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Volunteer Spotlight

Girl Scouts of Alaska relies on more than 1,500 volunteers statewide. These dedicated volunteers run service units, lead troops, manage product sales, chaperone events - the list goes on! To recognize their service,  we will highlight an exemplary volunteer each month. Thank you to all of our amazing volunteers!

Past Spotlights:
October 2018 | Jessica Voss

October | Jessica Voss

Jessica is a mom of 3 with 2 daughters in Girl Scouts. Jessica loves to read, write, draw, paint, and hopes to self-publish a children's book this year. She has been a Girl Scout leader since 2010 starting in New Jersey. 

Jessica and her family moved to Alaska last year after Jessica accepted a teaching position in Emmonak. There was no Girl Scout troop in Emmonak at the time, so Jessica decided to start one. With the help of her co-leader, Kristi and the support of many parents, Troop 51 was born!

Q: Were you a Girl Scout? Where at?

I was a Daisy in Jackson, NJ. Unfortunately, my parent's work schedule didn't allow me to continue with Girl Scouts but I always wanted to. 

Q: Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I've looked forward to being a leader since my oldest daugher was born. I knew it would give me the opportunity to do something fun with her even when she got into her teens. I love working with the girls in Emmonak and hearing all of their great ideas for improving village life. They would be suprised to see how similar they are to my troop back in New Jersey. 

Q: What has been your biggest challenge in leading a Girl Scout troop? How did you overcome it?

It can be difficult to get parent volunteers. People are busy! Especially during times like cookie season. Having a great co-leader makes all the difference!

Q: What's your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

I like that it's girl-focused. Girl Scouts accepts any girls from anywhere in a society that is still oppressive to girls. Empowering this generation of girls to take action and raise each other up is what we need for the future. 

Q: What advice would you give to new leaders? Especially new leaders in rural communities of Alaska?

Don't worry, plan, make clear rules, and have snacks. In rural Alaska we may not have girls come to every meeting. Don't worry about it being Pinterest perfect - just do your best! Using the Volunteer Toolkit has changed my leader life! I feel more confident in my leadership since using it. Multi-level troops can be difficult to plan for, but VTK makes meeting planning simplier. Make sure you devise clear rules - especially for cell phones. We ask our girls to keep them away during meetings. And the girls in our troop are always hungry so having a snack helps them refocus. 

Q: How has your troop grown since it first started last year?

We started a little late in the year, but I do expect some growth in our troop. The girls are having a great time and we're getting positive feedback from parents. 

Q: What are the girls in your troop most enthusiastic about in Girl Scouting?

Our girls want to improve village life and help animals. We will be researching alternative heating fuel sources this year. A major focus will be a recyclable paper/cardboard mix that is used in some similar areas as a clean burning fuel source. 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Jesscia for her dedication to her troop and Emmonak!

November 2018 | Alene McDermott

November | Alene McDermott

Alene McDermott is the troop leader of Girl Scout Troop 47, a Daisy/Brownie troop, based at Butte Elementary school in Palmer, Alaska. Currently, there are six girls and three adults enrolled in the troop. 

Before leading Troop 47, Alene was a teacher in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, where she taught 2nd grade and 5th grade Language Arts. When she moved to Alaska in 2009, she worked in various positions in the Matanuska Susitna School District, including working with special needs students as well as students from kindergarten to middle school. 

Alene became the troop leader of Troop 47 when her kindergartener, Rosie, showed interest in joining the Girl Scouts, but there was not a troop for her grade level at her school. While Rosie could've joined a troop closer to home, Alene saw that Butte Elementary could benefit from a Daisy Girl Scout troop in the area, so she volunteered. 

Alene enjoys knitting, playing games (board and video), and always learning new things. 

Q: Were you a Girl Scout? Where at?

I was not a Girl Scout but I wanted to be one.

Q: Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

As an educator from a family of educators, our motto has always been, “do what’s best for kids.” When our daughter Rosie wanted to become a Girl Scout, and there wasn’t a Daisy troop in our school, I decided that volunteering would not only benefit my own daughter, but others at her school. I also find that it is important to raise strong, smart, and brave girls that will not only change the world for the better, but be the leaders of tomorrow. 

