December's Volunteer is...
Dee is a Troop Leader in Wasilla.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I have been a Girl Scout leader for 17 years, starting with my oldest daughter and now continuing with my youngest daughter. We started our troop in Palmer, AK, but have now moved to Wasilla. When my oldest turned 13 she wanted to drop out of Girl Scouts, as she felt she had done all there was in regard to badges and Journeys. But I really love the Girl Scout motto and helping to empower our youth, so I researched ways to keep her interested in Girl Scouts. I started by just holding events and meetings catering to teens, such as game and craft nights with music that they like. I then found out about troop trip travel through Girl Scouts of USA.
Our first trip was to San Francisco to participate in a worldwide bridging ceremony, where troops from all over met and walked the Golden Gate Bridge. It was amazing, and we were hooked. From there, we have traveled to Houston, TX, where we participated in the 100-year celebration of Girl Scouts; New York City, where we marched in a parade with Girl Scouts from all over the USA; Savannah, Georgia, where we got to visit Juliette Gordon Low’s house; and even England to visit Pax Lodge, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) World Center. Recently we went to Girl Fest 2021 in West Virginia, where we won “the troop who traveled the farthest”. Lol. To do all this traveling, we sell lots of Girl Scout Cookies and hold bake sales.
Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?
I truly believe in our mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character, and as such try to build my meetings around ways to build up the girls in my troop. I am big on giving back to the community where we live and have had my troop volunteer at Frontline Mission soup kitchen, the MatSu animal shelter, and we even adopt a family from the Matsu Special Santa program to help them have a wonderful Christmas. Just recently, we made homemade dog treats for the shelter and then got to drop them off and watch the dogs gobble them down, which made the girls so happy to see that their work was appreciated.
What have you gained as a troop leader?
I have grown so much by teaching these girls our mission and promise. For example, at Girl Fest 2021 the girls were participating in activities that pushed them outside of their comfort boundaries. Our first activity was river rafting on a class 4 river, and one of my girls was terrified that she was going to fall in the water and be swept away with the current. She was shaking and crying at the beginning of our trip and I had to tell her it was ok to be scared, that it was a part of the experience to be scared, but to try and do it anyways to push past our comfort zone. I had her take deep breaths and try to relax and enjoy the experience. By the end of our 8-hour raft day, she was laughing and jumping out of the raft to swim alongside it, and even participated with other girls on doing the swimmers rapids (rapids that you can float on in a life vest). The change she went through was amazing and wonderful to watch, and I know it is something that will stay with her for the rest of her life, as it will with me!
What has been your biggest challenge as a volunteer?
Probably Covid and the restrictions it put on doing events, such as my teen event – PJ Party at the Movies. Covid definitely threw a curveball to us but we learned to adapt and try new things, such as encouraging girls to do things at home with their parents and then tell the troop. Just recently, we had the girls make Happy Thanksgiving cards at home for the Matsu Valley Thanksgiving blessing boxes.
What advice would you give a new leader?
I have always held our first meeting with a bubble chart, where I have the girls pick what they want to do at meetings for the upcoming year. I have things that I love to do and am good at doing, such as baking or crafts, but the girls may not like that or get bored doing that year after year. Not only does this chart help the girls to plan the year and do what they want to do, but it makes me grow as a leader to step outside of what I know and learn new things alongside the girls.