Before joining the BOEC, however, the now 50-year-old Kuwahara worked in the resort and tourism fields leading Llama lunch hikes, wildflower walks, high alpine tours and beaver walks just to name a few. While she enjoyed working the resort lifestyle, she describes it as “not for the faint of heart” as working with the public one hundred percent of the time was not necessarily her cup of tea. Then came that classified ad that changed her life forever, giving her a job and a lifestyle that really culminates in who she is as a person.
“I get to work with amazing co-workers who all have huge hearts and the most giving people I know,” she says. “While working for the BOEC is a heartwarming endeavor, and we provide incredible experiences for people who normally are excluded from outdoor recreation experiences, what I really love about my job is serving the selfless staff, which in turn supports our programs. I work for the people here and love being able to help our staff provide amazing experiences and get what they need to do their job well.”
Describing the BOEC as hard working, inspiring and adventuresome, she realized the nonprofit was the right fit very early on after a staff hike to Francie’s Cabin in the Fall of 2002.
“It was cold and wet and a bit snowy,” she fondly remembers. “We made a delicious lunch of fajitas and Roch made the most delicious real Mexican hot chocolate with fresh grated nutmeg and cinnamon. It was super cozy and fun.”
And when she’s not holding down the fort at BOEC’s administrative office, Melissa feels right at home doing a lot of what the BOEC offers its participants including hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, Nordic, telemark and alpine skiing, whitewater rafting, and just about anything outdoors. It seems like a natural fit, doesn’t it?
“I am so lucky to have a job that I love and I am happy doing it in an amazing location,” she says. “So many people struggle to be able to stay in the county and call this their home, and I am lucky enough to say this has been my home for over 40 years.”
And for 20 of those years Melissa’s home has been with the BOEC. We certainly feel lucky that she can call this place home too. Here’s to many more years of running a tight ship, Melissa. Thank you for all you’ve done to help make BOEC what it is today.