Polly F. R. Elson - Judy Hanson Mellor Volunteer Service Award 2020

Ms. Polly F. R. Elson graduated with honors in 1994 from the University of Arizona with a degree in Family Studies. She has been an active member and officer of the Norton School Council of Alumni and Friends ever since and has served on the CALS Alumni Association Board.

Polly began her career of working with children, youth and families as a certified preschool teacher while living in San Diego.  One of her favorite teaching tools was a puppet, which became a valuable teaching medium throughout her career. After marrying Stewart Elson, a United Methodist minister, they moved to Arizona. Polly was a volunteer teacher at each of the churches Stewart served, helping them develop a puppetry ministry.

As a volunteer, Polly helped the Bullhead Fire Department with their Juvenile Fire Setter Program. She soon was hired as their public fire and life safety educator. She was the founding president of the Arizona Fire and Burn Educators Association (AFBEA) and served several terms as president. Polly later worked for Glendale and Tucson Fire Departments.

With her talent in puppetry Polly co-created the Bullhead Characterization Workshop, which has continued to be delivered across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico for the past 30 years. This past year, Polly was invited to be the lead puppet instructor and continues of offer her puppetry expertise to departments in her retirement. She is an inductee into the Arizona Fire Service Hall of Fame.

Polly has always been an active community member who sees a need and works to meet it.  A prime example was the need for a preschool in Willcox, AZ. Working with a team of talented people, they acquired the funds to build a much-needed Daycare/Preschool for the community. In recognition of her life of volunteering, the Polly Elson Community Service Award was established to recognize a Norton School Family Studies senior for their volunteer service. Polly has received numerous UA CALS awards and the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association(NADA)Volunteer Service Award.

One of Polly’s nominators wrote, “Those who know Polly think of her as the energizer bunny who just ‘keeps on going.’  She is a doer who never disappoints.  If Polly is involved, you know the task will be done with integrity and efficiency along with kindness and caring. Polly is an unselfish and kind person who shares her time and talents.   It is without hesitation that I nominate Polly Elson as being most deserving of the 2020 Judy Mellor Volunteer Service Award.  Her passion and service for the University, CALS, the Norton School, and community-at-large is without a doubt what the award represents.”

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The University of Arizona