Q: You mentioned that your teaching experience has been an asset to troop leadership. Can you explain why that is and what works best for you?

In the past few years, I have stepped away from the classroom to raise my youngest children. I have immensely missed teaching in those years. Leading Troop 47 has given me a little of that back until I am ready to return to the classroom. Leading a meeting is like leading a lesson. When I was in the classroom I had to have a goal in mind for my students. The same is true of leading a meeting. Knowing how to create a strict, but flexible schedule allows me to use my time more wisely. In addition, my experience of writing lesson plans and a syllabus for the year has allowed me to set not only goals for a specific meeting, but for the Girl Scout Journey or year as well.

I have also found that my experience has helped me in not only creating a lesson that achieves a goal, but modifying specific activities to the needs of all girls in the troop, whether they are emergent or proficient readers, or need a little extra help understanding concepts being discussed. 

Q: What has been your biggest challenge in leading a Girl Scout troop? How did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge was growing my troop. With many families participating in multiple activities, I found it hard to coordinate schedules, and drum up interest. As with any first year of any activity, the entire year was a learning experience. I am not always outgoing, and found it took some time to feel completely comfortable taking the lead. Through activities and positive communication, we have grown our troop and continue gaining new students as we begin our second year. 

Q: What's your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

I love spending time with the girls, and seeing them become leaders. I have seen my girls come up with ideas and experiment with them in order to learn about their world. They come alive when they find that they are in the driver’s seat when it comes to choosing things like their activities, or even their own troop crest. There is no doubt that they will become the leaders in their schools and communities in their future. 

Q: What advice would you give to new leaders? Especially new leaders throughout the Mat Su Valley?

Take one step at a time, and ask for help. Beginning a new troop is intimidating, but doable. Think about what your girls need. Do they need to feel listened to, or to feel like they are smart?  Believe in yourself, and as always, “Do what’s right for kids.” 

Q: How has your troop grown since it first started last year?

We started with just two girls last year. After school programs brought a few girls to the troop. Through them, I was able to meet my awesome co-leader, Leah, who is the mother of one of our girls. Three girls ended up renewing.  Word of mouth, especially through our girls, has grown our troop, with parents asking about joining even as began our meetings this year. We are looking at 5 members with three to four more girls looking to join soon. This year, we are more enthusiastic about wider Girl Scout activities, and participating in not only our own meetings, but meeting Girl Scouts across the Valley and Alaska. 

Q: What are the girls in your troop most enthusiastic about in Girl Scouting?

At this point, our girls are just happy to be Girl Scout sisters. Meetings are a safe place for them to be who they are, even at their silliest.  They are looking forward to earning patches, beginning their new journeys,  and learning new things. I had girls asking about the next meeting even before the current meeting was finished. 

Q: What is the best part about participating in Girl Scouts with your daughter?

Volunteering for Girl Scouts has given my daughter and I some special time together to talk about what it means to be a strong, smart, and brave girl in the world. I get to see her grow as she learns the values of the Girl Scouts, and becomes a leader that all girls should have the opportunity to become. 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Alene for her dedication to girls in the Mat Su Valley!

December 2018 | Tresa De La Cruz

December | Tresa De La Cruz

Tresa De La Cruz is a Texas native who's moved all across the world for her husband's job. Tresa has a background in journalism and public relations and is currently a group fitness instructor at the Alaska Club.

Tresa has two children who grew up in scouting. Both Tresa and her husband were heavily involved in Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts throughout their children's lives. Both of their children earned the highest awards in their organizations: Gold Award and Eagle Scout. 

After leading her daughter's troop to their final bridging ceremony, Tresa took a step back as a troop leader. That didn't last long though! Now Tresa leads Troop 740, a Junior/Cadette troop based at St. John United Methodist Church. 

Q: Were you a Girl Scout? Where at?

I was a Girl Scout from 1st through 5th grade in Houston, Texas in the San Jacinto Council. My mother, who was also a Girl Scout, was one of the leaders for my Brownie troop. 

