Hollis Girl Scout spins gold for kids at Marguerite’s Place in Nashua
HOLLIS – Hollis Girl Scout Michaela Pillion may live in an affluent community, but she hasn’t turned a blind eye to her neighbors in need.
Over the last year, the 17-year-old’s efforts to enrich the lives of children attending preschool programs at Marguerite’s Place in Nashua have not only earned her a Gold Award, but inspired her to keep on giving back.
Pillion said a seed for her Gold Award project, "Classrooms for Kids," was planted when she was in the process of earning her Silver Award.
In late 2012, Pillion and fellow Girl Scout Natalie Lewis received their Silver Awards after they constructed bookshelves for the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter. The girls filled those shelves with nearly 3,000 children’s books, including audio books, they’d collected for the cause.
During her work at the Nashua shelter, she learned of the struggles faced by Marguerite’s Place, a nearby transitional housing complex serving homeless women and their children. Pillion contacted Melissa Ballard Sullivan, development and public relations director for Marguerite’s Place. That’s when she learned that the on-site preschool needed a new sensory table and bookshelves.
"In order to have an effective learning experience, children need an enriching environment," Pillion said.
In the year to follow, Pillion built a customized table, which doubles as an indoor sandbox. She also constructed a set of durable, hardwood bookshelves and filled them with a collection of books geared toward preschoolers.
Pillion didn’t stop there: She has led craft sessions for children at Marguerite’s Place on multiple occasions and plans to continue volunteering there, despite her hectic school and sports schedule.
During a recent morning, when about a dozen happy preschoolers crowded around the standup sandbox, it was apparent that Pillion’s project will spread joy for years. Sullivan noted that the new equipment came in particularly handy in recent months, when the outdoor play area was undergoing renovations.
"Although the children were inside, they were still able to experience a little bit of nature," Sullivan said. "The water and sand is especially soothing for kids
that suffer from anxiety."
Pillion, a Girl Scout since age 6, is the youngest daughter of John and Karin Pillion. She said one of her favorite Girl Scout experiences so far was during summer 2014, when she and fellow members of Troop 12034 traveled to Savannah, Ga., the birthplace of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low.
Pillion said she hopes to pursue a career in physical therapy or athletic training. Regardless of where her path may lead, one thing’s for certain: Community service will always play a major role in her life.
"If it hadn’t been for Girl Scouts, I may not have been as aware of all the volunteerism opportunities out there," Pillion said.
Marguerite’s Place President Barbara Alves, a former Girl Scout, said Pillion’s accomplishments are, indeed, impressive.
"She’s done wonderful things, not just for Marguerite’s Place, but for her community," Alves said.
The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Completion of a seven-step project earns girls the satisfaction of addressing a community concern, with eyes sharply focused on the future. Gold Award recipients are eligible for college scholarships and increased military ranking.