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Phyllis A. Garvey Memorial Award
By Kathleen Melvin

Phyllis A. Garvey, who passed away in the winter of 2010, served as President of the
Reflexology Association of America (RAA) until just a few days before her death. Before her dedicated involvement at the national level where she wore a lot of different hats before running for President, she was very active at the state level, including here in Massachusetts.


As a way of honoring Phyllis’s extraordinary and truly for a while single-handed service to our state Reflexology organization, the 2011-2012 Board of Directors of MAR and its advisers have established the Phyllis A. Garvey Memorial Award to both honor and foster outstanding service to the field of Reflexology. It is intended and anticipated that this award will be given every two years. On April 1, 2012, at the Spring Meeting of the MAR, the first Phyllis A. Garvey Memorial Award was presented to its first two recipients, diane Wedge and Laurie Hanna, MAR’s two delegates to the Reflexology Association of America, both of whom serve on two RAA committees in addition to their MAR Board service, their MAR committee work, and their attendance at the Delegate Assembly.



History of the Award

At the time in our (quite recent) history when the American Massage Association (AMA) was pushing hard for massage licensing in Massachusetts, the then-current President of RAA, also a Massachusetts reflexologist, had been informed of the AMA’s draft for a massage bill. With deftly quick action, she was successful in getting an exemption for Reflexology inserted into that draft legislation. Subsequently, in the early period of a long process over two different legislative terms, Massachusetts reflexologists were not organized or really in touch with, or even aware of each other and coalescing into a statewide professional organization was faltering. Looming challenges for reflexologists in MA were that some of the basic criteria for being recognized as a profession required representation by a professional organization at both state and national levels with by-laws, a code of training standards, and professional ethics for practitioners.


Phyllis saw the void and the opportunity that would be lost if reflexology didn’t have a functioning state organization so she single-handedly took up the dormant pieces of the organization. She churned out the MAR Newsletter giving MAR the look of an actually functioning professional organization, drew up membership applications, communicated with RAA, tailored MAR’s by-laws after RAA’s which is part of the criteria for an affiliated state. In addition, she was administrative organizer for out-of-state and international teachers to offer classes in the Greater Boston area to whom she thought reflexologists in Massachusetts should be exposed, and she saw to it that everyone who attended received ARCB Continuing Education credits.


It was during all this activity that Phyllis sent out the call for a meeting to all the Massachusetts reflexologists who had come to her attention — by whatever means — but predominately through classes, or through previous rosters of reflexologists when MAR had tried to get on its feet a year or so before that, which was just after the regional New England Association of Reflexologists (NEAR) had disbanded as a prelude to and support for individual state organizations being formed. It is good for us all to be aware that MAR has its ancestral roots in NEAR.


To those of us who attended the meeting, Phyllis spoke candidly, “We are at a
critical juncture. We have to organize, establish a viable organization, and keep a
pulse on what is happening with the reflexology exemption as the massage bill
moves through the Massachusetts Legislature or every one of us is going to have to
go to massage school, like it or not, and become state licensed as a massage
therapist in order to practice reflexology. ” Phyllis also explained, “We’ve got to
have somebody as liaison to the legislator sponsoring the massage bill who will
sound the warning to the reflexologists in the State if the exemption becomes
endangered and we have to lobby for it.” Those of us at the meeting understood that if we wanted to safeguard our right to practice in Massachusetts, we needed to immediately move to activate a viable professional organization for Reflexology at the state level. Out of that meeting enough people stepped forward to have an election and establish a Board of Directors.


We stand today, in direct lineage to that Board of Directors and the faithful and generous service of a lot of members. A few months after that Board was elected, a flood hit Phyllis’s place of business, which was also her home, and she relocated to Illinois to be nearer to her children.


Phyllis was one of the most practical people you could ever meet. Whatever was needed was where she applied herself. Most of the members of MAR don’t realize the foundational actions she took that have made it so substantially easier for us in Massachusetts than for reflexologists in other states and it truly is information that we, the membership, should have a clue about. She was a no-nonsense path-cutter who kept her eye on the practical prize of HAVING an organization, state and national. She totally sidestepped any aggrandizement of herself, any gathering or flaunting of personal power and that is one of the reasons people do not know a lot about her or realize how much she has accomplished on behalf of all of us. She set a phenomenal example of which I have only recounted here a portion, wanting to emphasize her importance to MAR. Indeed, her service at the national level was also exemplary. All this is to say that the Phyllis A. Garvey Memorial Award is an award for service impacting all of us and the profession of reflexology.


The MAR BOD and its advisers have agreed that, this step of establishing a PAG
Memorial Award, MAR’s first-ever monetary award, is the appropriate means at
the present time to honor and support the extent of service rendered by MAR’s two
delegates to RAA by giving monetary support of $200 each toward their RAA
conference expenses.


Kathleen Melvin, has been practicing reflexology since the late 1990s and certified since 2001 by the International Institute of Reflexology (the original Eunice Ingham method) and a certified practitioner since 2011 of Dr. Martine Faure-Alderson’s Cranial Sacral Reflexology, Wellness Services Through Reflexology, 595 Marrett Road, Suite 18, Lexington, MA 02421,


Originally printed in MAR Footnotes Newsletter, Spring 2012

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