If you have read Morristown Patch for any length of time, chances are you have seen the name "Berit Ollestad" pop up now and again. It would be hard not to.
Ollestad, originally from Seattle, has only been in Morristown for about two years. Yet, this married mother of two has embraced her adoptive hometown and state with both hands. And, usually, those hands have been involved in some sort of positive event.
Most recently, Ollestad was instrumental in the assembly of a holiday party at the Morristown Senior Center for local children, complete with food, games, presents–even a visit by Old Saint Nick.
Last summer, Ollestad organized a relief effort for victims of the tornados that tore through Tuscaloosa, Ala. To get the word out, she appealed to town government, local media, even by setting up a tent across from her Hamilton Road home, anything to get people talking–and donating–to the cause. On June 4, two trucks stocked with donations were filled at Town Hall and driven–with Ollestad on board–to their final destination.
And, for the last couple years, she has organized shipments of clothes and other essentials for people she has met and befriended in the Rocinha Favela, the largest slum in Rio de Janero, Brazil. About every six months, Ollestad takes a trip there to deliver the donations, meet with friends and generally bring out the smiles and laughs in a place where it can sometimes be tough to muster either.
The organizer is quick to remind people, however, that it takes a village. For the "Morristown Relief Effort" to Tuscaloosa, she had T-shirts made that acknowledged all of the local support. For the Christmas party, she made sure the extensive list of supporters there were mentioned.
Ollestad also is quick to remind people how her good fortune in life, which she has pledged to try and give back in some way to those who need it most.
"I know a lot of people who have a lot of fluff in their life," she said. "I've been really fortunate to be given the life I've been given. And, I have recognized that giving back to others really is what makes me feel a part of my community. I love this community."
Again, Ollestad points to others in the community and what they bring to it, and to her love of Morristown. "The willingness of people here to get on board and help out has been reallly impressive," she said. "That has motivated me even more to get involved and try to make a difference for the residents, individuals that need a little extra help."