have confidence in everything that I do. It is because of this that I was not afraid to spread my wings and move away from the comfort of St. Marys and pursue the life I have always envisioned."
That life includes living closer to a more metropolitan area, and Mulvany said Greensburg fits the bill.
"Living in Greensburg, which is less than an hour away from Pittsburgh, has allowed my husband and I to enjoy all the things the city has to offer without having to travel a great distance," Mulvany said. "My husband and I try and make it to several sporting events in the city as well as several plays and concerts. We are going to see "Wicked" at the end of September. I have always enjoyed going to these events while I lived in St. Marys, but being in Greensburg it is a lot more convenient."
Mulvany said in previous years, the women in her family would travel to Erie for the weekend to shop for Christmas, but now that she lives in Greensburg, they come to stay with her for the the annual event.
Greensburg has a lot to offer in terms of shopping and other types of entertainment. It is also nice to have this type of tradition with my family," Mulvany said.
Mulvany said she enjoys when her family visits and also tries to get back to St. Marys to visit as often as she can.
"It has been difficult for me to get back due to the demands at work and with school. I definitely get back around the holidays and for as many events as I can," Mulvany said. "I always enjoy visiting St. Marys and getting to see my family and friends who are still in the area. Whenever I come home, it feels like I never left."
She said many of her best memories are of sitting around a campfire with family and friends and just talking.
"Where my husband and I live, we are not able to have a fire, so that is definitely one of the things I miss most," Mulvany said.
Something else she said she misses are the delicacies that may be found at a local eatery.
"The one place that I have to visit every time I am in St. Marys is DD’s Bakery," Mulvany said. "I brought my friends from Greensburg some baked goods from there, and now every time I tell them I am going to St. Marys, they always ask me to bring stuff back for them. The peanut butter-filled doughnuts are always on that list."