Q: Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I volunteer with Girl Scouts because it's a family tradition. When my daughter was old enough to start as a Daisy, I was one of the troop co-leaders. At the time we were living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates so we were members of the Overseas Girl Scouts. After three years in Dubai, we moved to Norway where we continued with Overseas Girl Scouts. I eventually became the Overseas Girl Scout Committee Chair where I recruited leaders, girls, did training, and coordinated facilities.

After Norway we moved to Texas where we continued with Girl Scouts and I became invovled as a Service Unit Manager for the Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest. After four years in Texas we moved to Anchorage where I would take on a troop as a co-leader. I'm very proud to say that four out of our six girls earned their Gold Award. 

My daughter is now 23 years old and a Lifetime Girl Scout. She got married this past year and plans to be a Girl Scout leader someday. 

After my daughter and troop graduated, I decided to retire from Girl Scouts. That didn't last for long because a troop at my church was in need of a leader. I took on that troop and have been recruiting and building troops at my church. It is now my fifth year as Girl Scout Coordinator for St. John United Methodist Church and as a leader for Troop 740. 

I also volunteer at Encampment! I hope to co-teach a yoga class at Encampment 2019! 

Q: What has been your biggest challenge in leading a Girl Scout troop? How did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge has been how to communicate effectively with the parents. I like to use emails but some people don't use email on a regular basis. I've started to text parents. Some troops have created Facebook pages. How you communicate with parents will be different for each troop. 

At the start of each year, I hold a parent meeting and ask parents which method of communication works best for them. While this isn't a perfect system, it helps to get feedback directly from the people you're trying to reach!

Q: What's your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

I like working with the girls the most. I've held administrative positions in the past, but being a troop leader is what I like because I get to work directly with girls. I actually enjoy planning troop meetings too. I like the challenge of it. When a meeting goes really well, I feel a great sense of satisfaction. When it doesn't go well, I learn how to do it better for the next time. I'm always learning something new!

Q: What advice would you give to new leaders? Especially new leaders in Anchorage?

To take the leader training and try to learn everything you can about Girl Scouts. It also helps to talk to other leaders to get their advice. For me, staying organized and communicating well with parents is key. Also, plan ahead. It's good to give parents as much notice as possible when planning field trips, parties, special meetings, etc. Everyone is busy, so it helps to get thigns put on the calendar before it fills up. 

Q: What are the girls in your troop most enthusiastic about in Girl Scouting?

I ask my troop this question every year and I get similar answers - camping, selling cookies and making crafts are the usual answers. But the answers I like the most revolve around the GS law: having fun with their friends, sharing activities with other girls, making the world a better place, and being a sister to every Girl Scout! 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Tresa for her dedication to girls in Anchorage (and across the globe)!

January 2019 | Denny Vogan

January | Denny Vogan

Dennis "Denny" Vogan has lived in Ketchikan since moving from California with the Forest Service to do work as a civil engineering technician. 

Denny has been a Girl Scout volunteer in Ketchikan for 8 years. For the past 3 of those 8 years, Denny has been a troop leader for Troop 4059. When he's not out and about with his troop, Denny enjoys fishing, traveling and spending time with his two daughters, his brother and sister-in-law. 

Q: What made you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I was originally recruited to volunteer for Girl Scouts by a troop leader who I had worked with in the Forest Service and needed some help with her troop. Being retired, I had the time and was available so I decided to give it a try. I was a little nervous for the first meeting to see how the girls would react to having a male volunteer. Turns out, I had no reason to be - they totally accepted me right away!

Q: Why do you continue to volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I have found that being a Girl Scout volunteer and troop leader is fun and rewarding. We have a combined troop of Daisies, Brownies, Juniors and Cadettes. They're awesome and make it so fun. They are a bunch of fearless little go-getters!

Being as I have the time, I have taken over troop management - girl membership, finances, troop product program, communicating with parents and am the main contact for council.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop? How have you overcome it?

The girls really haven't been a challenge. They all get along really well; they're respectful and play nice. Sometimes they get a little rambunctious and forget about the rules so we have to slow them down.

