Melanie Hart is passionate about serving her community and rescuing animals. Sometimes, the two missions intertwine.
A member of the Zelienople Police Department for 25 years, Hart said she just sort of “fell into” police work. She previously worked as a dispatcher for Zelienople Borough. When Butler County switched to a countywide dispatch system, she faced losing her job.
Hart said policing seemed like a natural progression in her career since she’d worked as a dispatcher. She graduated from the police academy after four months of training and started her career in law enforcement with the Mars Police Department.
She also worked part-time for Lancaster Township and Franklin Township in Beaver County and was a member of the campus police force at Duquesne University. She came to Zelienople in 1998, where she said she hopes to finish her law enforcement career before retiring.
Hart said she grew up just two blocks from the Zelienople Police Department, so it’s been an honor to serve the community in which she was raised.
However, she doesn’t get to interact with the residents as much as she’d like because she works steady night shift at the station. While she’s on patrol, most people are fast asleep in their homes.
“It makes it challenging to connect with people as much as I’d like sometimes,” she said. “But when I’m off shift and out during the day, people seek me out and talk to me because they know I grew up here and have worked here for a long time.”
Hart also volunteers to work community events like the July 4th celebration, which gives her an opportunity to interact with residents during the daytime hours. “It’s nice to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a while.”
In addition to her commitment to keeping the humans in her community safe, Hart protects some of the furry residents as well. She volunteers for a couple different animal rescues in the area and fosters abandoned kittens until they find their forever homes.
Her devotion to caring for kittens and other animal rescues earned her the nickname “Grandma Kitty” from her grandson. The name has caught on with his preschool classmates, who also affectionately call Hart by the moniker.
Rich Gigliotti, president of the Rotary Club of Zelienople, said Hart’s nickname is one of the many things he loves about her. “It’s not every day you hear of a police officer nicknamed Grandma Kitty,” he said, laughing.
The other thing he respects about her is how much she’s admired by the most vulnerable residents of Zelienople. “One of my favorite things about Melanie is she is loved by the children in this community,” he said.
Hart said she was both surprised and honored to be named a Hometown Hero by the Zelienople Rotary. She hopes to continue to serve her community for years to come.
Gigliotti said Zelienople is fortunate to have someone of Hart’s caliber living and working in the borough.
“I live in the Zelienople community,” Gigliotti said. “When you see Melanie, she’s always returning a wave or a smile or engaged in conversation. She’s a real welcome part of our community.”