Leslie Dodge

The Fire Within

Leslie Dodge was just back from her first Russell Country Board meeting at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls. She had recently been nominated to join Dale Schmeling and Arville Lammers on the 13-county, 39-member board which promotes tourism in our area. “I had a good time. We picked a cover for the new Russell Country Travel Planner and advertising to go out to major travel publications. We voted on what we liked. I enjoyed the meeting. It’s my latest pot.”
    “I have lots of other (volunteer) pots. The trick is to keep them all from boiling over at the same time.”
    Another of Leslie’s pots is Service Unit Manager for the Girls Scouts which responsibility she took on when Joann Selfridge moved away. “It’s on my list to get Girl Scout leaders. We will be selling cookies, of course. I have worked in media and planning for the Girl Scouts in the past. I was Area Cookie Chair, Council Delegate and National Delegate.” Dodge has been involved with Girl Scouts for over 30 years - in school, college and as an adult. Eighteen years as a volunteer. She has been a Master Trainer for the last twelve of them.
    “I see a need and try to help. I saw that you (the writer) needed help with the Wind Festival. So, I volunteered to help with the PR. It’s nice to know that some of the press releases and articles I sent out got noticed.” Leslie also organized and directed the Kite Building and Flying Contest at Wind Festival. Furthermore, she has become a much printed photographer since the festival. Her photos are on the Chamber website, in the next Chamber Calendar, and she was a winner in Festival Photo Contest.
    Shortly after moving to Harlowton four years ago, Leslie and husband Doug and daughter Sarah got the Musselshell Youth Soccer Organization started here. Dodge has done just about everything with MYSO: treasurer, administration, volunteer coordinator, field setup coach. But the season is almost over for the 62 kids who team up to play each other on Saturdays. That’s up from 45 when the program got started. “Now, it’s time for others to take over. Doug and I have gotten involved, in part, so our children could have these opportunities. Sometimes, one pot shrinks, so another can grow. The soccer league will continue on with new leaders.”
    Leslie is happy to have a continuing association with the American Field Service Intercultural Program, AFS is the largest of the student exchange programs in the world and is celebrating sixty years after being created by AFS ambulance drivers in WWII. “They wanted kids in America to know about kids in Europe.”
    “We hosted Po Ling Chen from Hong Kong in 93-94 and Bia Xavier from Brazil in 04-05. I was a liaision for Maja Von Cube who came from Germany and lived with the Vaughns during the 2005-06 school year. Her daughter, Gwen, went to Belgium on the AFS program over the last school year. Doug and I have both volunteered to help with AFS events in the past.”
    This past June, Leslie took AFS Volunteer Coordinator training in Baltimore. In September, she helped with the fall orientation held for 21 foreign exchanber students in Bozeman. Soon, Dodge will be putting together a newsletter go out to AFS families, volunteers, and schools.
    Kiwanis is another volunteer pot for Leslie Dodge. For the last three years, she has been the chairperson for Calendar Committee. Actually, Leslie is pretty much the committee. She redid the whole database. With help from other Kiwanians, names and dates were verified, advertisers contacted and information readied for the printer. Three hundred calendars go out to the community and the club earns around $1000 through this project. Leslie has also taken on much of the job of decorating for the annual Kiwanis Show for the past three years. She came up with the stylish “K Awards” which were presented at last year’s show.
    “I admit I have helium hand disease. My hand just seems to float up into the air and, I say, ‘I’ll do it.’ Sometimes, it gives me air sickness. Fortunately, Doug has gotten used to it and supports me.”
    In 2002, Leslie was as a torchbearer for the XIX Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Doug wrote an essay about Leslie’s volunteer efforts and Leslie was selected to carry the Olympic torch for a 1/4 mile near Lake Tahoe. The Olympic Torch Relay was sponsored by Chevrolet and Coca Cola and dubbed ‘Light the Fire Within.’ “That was some experience. It was almost overwhelming, at times. The flame was flown over from Greece and carried through almost every state in the USA. I met some wonderful people then.”
    “I’ve volunteered with the schools since my kids were little. (I also work as a substitute teacher and have been a presenter at the HAPY program several times.) I think Doug is pleased that I do these things. I haven’t worked at a regular fulltime job since Sarah was born.”
    Leslie Condron Dodge graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications with a public relations emphasis from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in 1986 after growing up in Denver. “Doug and I met at the National Square Dance Convention in Seattle in 1981. He grew up in southern California and was working with the Bureau of Land Management in Utah at the time. We had a long distance relationship until we got married and I moved from Denver to Salt Lake City in 1982.” The Dodges celebrated their 25th anniversary by taking a six-island cruise in the Carribean this past spring.
    Doug Dodge is the District Ranger for the Upper Musselshell Ranger District of the United States Forest Service. Prior to taking that job, he had worked for the Bureau of Land Management for 17 years. Sarah Dodge is a junior at MSU studying elementary education and Gwen is a senior at HHS intending to go to MSU next fall.
    “I have been square dancing practically all my life. My parents square dance and so do our daughters.” Doug cues for round dances - choreographed ballroom dance. The Dodges have been teaching dancinig for over 25 years: waltz, foxtrot, swing, two-step, rhumba, cha cha. Doug also does choreography.
    “We go dancing as often as we can. We are going to the National Square and Round Dance Convention in Wichita next June. Sorry, we won’t be here for the Wind Festival.”
    “A round dance club meets every Wednesday and Sunday in Billings. There are square dance clubs all over Montana. We taught for a college group that Sarah got together at MSU. We’ll go almost anywhere to teach dancing. We cue for the Square Dance Club in Helena alot.” In August, the Dodges volunteered to demo and teach three dances they had choreographed at the USA West Square Dance Convention.
    Still, volunteering is a BIG part of Leslie Dodge’s life. “I do it just because there is a job to be done and somebody needs to do it. A simple thank-you is fine. I’m happy to be one of the ones behind the scenes. I don’t know how I get into all of these things. I just do.”
    “Volunteering is part of the fabric of our community. We need people to step up and take part. I do realize that if I had a 9-to-5 job, I wouldn’t be able to do all these things. But, I would do as many as I could. I’m pretty much a professional volunteer. I don’t seek it. It just happens.”