There have been a few challenges at times with getting girl membership right in the computer as well as getting our product sales website working. The council has been really helpful and responsive whenever we've had issues. The Girl Scout website has lots of online resources for training, volunteers, and troop leaders. 

Q: What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

I think everyone's favorite thing is just interacting and having fun with the girls. I try to plan meetings where the girls have activities that challenge them and are a good learning experience.

I believe that Girl Scouts is the best organization for supporting and leading girls. They provide the best resources to the many volunteers that give their time. I am happy to be a part of it!

Q: There aren't a lot of guys who are "Man Enough to be a Girl Scout." What would you say to men who are considering (or have been asked to consider) becoming a troop leader?

There are quite a few men who volunteer and lead troops. If you are good with children, you should give volunteering a try. You can be a great influence on the girls. I've had many women comment that more men should get involved, too.

I know many troops could use another volunteer to help out. My troop certainly could!

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Denny for his dedication to girls in Ketchikan!

February 2019 | Kim Ballard

February | Kim Ballard

Kim Ballard is from Seattle, Washington and moved to Alaska in 1990. She holds a Bachelors degree in Accounting and has worked for GCI for 25 years. In her free time, Kim loves traveling and taking photos. She is also an avid card maker and stamper. 

In addition to leading 3 troops, Kim currently helps out as Service Unit Manager for the East Anchorage Service Unit and has held positions as a SU Product Sales Manager, Event Coordinator, and School Organizer. Kim was also a council trainer for years and was selected as the council Global Action Volunteer in 2012 and attended the Edith Macy Center in New York for training. In 2016, Kim was selected as a Volunteer of Excellence. 

Q: Were you a Girl Scout?

I was a Girl Scout as a Brownie in the Totem council and attended camp at Robbinswold and River Ranch in Washington. I completed my First Class Scout which is today's equivalent of the Gold Award. After traveling and living in Japan as a foreign exchange student, I traveled throughout Europe and even visited Our Chalet in Switzerland in 1974.

Q: Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I love working with girls!

I led my two daughters' troop until they graduated high school. Then I led a Junior troop for my niece and now I lead 3 troops for my granddaughters!

When I first started volunteering as a troop leader, it felt like I had "come home" to Girl Scouts. 

Q: What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

Travel! I have led 4 council trips to Japan since 1996. My own troop traveled to Japan in 2018. I've also taken girls to Ireland, England and Italy. Our next planned trip with Girl Scouts is to New Zealand and Australia this summer and a trip to Greece in 2021. 

I look forward to many more years as a volunteer with Girl Scouts. I love working with girls and seeing that "aha" moment when everything clicks. I've learned a tremendous amount from working with the girls as well. 

Q: What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop? How have you overcome it?

I found it a little challenging to lead a multi-level troop with the newest curriculum and all of our other activities so instead we broke up the levels into 3 troops. So now I have 3 troops!

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Kim for her dedication to girls in Anchorage!

March 2019 | Poppy Benson

March | Poppy Benson

Poppy has spent about 30 years in Scouting in one form or another.  Her own Scouting career started in early grade school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She went all the way through Girl Scouts, earning many badges and "career bars" and attended All States Encampment where she learned to backpack. She also attended a Juliette Low Session at Our Chalet in Switzerland. 

Poppy went on to earn her BS in Forest Recreation. She then went on to work for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Nevada where she was encouraged to lead an Explorer Scout Post sponsored by the BLM.  

After working in Nevada, Poppy’s career took her to Alaska with Fish and Wildlife. Here she met her husband and had a son. When their son joined Tiger Cubs, Poppy and her husband became den leaders. Poppy also took on the role of Outdoor Chair for Boy Scouts and was responsible for planning camping trips and high adventure trips. She canoed the Yukon and bicycled the Golden Circle along the Canadian border.

After her son’s graduation, she decided to try Girl Scouts so she could spend time with girls. She soon retired, and spent two sessions as an aide in the legislature in Juneau. Poppy is now totally retired and spends lots of time with her Girl Scout troop. She is also a board member and trip leader for Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. Poppy and her husband now spend much of their time travelling and living on their boat in Southeast AK.

