Putting Her Best Foot Forward
By NancyLee Honey Marsh
Photography by Christian Lee
“All you have shall some day be given; therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors.” -Kahlil Gibran
With all the changes in this world, especially those on beautiful Hilton Head Island, one blessing thankfully remains in tact. No amount of progress can destroy it or remove its beauty, as the spiritual uplifting of giving to others is a permanent, innate characteristic resting securely within our hearts.
Choosing a favorite way to volunteer is a challenge, but Carol Gylenhoff solved it as she does many dilemmas, skillfully blending and giving her faithful best to many. The St. Luke’s Church Mouse Boutique Thrift Shop recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Carol not only serves on its board, assisting with public relations, grants and personnel, but can be found at its new Arrow Road location, sorting out and pricing donations. There are about 70 volunteers.
“A Christ centered undertaking, The Church Mouse Boutique was started to raise funds not only for missions work, but also for our local charities,” Carol said. “While providing excellent goods at reasonable costs for our community, we have raised and donated over $106,000 in grants and funds to assist diverse non-profit organizations. Our work is so much fun and addictive!”
The Massachusetts native with a master’s in English literature from Penn State is a true Renaissance gal. Throughout her life, she has successfully balanced home responsibilities, career and volunteer work. Her business career began in 1974 after her three children were in school. “I felt it extremely important to be with my children until they were school age, and I champion women who put their careers on hold to nurture their children. It’s more difficult today with so many solo parents, but fathers are assuming a more active role with their children than in the past,” Carol said.
Covering a multitude of diverse companies, Carol worked as a travel consultant for Lindblad, where she met her husband, Bengt. She also served as a marketing and administrative associate in a New York brokerage firm and ultimately, after her move to Hilton Head, worked for Morgan Stanley.
Raised in a close church family, Carol explained, “My parents were very compassionate and gave so much for everyone. They protected my brothers and me from the serious details of my father’s cancer, which he fought for 17 years. I was only 22 when he died. He was so brave, determined to see his three children grown, so he never gave up. Toward the end of his life as I passed his bedroom one day, I saw him kneeling in prayer. That image remains with me always. His faith and fortitude were an inspiration, as were my mother’s, and I am so thankful they instilled it in me; I hope I have in my three children.”
Carol described her parents as “morally upright people, who never tooted their horn. If ever as a child, I got over boastful, I received a harsh look and a strong ‘Young lady!’ reprimand. We were not allowed in egotistical alley,” she said, laughing.
Carol and Bengt, who is Swedish, won an auction bid for a week on Hilton Head in 1989. Like many, it captured their hearts. Tired of Northern chills, they bought a home in Sea Pines Plantation. Bengt retired and Carol joined Morgan Stanley until her mother bacame ill. “I left to care for her, and with all her fortitude and great outlook on life, she lived to age 93. She filled our days with wonderful stories, and I am grateful we had that time together.”
Still a wonderful juggler of her time, in addition to remaining active in St Luke’s Church and their thrift boutique, Carol serves on the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra board as vice president of fundraising, puts her cooking talents to good taste by catering for friends and family, finds healthy time for water aerobics and down time for reading. Playing the piano since age nine, she loves belonging to the Low Key piano group, in addition to playing bridge weekly.
The Lowcountry is a better place because of Carol’s voluntarism and her generosity of her outstanding talents, productiveness and faith for which she gives full credit to her amazing parents. “I grew up with my dad’s dictum: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. I was taught to always put my best foot forward.”
They never knew: “When I was 6 years old, I loved to visit our neighbor, Bunny. One day, when she was not home, I decided to help her by painting her back steps with a can of paint I found outside. She never fussed at me and my parents never knew!”
On volunteering: “Margins have to be established or we can wear ourselves out helping others.”
Adage regarding life: “Never say anything bad about someone you once loved! Live thoughtfully.”
Awareness: “Try to recognize life’s patterns early and how they are interwoven.”
Inspired by: Psalm 121: I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from which cometh my help. My Help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.