From Voorhees hospitals to homes in Haiti, Charlotte Olson’s helping hand has embraced the world.
Charlotte Olson’s services have not yet ceased since receiving international coverage for her collection of 1,300 books last February.
The West Berlin adolescent, whose mammoth book drive went to the outpatient office at Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper University Health Care in Voorhees, was crowned Miss New Jersey Pre-Teen Cover Girl 2017 on Aug. 14 and will compete for National American Miss in California over Thanksgiving weekend.
A particular portion of the pageant was judged on community service, and after acquiring nearly 340 hours of charitable work, Charlotte clinched first runner-up for the Heart of Service Award.
“The (book drive) made me feel good about helping others,” Charlotte, 13, said. “I wanted to do more.”
After exceeding her original goal of 1,000 books through the Reach Out and Read organization, Charlotte was inspired to extend her helping hand.
Since then, she has dedicated her efforts toward children and animals, tapping into maternal instincts that seem to recur throughout her charities.
“She’s like a kid magnet. They’re always running to her,” said Charlotte’s mother, Vicky. “And she has done really well with them. She has a huge heart, and I see her compassion.”
Over the summer, when she wasn’t babysitting, Charlotte led Bible study sessions for six to eight toddlers and preschoolers at Hope United Methodist Church in Voorhees. Concurrently, she fostered Labradors from her home. She even managed to benefit underprivileged children through the Angels of God Clothing Closet in Pitman, where she encouraged her fellow pageant queens to participate.
Aside from work scattered throughout South Jersey, her philanthropy has even spilled to the Caribbean. In summer 2016, Charlotte and her family ventured to Haiti with their church through the House of Abraham missionary. The organization has aimed to build orphanages since the 2010 earthquake, providing children refuge in Jacmel, a southern region of the island afflicted with slavery.
“She spent a lot of time hanging out with the kids and taking care of them,” Vicky said. “They bonded with her.”
Between painting the shelter and handing out school supplies, Charlotte tacked on nearly 100 hours of service.
“The experience was amazing. It was really sad seeing the kids having to work to make money for their families,” Charlotte said. “I want to go back so much. I got to know the kids really well.”
Charlotte opted to design and sew her own gown for this summer’s state pageant.
Stitch by stitch, Charlotte made a dress after only a dozen sewing lessons.
“Charlotte is smart, astute and a quick study,” said local fashion designer Christine Phillips, who guided her through the process.
Both Olson and Phillips stressed how Charlotte’s newfound confidence stems from her services, which the kaleidoscopic gown emulates.
“At first, this dress looks like it is out-of-the-box for her,” Phillips said. “But she designed it, so it’s in (her) somewhere.”
As the national pageant approaches, she is reprising her original goodwill.
After six months, Cooper will have given away the 1,300 books, and Charlotte plans to replenish the stock with 2,000 more by Nov. 10. So far, she has gathered 150 and counting, as six local businesses will host dropboxes for books.
“I love to do these things, because it makes me happy to help other people, to see them smiling because of something that I do,” Charlotte said. “I’m happy I’m making somebody’s else’s day.”