Q: Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I like working with girls. I want to give back in honor of all those adults who made my own Scouting career possible.

Q: We know that girls get very busy as they get older and have other obligations. How have you kept Girl Scouts exciting and engaging for your Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts?

The key to getting busy high school girls to meetings is to show up with a pizza at lunch time. We meet in a conference room at the high school once a week and usually have 4 to 9 girls at a meeting. It's only a half an hour but it works. Since I am retired, I can easily do that. 

The key to keeping them interested is to have big projects and trips. When they were in 4th grade we went to Kodiak by ferry with bikes as our only transportation. In 10th grade, we backpacked Chilkoot Pass on a 12 day trip into Canada. This summer, now that they're older, we are headed to India!

The troop developed the Teen Hunger Program to supply backpacks of food for the weekend at their high school which is something they should be very proud of. Most of them also really like working with younger Girl Scouts and we have several events for them to shine in a teaching and leading capacity. 

Q: What has been your greatest accomplishment or favorite memory while volunteering with Girl Scouts of Alaska? 

I am most happy when I see my girls do something amazing and grown-up. Like planning and teaching all the activities at cookie university or a unit on marine debris for the younger girls at a service unit event. Or even how they handled themselves at our recent Indian dinner fundraiser. It was like working with seasoned adults. They just pitch in and work independently. Of course, I have loved all of our trips, too. 

Q: You plan to travel this summer. Can you tell us more about your trip and the planning process?

 It was the girls' idea to go to India because one of them had been on a family trip there. I was initially hesitant because I was concerned about safety and had never been to India. I spoke with a young woman in Homer who had traveled in India extensively as well as with Anita, a troop leader in Cordova. Her troop spent 4 weeks in India and Nepal. 

The parents were in on conversations with Anita and shared the same concerns I had. Our 10 day session at Sangam, a World Scout/Girl Guide Center to start off our trip made everyone more comfortable. 

The girls are busy planning their free time in India and we're excited to go. We had a very successful fundraiser - an Indian dinner. Homer does not have an Indian restaurant but does have a very good cook who lived in India for years. She volunteered to be our chef and we were her sous chefs. We ended up serving over 200 guests although we had planned for only 100. We made more than $4,000!

Q: What advice would you give yourself in your first year of volunteering?

I think I would've started working on the journeys with the girls sooner. The journeys went really well and the girls learned a lot from them. 

As much as we hiked and camped, I would've loved to do even more with the girls. I learned that it's so important to have more than one leader. The more helpers, the better!

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Poppy for her dedication to girls in Homer!

April 2019 | Shawna Ragan

April | Shawna Ragan

Shawna was born in Anchorage and lived in town until her family moved to Kenai when she was seven. Several years later they moved to Nikiski. There, Shawna grew up exploring the woods and lakes around her. This led to her developing a love for the peace and wonder of nature as well as her independence and self-competence.

After high school, Shawna moved back to Anchorage and has lived there since. After returning to Anchorage, Shawna earned an Associate’s Degree in Architecture and Engineering Technology, a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, and a Graduate Certificate in Children’s Mental Health from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Shawna currently has a private practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Shawna and her husband of 26 years have an 18 year old son and a 7 year old daughter together. 

Q: Were you a Girl Scout? Where at?

I tried out a couple of meetings when I was nine but the only troop in Nikiiski didn't fit with what I was interested in (outdoor skills).  

Q: Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

It wasn't until my early 20s when I got a job as a Girl Scout camp counselor at Winding Trails that I found out how much fun Girl Scouts could be. I enjoyed working with both girls and adults as well as the freedom to be creative and focus on areas that were exciting for me and the girls. We have been a devoted scouting family since our son started Cub Scouts when he was 6. It only seemed natural that our daughter would be in Girl Scouts. Since there was no one else to start a troop at her school, I took it on. 

Q: What has been your biggest challenge in leading a Girl Scout troop? How did you overcome it?

