By Della Watson
Grilled: Melaina Sharpe | The Votes Are In | Dancing Polar Bears | Solar Nation
Invading the Privacy of the People Who Make the Club Tick
Lang Thomas Photography
Name: Melaina Sharpe
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Contribution: Inner City Outings (ICO)
You have a reputation of being quite the disciplinarian on your outings.
I'd say that's right on. I've always had leadership qualities, and I'm sure the military honed them. I'm also the oldest of three kids in a single-mother home. I took care of my brother and sister and helped my mother in the daycare center she started. I was a pseudo-parent from a young age, and the ICO kids know how much I like structure and organizing the trips. Sometimes they're like, "Whoa, this woman means business." But when we have 20 kids to get to the mountains, I just tell them that their safety is my number-one priority, and there's no negotiating about that. But I also think that I'm hugely available and love being a role model to other people's kids because I can do these trips and then go home and go to sleep. [Laughs]
How did you learn to love the outdoors while growing up in inner- city Massachusetts?
We didn't have a lot of money, so for fun, my mom would take my brother, sister, and me hiking at Mt. Carmel in Connecticut. We'd hang out up there with our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, just breathing fresh air. We also had neighbors that took us camping out on Rhode Island. When I joined the military after college, I did some of my training in Germany. My German neighbors and I were hiking 6 to 12 miles a day, and I said to myself, "Oh, now I really have to learn to love this."
Did you have to conquer any fears about the outdoors?
My real fear didn't develop until I got much older. A few years ago, I went on an Outward Bound rafting and camping trip with other veterans. I was 40, had just returned from Iraq, and all I could think about were snakes. I mean, going to the bathroom in the woods at night can be a little tricky.
in five years, you plan to retire from your job as a nurse with the U.S. department of Defense. Any thoughts on what you'll do?
I thought about being an Outward Bound instructor, but I was also thinking about being a park ranger. You'd get to wear a uniform and get to talk to everyone and educate them. But it's really about the outfit. I'm a uniform girl, and it's so cool that the park rangers get to wear hunter green all day with a Smokey the Bear hat and hiking boots! I also thought about being a nurse in one of the clinics at the national parks, like at the Grand Canyon Field Institute.
Do the nurses wear ranger uniforms?
No, they wear their regular nurse scrubs.
Not as exciting, huh?
No, I want the Smokey the Bear hat. Those are awesome. —interview by Benita Hussain
Do you know a Sierra Club volunteer who deserves recognition? Send nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE VOTES ARE IN
Incumbents Lane Boldman, Dave Scott, and Chris Warshaw and new representatives Spencer Black and Liz Walsh were elected to the five open positions on the Sierra Club's 15-person board of directors. Find out more at sierraclub.org/bod.
DANCING POLAR BEARS
Courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity
Hundreds of Sierra Club members across the country donned polar bear costumes and boogied down. The footloose fur fest, which set a world record for "most dancing polar bears," was held to expose the threat of Arctic oil drilling.
The Sierra Club's Solar Homes program with Sungevity has expanded from California to Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. Outfit your abode with a solar array and receive a $750 cash gift card; plus, Sungevity will contribute $750 to the Club.
This article has been corrected.