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25-year-old serves as youngest board member for Keep Hall Beautiful
Woman graduated from Flowery Branch High School
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Melissa Freidus, right, talks with Keep Hall Beautiful Executive Director Cindy Reed, and board member Sean Brandenburg earlier this month during an open house at the Keep Hall Beautiful offices on Washington Street. Freidus, 25, is the youngest serving board member for the organization.

Keep Hall Beautiful

Keep Hall Beautiful is a nonprofit dedicated to educating residents about environmental stewardship. Through volunteer projects, residents help with cleanups, beautification efforts, special events, recycling and planting trees. For more information about volunteer opportunities, email hallbeautiful@windstream.net.

The giving spirit

This holiday season, The Times each day spotlights a person or couple who give of themselves to help others in the community. Today, meet Melissa Freidus, who at 25 is the youngest board member serving with Keep Hall Beautiful.

 

Adults in their 20s are the least likely age demographic to volunteer.

That's according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Melissa Freidus, a 25-year-old Keep Hall Beautiful volunteer, is trying to break that trend.

Typical volunteers for the organization's community cleanup efforts have been middle-aged adults or parents with their children. However, Freidus is doing her part to make sure that people in their 20s are pitching in too, by recruiting her friends and co-workers.

"I like to bring in that middle ground since that's the age group that's kind of lacking," she said.

Freidus is the youngest board member on Keep Hall Beautiful, a nonprofit dedicated to environmental stewardship, and comes to nearly every one of the organization's events, said Cindy Reed, executive director of Keep Hall Beautiful.

If 20-something volunteers are somewhat uncommon — only 18 percent of people in their early 20s say they volunteer — then young board members are downright rare.

Her work is getting notice.

"I just like the younger folks stepping in and taking over to make the community a great place to live," said George Wangemann, a Gainesville City Council member and member of the Keep Hall Beautiful Board of Directors. "She's really striving hard to do that."

Getting more volunteers to help means a lot to an organization that, according to Reed, "relies heavily on our volunteers."

Freidus, a Flowery Branch High School graduate, grew up volunteering with her grandfather over the summers.

Her grandfather was a horticulturist, so much of their work was helping others with gardening. Those are probably the roots of her affection with the outdoors and protecting the environment, she said.

If it wasn't gardening, there would be other tasks to help him out with.

"Every day — five days a week — we were doing something," she said.

Freidus said her path to involvement with Keep Hall Beautiful came by accident.

She was trying to start a recycling program at work.

Freidus is a supervisor at Gainesville's Best Buy and wanted to learn how to recycle the plastic bottles piling up from employees on break. She approached Gainesville Solid Waste Superintendent Danny Owen to ask about what she could do.

Owen, who is vice president of Keep Hall Beautiful, answered Freidus' question and then invited her onto the board.

"It was almost serendipity how it happened," Freidus recalls.

Freidus has been a key to the organization ever since.

"I would call her a rock on the board," said Wangemann, "a precious rock."

In addition to her enthusiasm, Freidus has brought a partnership between the nonprofit and the local Best Buy store. She also recruits her co-workers to volunteer at events.

"We want to do good things and represent the company in a way to show we care," she said.

Of course, with power comes responsibility. Freidus was asked last year to judge the cook-off at this year's Spring Chicken Festival, which benefits Keep Hall Beautiful.

She admitted there was some pressure to judging something that people had poured their hearts into.

Overall, she said it's been a good opportunity to be a part of the organization and expects that participation to continue.

"It's really cool to have an outlet and to have an opportunity to do something I'm passionate about," she said.

 

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