My personal challenge in leading a troop is learning how to reach out and ask for help. This year in particular, I am growing not only in my ability to delegate but also learning how to organize and manage a large group of girls and parents - something I have never had to do before. I am so grateful for my girls and parents. They have made this learning process so great. We have developed a strong community that supports each other and helps all of us thrive. When I started our troop three years ago, we had six Daisies and a few parents. Now we are a multi-level troop of 18 girls with families that are willing to pitch in with whatever project the girls decide to tackle. 

Q: What's your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

While being a leader is a lot of work, I love spending time with the girls. Their compassion for others and joy for new adventures is infectious and pushes me to work even harder to help them reach their full potential. It amazes me when the girls are asked what they would like to do - it's always, hands-down, camping!

Q: What advice would you give to new leaders? 

When talking with new leaders, or someone thinking about becoming a leader, I encourage them to recruit parents to help. Not only does it lighten your load but it also sends a clear message to all the girls that they, and what they are doing, are important to the adults around them.

Q: What are the girls in your troop most enthusiastic about in Girl Scouting?

They love camping and the outdoors! It's awesome!

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Shawna for her dedication to girls in Anchorage!

May 2019 | Kara McCoy

May's Volunteer is...

Kara McCoy

Kara was born in Tucson, Arizona but her family moved often, going overseas for her father’s job with a mining agency. They returned to the United States and settled down in Boise, Idaho.

Kara moved to Southeast Alaska in 2000 to live and work as a nurse on Prince of Wales Island.  In 2001 Kara moved to Juneau to work as a school nurse. In 2003, Kara moved to Ketchikan and then eventually back to POW in 2010. While living in Ketchikan and POW for the second time, Kara worked for the State of Alaska as an RN with Public Health Nursing.

Kara and her husband were married in 2003 and we have 3 children - ages 12, 10, and 7. She is currently the troop leader of Troop 4197 in Craig.

Q: Were you a Girl Scout? Where at?

Yes, I was a Girl Scout on and off from 1st through 6th grade because of moving.  I was a Brownie when we lived in Challis, Idaho from 1981-1982 and returned to Girl Scouts when we moved back to Boise in 1983.  I loved Girl Scouting and Girl Scout camp especially.

Q: Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

Girl Scouts is a wonderful program. It allows me to teach my girls and other girls fun things that I did as a Girl Scout. I have a passion for older girls mentoring younger girls. I believe that this helps girls to become leaders and I think that younger girls really look up to their older peers.

Q: What is it like leading a troop in Craig where there aren't any other troops?

When I first became a Girl Scout volunteer in 2012, I was a leader for the Thorne Bay troop.  At the time there were other troops in Craig and Naukati/Coffman Cove. It was great involving other troops in our activities.  We would partner together for events like World Thinking Day and bring the troops together.  In 2014, my daughters switched school districts and it was too difficult to lead the Troop in Thorne Bay since it was 40 miles between towns so we transitioned to the Craig troop.  I wish there were more troops on the island because it was fun getting the girls all together.  There is a new troop in Thorne Bay starting up and I hope to be able to answer questions as needed and work together for events.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge in leading a Girl Scout troop? How did you overcome it?

Our biggest problem with leading is volunteer/parent help. Luckily we have 3 other Girl Scout volunteers that lead levels and work together for activities. Two of us were Girl Scouts as girls. It is nice being able to do separate level work and also come together as a troop for events and activities. We currently have 16 registered girls that range from Daisy to Cadette. We also have a couple other moms willing to jump in and help when needed. I think that being so far from the council is a challenge in the sense that our troop volunteers/girls have to plan all the events that we have here. This takes lots of time and effort. Most of our level leaders also work. 

Q: What's your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

I love the variety of activities.  It is up to the individual girl as to how much work they put into their Girl Scout experience.  I love being able to help mentor girls into leaders.  I also like that this activity is girl focused.  It gives girls on our island a healthy, mentoring activity, where girls work together and with adults to make the experience what they feel is important.

Q: What are the girls in your troop most enthusiastic about in Girl Scouting?

