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For Best Volunteer Nels Melgaard, life is about activity, helping others
Nels Melgaard was staffing Sallal Grange’s Dairy Drive table at the North Bend QFC, as he’s wont to do on Tuesday evenings, when a woman approached and decided to help.
Collecting basics like cheese and butter for the local food bank, Melgaard and fellow Grange volunteers also set out a little cash drawer, and passersby had dropped in a few five and ten-dollar bills. When the woman, who he didn’t know, dropped in a folded check, Melgaard thanked her and thought nothing of it until the end of their shift, when they counted the money. Unfolded, the check was made out for $500.
“You know, you just don’t know,” Melgaard says, recounting the incident. Melgaard can still be surprised by local generosity, and he’d be the one to know, given the sheer amount of volunteer work the man does in the Valley.
This month, Melgaard was named “Best Volunteer” by newspaper readers in the Valley Record’s “Best of the Valley” poll. Before that, he was the 2011 Citizen of the Year for North Bend. He’s an active Grange member, longtime volunteer for the Snoqualmie Valley Wrestling Club, highly active on a personal level helping others with substance abuse, and also connected and helpful to other local efforts, such as North Bend’s downtown Block Party. A 16-year Valley resident, Melgaard is owner of The Nursery at Mount Si in North Bend, and is married to wife Anne; they have two sons, Wilkins, 16, and Christian, 12.
As he explains it, his community service is a product of his upbringing, and his own itch to accomplish.
“An idle mind and an idle body is dangerous,” Melgaard says. “I can’t sit still… In all things in life, the only way you keep what you have is by giving it away. What you put out comes back to you.”
He credits his parents—father Paul, who died two years ago, and mother Marilynn, who lives in the Midwest—with inspiring a life of activity.
“I had an example growing up,” he said. “My parents were involved with a lot of things, whether it was planning commission, city council.” Elected office isn’t really his thing, but as Melgaard says, “There is plenty to do.”
Sallal Grange, which closed briefly after a long local history, re-opened thanks to the efforts of Melgaard and others to bring it back with a new, younger focus on music and families.
Melgaard is humbled by the recognition.
“People say, ‘So what are you going to do now?’ I go, ‘Nothing, that was last year. Someone else is going to be running it.’”
To Melgaard, that anonymous Dairy Drive donation shows how easy it can be to make a difference.
“If you’re not there, it’s out of sight and out of mind,” he says. “When people want to contribute, make it convenient for them, and they will step up.”