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Majel Carroll gets Cottage Grove's Volunteer of the Year award

Majel Carroll (center) receives the Volunteer of the Year award at the Cottage Grove annual Volunteer Recognition Banquet from Mayor Myron Bailey (left) and City Council member Jen Peterson who nominated her. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner

For all of her working life, Majel Carroll was employed at various public agencies writing grants and setting up programs for people in crisis. When she retired, she just went on doing what she's good at, helping people.

For her volunteer service as executive director of the Stone Soup Thrift Shop over 17 years, she was honored by the city of Cottage Grove as Volunteer of the Year at the city's annual Volunteer Recognition Banquet last week. An appreciative audience of volunteers who serve on commissions and committees gave her a rousing round of applause.

As many giving people do, Carroll, 75, gave a lot of credit to other store volunteers, the Stone Soup staff and Cottage Grove City Council member Jen Peterson, who nominated Carroll.

When people need help finding resources, Carroll is there, Peterson said.

As part of the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program, Carroll worked with the various providers and organizations in South Washington County Partnerships to better serve area families.

With a trail of public service behind her, Carroll spearheaded the opening of the thrift store in 1997 in the shopping center where Norris Square is now. Many of the people who served on the organizing committee still volunteer on a regular basis. The number of volunteers ranges from 20 to 30 through a year's time.

"I'd be lost without her," said Becky Monson, Stone Soup's store manager. Monson started as a shopper, became a volunteer sorting baby clothes and took on the manager's job for a week. That was 16 years ago, she said.

Carroll is the grant writer and backbone of the thrift store, Monson said, and supports the staff.

"She never stops," Monson said.

Others who know and work with Carroll had similar praises.

"She's always there to support us," said Stone Soup staffer Lynn Colbjornsen.

Carroll, the Energizer Bunny of fundraisers, spent little time basking in the limelight last week. The night after the banquet, she was at the thrift shop with volunteers sorting and folding T-shirts and other items to be given away at the Soup-er Bowl last Saturday at Park Grove Bowl.

While offering area shoppers great bargains and taking in items others no longer want or need, the main mission of the thrift shop is to help people, including those in crisis, Carroll reminds people. With vouchers from Washington County, people get what they need.

The store closed for a year when the shopping center shut down for removal while Carroll looked for new digs. Some lost hope it would ever open again, Monson said, but not Majel. She was determined and found the current site next to the Oltman Middle School pool in St. Paul Park and negotiated the lease.

What many people don't know about Carroll is that she's experienced many crises herself. The oldest of 15 children, she left her family at 16 and got married. Five children later, she was on her own. "I lost track of the number of places we lived," she said while getting ready for the recent fundraiser.

After 15 years of being a single mom, she met Doug Carroll. The couple married and will celebrate 35 years together. Behind her drive to serve people in crisis is Doug's never-ending support, Majel said.

"I've experienced life from both sides," she said while tucking a pile of shirts into a shopping bag. "Along the way, I learned something about business, finance and a lot of other stuff."

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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