Some girls like earning patches, others like the service projects, and a few have their sights set on travel. Most of our girls like our troop campout that we do each year. 

Q: Tell us about your favorite Girl Scout memory!

My favorite memories are from going to Girl Scout camp as a kid: Cooking on the fire, canoeing on the lake, camping out in tents, sleeping on the dock, and singing camp songs. I am thankful that my girls have been able to attend the same Girl Scout camp in Idaho that I attended as a girl. Their first year, we went during a mom/girl weekend and were able to experience it together. 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Kara for her dedication to girls in Craig!


June 2019 | Deanna Ferrell

June's  Volunteer is...

Deanna Ferrell

Deanna grew up in Talkeetna. She left for a few years after getting married but moved back after having her children. Deanna works at the local clinic in town as a billing and A/R specialist. She is currently working towards her certification to become a Billing Coder (CPC). In her free time she is the troop leader of Troop 813 and is the elementary school PTA vice president. 

Deanna loves her community and enjoys working towards making Talkeetna a better place for her children and others. 

Q: Were you a Girl Scout? Where at?

Although I was never a Girl Scout, I always thought that if I had been in Girl Scouts I would have enjoyed it immensely. 

Q: Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I love seeing my girls become more independent and confident. When the opportunity presented itself for me to become a co-leader, I jumped at the chance to help out our local troop. However, the troop leader had to quit for personal reasons so I stepped up because I did not want this wonderful program to end in our community. 

Q: What has been your biggest challenge in leading a Girl Scout troop? How did you overcome it?

Organization and planning were my biggest challenges. When I first started there were only a few girls signed up. But trying to figure out what to teach and when was difficult for our multi-level troop. Thankfully I have a great co-leader that worked with me and together, we figured out our own system. I wanted any girl of any level to still be able to come to our meetings and learn or do something that benefited them in some way. Now we stager our Journeys for each level and make sure the other girls always have something to work on. 

Q: What's your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

I love the time I get to spend with the girls. Seeing them learn something new and being excited about it is so rewarding! Cookie season, although a little stressful, is so much fun! To see the girls step outside of their comfort zone and become entrepreneurs is amazing! They learned how to count money and how to ask for a sale. They really made it their business. Not only do I get to help teach these girls, I also get to spend a lot of time with my own girls. Seeing them interact with others and be helpful and kind makes me a proud mama and troop leader.

Q: What is some advice you'd like to share with new leaders?

Find your own style. And go to the service unit meetings! The meetings are so helpful - there is a lot of experience in those meetings from women that have done this for years. Don't be afraid to ask questions! They turn into learning oppotunities for you and other leaders. We're all in this together!

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Deanna for her dedication to girls in Talkeetna!

July 2019 | Patti Macpike

July's Volunteer is...

Patti Macpike

Born and raised in Bar Harbor, Maine, Patti grew up outdoors playing, fishing, and camping. She moved to Sitka to attend Sheldon Jackson College and graduated in 1996. She is currently a troop leader in Sitka for Troop 4119.

Q: What made you initially volunteer with Girl Scouts?

Our first daughter, Hannah, joined Girl Scouts in 2001 as a Brownie. It was her second year as a Girl Scout when one of her leaders moved away. I stepped in and became her troop's co-leader and have been a leader since. 

Q: Why do you continue to volunteer?

My oldest daughter stayed in Girl Scouts all through high school. It was through her experiences that I realized how many girls miss out on the amazing opportunities that Girl Scouts provides to older girls. In many ways, Girl Scouts really takes off for girls 12 and up. There is so much that older girls can take advantage of and do. 

Q: What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop? How have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge we're facing right now is coordinating everyone's busy schedules. Middle schoolers are busy!

Q: What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

It's been really great to see the girls earn the Highest Awards. Our troop is finishing up their Silver Award this summer. We're also looking forward to travel soon with our mixed level troop.  

Q: Any words of wisdom or encouragement that you'd like to pass on to other troop leaders?

My advice for adults: Sometimes we have to live by example and step out of our comfort zone as well. We want to build girls of courage and strength to be leaders - they need role models and leaders are just that! Laugh and learn with the girls - you'll be glad you did. 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Patti for her dedication to girls in Sitka!

