By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Melisa Hollenback, or “Missy” as she is known, has been a crusader for all things environmental from recycling, open space and water conservation to being a key player in bringing Shrewsbury’s Farmers Market to fruition. Hollenback has contributed in so many ways to the fabric of Shrewsbury: environmentally, educationally and as an advocate for social initiatives.
She was born and raised in Towanda, Penn., went to Elmira College in New York, studied business administration, and began working in retail management. A graduate program in labor studies at UMASS Amherst brought her to Massachusetts, where she met Adrian, her future husband. Eighteen years ago, she and Adrian made Shrewsbury their home. They have two daughters, Aurora, 16, and Cecilia, 9.
Like many community-minded people, Hollenback’s start began with involvement in her children’s schools, joining the Shrewsbury Montessori Parent Group and Floral School’s Parent-Teacher Organization. She became acutely aware of the need for increased resources for her town. She joined Citizens for a Better Shrewsbury (CBS,) a group of concerned citizens that study the solvency of municipal government and disperse factual information to the community. This led to the Shrewsbury Education Foundation (SEF) where she served as treasurer and board president. She organized spelling bees, increased grant proceeds, and conceived the John P. Collins and Community Service recognitions.
Other community involvement includes leadership positions with the YES for Shrewsbury Override Campaign of 2007, two Library Debt Exclusion committees and the Shrewsbury League of Women Voters. Most recently she serves the Shrewsbury High School Parent Forum while maintaining her elected position to Town Meeting.
In Hollenback’s spare time she is a regional coordinator for Bag2School, a program to collect second-hand clothing to raise money for schools.
Being an avid recycler and water conservationist, Hollenback found a group called Waste Watchers that was formed by a retired Boston College psychology professor who lives in Shrewsbury. Waste Watchers is a support group for people committed to the three R’s: reduce, re-use, recycle. Hollenback helped bring this group to the attention of people wanting more information about recycling, conservation and sustainability. She organized a series of meetings open to residents and partnered with Nancy Allen, former Shrewsbury Health Department head, to promote the passage of the then-controversial Pay As You Throw (PAYT) program, changing the mindset of many in her community.
Hollenback became more vocal and public with her passion with a warrant article that she brought before Town Meeting seeking approval for Shrewsbury’s participation in the state-run Green Communities Program. To qualify, towns need an Energy Committee; this is where the warrant article lost support. The Energy Committee would have powers of promulgation which could hamstring just about anything energy- or environment-related project in town.
Undaunted, she teamed up with Board of Health Chair Dr. Maria Narducci to form a recycling subcommittee called Shrewsbury Recycles. Achievements included Styrofoam recycling events, topical shows on public access, and participation with SELCO’s Arbor Day event, Spirit of Shrewsbury and school events while assisting other community groups with their recycling projects.
One of her most important achievements was helping bring the weekly Farmer’s Market to Shrewsbury from July to October. She worked tirelessly with town officials to create the legal entity, find a suitable location, work out zoning issues, secure the farmers, purchase insurance and comply with Department of Health regulations. So far, the community’s response has been outstanding.
According to Shrewsbury Selectman John Lebeaux, “It took many people working together to move the Shrewsbury Farmers Market from a nice idea to a successful reality, but there was only one person who kept constantly pushing the project forward through any obstacle we encountered: Missy Hollenback.”
For Hollenback, it’s a team effort that requires many hands.
“Everything that I do is with a community approach,” she said. “It depends on Shrewsbury as to what kind of town it wants to be, whether it’s supporting libraries, schools, open space and the environment. I encourage folks to get involved!”