This month we recognize Megan Zelinski's dedication and outstanding work as an S&P Brand Champion.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
I grew up on a farm near Ann Arbor, Michigan. I attended Northern Michigan University for their zoology program, and it was there I met my husband, Simon. The Upper Peninsula is also where we adopted our 5-year-old Pitador, Bentley. He brings so much happiness into my life. After graduating from NMU in 2013, we got stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. There, I worked at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in the Rocky Shores/Tundra area. Currently, we are stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and will be transitioning to Fort Bragg, North Carolina within the month!
What three words would describe you and why?
Hard-working: My Father instilled a hard work ethic in me at an early age. I define my goals, and find the challenges rewarding. One of my favorite aspects of being a Brand Champion is the initiative afforded to me to be successful.
Passionate: Animal science has always been my thing. Working at Point Defiance Zoo has been a life changing experience for me. I am so thankful for the knowledge I gained in marine mammal conservation and husbandry. I would do anything for those animals and I will forever be teaching others what we can do to help out our planet.
Thoughtful: I have always been empathetic towards others and I enjoy listening to what they have to say. I believe everyone has the right to their own opinions.
Do you work another job in addition to Sword & Plough? If so, what job is that? What is it like to manage both responsibilities?
Currently, I work at an animal hospital as a Veterinarian Assistant. I have also spent time over the past few months volunteering at the Endangered Wolf Center near St. Louis, Missouri. Managing both requires a lot of planning and time management but I enjoy the variety!
What made you decide to be a Sword & Plough Brand Champion? What is it about the products/brand you love?
I first heard about Sword and Plough on the NBC news. Immediately, I knew I had to be a part of such an amazing organization that not only empowers veteran employment but repurposes material! I absolutely adore the environmental impact of reducing waste and our carbon footprint on the world.
What has been the most rewarding experience of being a Sword & Plough Brand Champion?
It is most rewarding to see how people respond to our mission and how it relates to their life. I’ve had many people share their military experiences as well as those who explain what they do in their lives to repurpose or conserve. It’s all about seeing faces light up and knowing that people will tell others about Sword and Plough’s mission. Communicating ways we can make a positive change is imperative.
One of the hopes for the Community Brand Champions program is that each member will leverage their own entrepreneurial spirit. What creative ways have you employed to reach customers?
Whenever I am out and about, I always have my wool crossbody; people love hearing what it’s made of. In addition, I make sure to carry my business cards with me, so that it’s easy for others to go online later and see all of our products.
Who is the most interesting veteran you know and why?
My grandfather is the most interesting veteran I know. He was born in 1918 and grew up with 10 siblings. I admire him because he has always had strong principles. He taught me that in life it’s important to work hard and always be honest. His laugh is contagious, and he tells the best stories. Most importantly, I love the kind of partner he has been to my grandmother 75+ years.
Sword & Plough recently announced their Giving Partners. What Giving Partner is your favorite and why?
My favorite giving partner is Paws for Vets (bet you didn’t see that one coming). Canines add a quantifiable degree of quality and purpose to the lives of the humans they share their lives with. You can never truly have a bad day when you come home to a dog. Training shelter dogs to assist veterans as they make their way through the world, is an honorable mission.
What Sword & Plough product is your favorite and why?
Currently, the signature zip top tote bag is my absolute favorite product! You could fit your whole house in it if you wanted to. It’s durable and versatile; ideal for any adventure!
Tell us about the service members in your life and your connection to them.
Harold, my grandfather served in the Army during WWII as a technician 5th class in the Pacific Coastal Frontier Defense under the Western Defense Command.
Simon, my husband is a prior service medic, currently an Army captain with 9 years in service.
Rudy, my brother-in-law spent 4 years active duty in Fort Lewis and is now a Sergeant in the Michigan Army National Guard while completing his business degree at Northern Michigan University.
George, my brother-in-law is a specialist with 3 years currently stationed in Germany.
Frances, my sister-in-law is a Private First Class serving in the Michigan Army National Guard while getting her degree in nursing at Northern Michigan University.
What, if any, experience did you have that made you feel like the Brand Champion program was a good fit for you? What advice would you give to someone who is just starting as a Brand Champion or thinking about applying?
Honestly, this has been a whole new experience for me which has made it exciting. I feel blessed to be able to represent a company that has such inspiring team members and a positive mission. I would advise those who might be thinking of joining our family to reach out for inspiration. The whole team is always willing to help!