August 2019 | Barb Knaak

August's Volunteer is...

Barb Knaak

Barb Knaak is the troop leader of Troop 929 and is also the Chugiak/Eagle River Product Manager. Barb is committed to leadership, mentorship, and the Girl Scout mission. Barb once again led another fantastic cookie season in the Chugiak/Eagle River Service Unit, offering enthusiastic support to the girls and volunteers. In addition to her role as the Service Unit Cookie Manager, Barb is also the Fall Product Program Manager and facilitates popular and fun events such as the Cookie Rally and SWAPS. Barb is an enthusiastic spokesperson for Girl Scouts and the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. She truly exemplifies the spirit of Girl Scouts. Other leaders look to her as a resource and she is an integral part of the Service Unit Team. 

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am originally from Buffalo, New York. I was raised in Michigan where I went to Western Michigan University and received my degree in Printing Management. I worked for Gannett, Co., that prints USA Today for about 10 years before moving to Alaska. I have been in Alaska now for 20 years. I love it! I work for the USO (United Services Organization) on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. I am the Center Operations Supervisor which is a fancy term for Volunteer Coordinator. I live with the love of my life – Troy, my daughter Janna, and son Jaden. We have a dog and two cats.

Q: Were you a Girl Scout growing up?

I was a Girl Scout in Buffalo, New York and in Fraser, Michigan. I was a Girl Scout through 8th grade. 

Q: Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I volunteer to give back to the community. 

Q: What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

I love working with the girls and leaders. It is amazing to watch these little girls grow up and become ladies. I have made many friends and love that the girls know me as the Crazy Cookie Lady!

Q: What advice would you give to new leaders?

Don’t re-invent the wheel. Work with other leaders to see what they have done and do things with both older and younger troops.

If we show the girls that we can all work together and always include everyone, it will help them to be the kind of Girl Scouts that includes people no matter who they are.

Q: What are the girls in your troop most enthusiastic about in Girl Scouting?

My girls like to sell cookies!

Q: What have you gained in being a troop leader?

I love that my daughter has made friends and is also able to give back to Girl Scouts when she helps at Singing Hills. Seeing her find something she loves to do is important to me. 

Q: What has been your greatest accomplishment or favorite memory while volunteering with Girl Scouts?

I like putting on events for the girls. The Cookie Rally and SWAPs event have become my signature events. Coming up with some fun things for the girls to do during both events is a challenge and some of the best fun ever. The girls seem to enjoy it since they keep coming back!

The greatest accomplishment for me was receiving the Thanks Badge from Sylvia Acevedo, the CEO of GSUSA, at this year's Encampment.

Q: Your troop has traveled - what made your last trip memorable? What tips can you share with other leaders who may be considering travel in the future?

In August of 2018 we did what I'm calling the 'Girl Scout Pilgrimage.' Troop 929 went to Savannah, Georgia and toured the original Girl Scout Headquarters and had tea at Juliette Gordon Low's house. There were only 4 of us signed up for the tea, so they wanted us to move our date or change what we were doing. After I explained that we were coming all the way from Alaska, the amazing staff made it work for us. They even brought in a local Girl Scout and her mom to join us for the tea. That was awesome!

From there we traveled across Texas to do a service project at Morgan's Wonderland in San Antonio. Both girls in my troop have some intellectual disabilities which is why we chose to volunteer at Morgan’s Wonderland. Morgan's Wonderland is a theme park built by a father for his daughter. His mission was to build a place where everyone could be included in fun no matter their level of ability. We worked on the train for the day and helped people on and off. We wore our Girl Scouts shirts and everyone was amazed to see that we were from Alaska. We also stopped at as many Girl Scout council offices as we could. It was great to meet our fellow Girl Scouts across the country. It was an amazing trip.

For other leaders thinking about traveling - it is a big undertaking. Talk to other leaders and plan around what works best for your troop. If it seems too overwhelming, look into trip planning programs.

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Barb for her dedication to girls in Chugiak and Eagle River!