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2022 November Volunteer Spotlight: Melanie Olsen


By Kim French, Director of Resource Centers

Congratulations to Melanie Olsen who has been awarded GSNI’s Volunteer Spotlight for November 2022!

Melanie got a taste of Girl Scouts as a young second-and-third grader but unfortunately her troop disbanded. She explained, “Then, when my daughter was starting kindergarten, I wanted her to be involved with Girl Scouts—something I loved as a child. I decided I could join her as a volunteer leader.”

Currently, Melanie is in her seventh year of volunteering and has held roles as Lee Service Unit Manager, Service Unit Fall Product and Cookie Coordinator, Service Unit Communications Liaison (2016–19), and one of Troop 2189’s leaders. Additionally, Melanie has stepped up to staff the Dixon Cookie Cupboard for the past four years.

It’s worth noting that in 2018 GSNI recognized Melanie who received GSUSA’s Volunteer of Excellence Award. She also earned and received the U.S. President’s Volunteer Service Silver Award!

GSNI Member Support Specialist, Michelle Wiederholtz nominated Melanie for our Volunteer Spotlight Award. Michelle noted, “Melanie has a heart of gold, and she bleeds Girl Scout green! She is extremely organized and always looking for ways to get the Girl Scouts outdoors. Their troop loves to camp and explore new places, and she helps to emphasize the girl-led aspect for the troop. Melanie volunteers in an official capacity with her roles but will always jump into assist whether it be locally or helping with council. She is a dedicated volunteer who makes sure all Girl Scouts and volunteers feel included. She’s a great asset to Girl Scouts everywhere!”

What is Melanie’s favorite memory as a Girl Scout volunteer? She shared, “At each bridging ceremony, I am so happy to see all of the Girl Scouts’ faces as they rededicate or bridge to a new level. Their excitement for what comes next reminds me of why we volunteer. But ‘our’ favorite memory (since my co-leaders and parent volunteers helped with this, too!) was when we set up a kidnap breakfast event for the girls. We picked up our girls (parents knew ahead of time) at 6 a.m. and woke them from their beds to come in their pjs to a fun-filled breakfast of games and pancake art. They had no idea what was happening and didn’t know why each of us were picking them up. It was the most fun us parents had, as we had to have multiple cars picking them up, so we could get to the event space in a timely manner with the size of our troop. We didn’t tell them what we were doing, just to get in the car as you are, and we promise you will have fun! They still talk about it years later and can’t wait for it to happen again!”

“My co-leaders and myself have always tried to make each meeting, event, and field trip, based on what the girls want to do and their interests,” Melanie mentioned. “We integrate The Three Processes (girl-led, cooperative learning, learn by doing) by starting the year finding out what badges interest them and seeing how we can make them happen. Within our multi-level troop, as girls progress through each Girl Scout level, the girl-led responsibilities increase which makes us so proud of their willingness to lead and take charge.”

When asked what volunteering has meant to her, Melanie commented, “It is priceless in my mind. Volunteering, however you choose to do so, fills that missing piece of your daily life and is a lesson in giving. To give one hour a month or more is not much to give when the reward is so worth the time given. When our troop gives time to collect items for our food pantry, the homeless shelter, and for others in need, it’s a life lesson for these Girl Scouts—a balance of work and philanthropy.”

Why does Melanie volunteer for Girl Scouts? “I volunteer for my daughter Emmalyn and for all the girls in our troop.” Melanie says, “I volunteer to give them the best Girl Scout experience we know how to give them. Be it support to reach their goals, emotional support when they need it, with the hope that we all will have a lifetime of friendship, and that we can laugh, cry, and remember all the great times we had over the years together.”

Melanie’s advice to other volunteers and parents is to, “Just do it! Take the initiative and volunteer. It will be the most rewarding decision you ever make. The first time they come to tell you how much fun they are having in your troop—every smile, every laugh, every hug you receive. You know you have changed someone’s life for the better.”

Thank you, Melanie, for your wonderful contributions!

GSNI wishes to thank Patty Donahue and Image Awards Engraving and Creative Keepsakes in Geneva, Illinois, for providing the beautiful tile trivet awards for our Volunteer Spotlight Program.