Be the Change – Donella Patalon: Volunteer Extraordinaire

Donning her Scout pants and shirt, Donella Patalon strode into the Nor Cal Scout Shop in Chico. She smiled broadly and reached her hand out to me in greeting. “I’m Donella,” she said. While talking with her, I quickly recognized that Carrie Wells, Advancement Chairman for Rancho West District of the Boy Scouts in Butte County, had aptly described her when saying Donella is “a woman who is bubbly, happy, and filled with energy.”

Volunteering is what Donella is about. It has been the basis for her life. Working in the Scout shop as a sales person and volunteering with the Scout program is only one way that she has racked up more than 30,000 hours of volunteer service. While Scouting permeates most of her activities, her energy and enthusiasm have taken her into 4-H, the Indian Education Program, the Sutter Butte Gem and Mineral Society, and the Sierra Muzzle Loaders club. “I always step forth when I see a need,” she said. “And if you open up your eyes, you can always see need.”

Donella focuses on youth and the outdoors. “I started volunteering early,” she said. My mom told me, “If you don’t have money, offer your time and talent.” As a young 15-year-old, Donella didn’t have much money, but she had the skills to assist people to grow beyond their limitations. She moved from being a member of 4-H to leading the youth, and ultimately to training others who wanted to lead.

Through training leaders she realized that she enjoyed working with adults who work with youth. Currently she serves as an Outdoor Trainer for both the Boy and Girl Scouts. She teaches adults leadership and teamwork skills, how to take youth into nature, and how to teach youth self-confidence and an “I can do anything” attitude. She believes that by teaching adults these skills, they can go back and teach others so that the love of the outdoors spreads.

Donella holds Associate of Arts degrees from Shasta College in forestry and natural resources/wildlife, and worked with the U.S. Forest Service for eight years. She uses her knowledge to teach soil conservation, forestry, wildlife, environmental science, canoeing and rock climbing through local Scouting programs. She teaches geology workshops for Scouts through the Sutter Butte Gem and Mineral Society.  “She is a true embodiment of the Scout program,” said Greg Schlender, Nor Cal Scout Shop manager. He continued, “She is a wealth of knowledge and a phenomenal asset to the store, the scouting program, and the community!” During college, Donella recruited her husband Charlie away from an engineering degree into forestry. They worked together in the field until he decided to join the Air Force. They moved to Nebraska, then to Texas. In 1999, they and their three children returned to Northern California and established their home in Brownsville in Yuba County. She began teaching in the Yuba County Marysville Indian Education program. Currently she teaches Native American skills that include tracking and cooking. During the academic year, she teaches archery.

Donella’s love for Scouting and volunteering became a family affair. Her daughter and two sons were in Scouting (of course!), and her sons became Eagle Scouts. All volunteer in their communities.

Charlie participates with Donella in the May and October Sierra Muzzle Loaders events. They set up camp near Forbestown in the hills behind Oroville, and she teaches finger weaving, a Native American form of belt making, and cooking. They dress in authentic garb, live in teepees, cook over open fires, and through total immersion of the lifestyle, show people what it was like during the fur-trading era for both Native Americans and fur trappers.

During her 21 years of volunteering with the Scouting program, Donella has received the Outstanding Volunteer Badge and the council-level appreciation pin on several occasions. What keeps this tireless woman going? “I love seeing the lights come on in a child’s eyes when you introduce them to something new,” she says. When she talks about her volunteering, the lights come on in her eyes too.

To contact Donella call (530) 675-9022.

Carolyn Warnemuende
About Carolyn Warnemuende

Author Carolyn Warnemuende has two daughters and five grandchildren, and lives with her husband in Redding. She writes parenting and educational articles, sponsors a school in Uganda, and visits Africa twice a year. She receives great joy in taking daily care of her four-year-old granddaughter who was adopted from Ethiopia.

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