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.