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Volunteer Spotlight

Girl Scouts of Alaska relies on 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:

 

2021

August 2021 | Erika Klawonn

August's Volunteer is...

Erika Klawonn

Erika is a Troop Leader and Service Unit member in Juneau.

Tell us a little about yourself. 

 I am a Brownie leader for Troop 4023 in Juneau, where I was once a Brownie myself! 

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I volunteer with Girl Scouts because it’s an awesome opportunity to help our local girls maximize their learning and creativity potentials. 

What has been your biggest challenge when volunteering, and how have you overcome it?

Covid was, and continues to be, a challenge we are always working around. Thankfully, with a mix of a little technology and a lot of the great outdoors, we have been able to continue meeting as a troop without skipping a beat! 

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

My favorite thing about volunteering is the moment I see a girl figure out how to solve a problem. Whether they’re building a game spinner from a box of miscellaneous building materials, or coming up with ways to help disadvantaged members of their community, nothing beats getting to see the gears in their brains turn while they come up with solutions. 

How has your troop/Service Unit involvement grown since it first started?

This is my third year as a troop leader, and I’m beginning my second year as a SU member. I quickly dove into the bigger picture of Girl Scouts in the community and I’ve really enjoyed being a helping hand in some of the larger events we hold for Girl Scouts here in Juneau! 

What are the girls you’re involved with most enthusiastic about in Girl Scouting?

Our girls are most enthusiastic about outdoor adventures. They hope to earn the Cabin Camper badge this year, and have already earned their Outdoor Art Creator badge! 

What have you gained as a volunteer?

I’ve gained some lifelong friends in our troop helpers, my co-leader, and our troop parents. I’m confident our girls have gained the same! 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Erika for her dedication to girls in Juneau and beyond!

July 2021 | Rachel Munger

July's Volunteer is...

Rachel Munger

Rachel is a Troop Leader in Anchorage.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I currently volunteer as the Troop Leader for Troop 22001 in South Anchorage. I have a 6-year-old daughter who adores being a Girl Scout. Growing up, I was a Daisy and Brownie in Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, where I was born and raised.  

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I truly believe that as a Girl Scout volunteer, I’m investing in the next generation of female leaders who will ultimately make the world a better place. 

What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop, and how have you overcome it?

My biggest challenge as a leader has been avoiding overbooking our Troop Year. There are so many amazing opportunities, badges and traditions to be part of, but it’s impossible to do everything and avoid burning out the troop. I try to present the ideas to the girls and let them choose what’s most important to them. 

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

My favorite thing is knowing that I’m part of a 109-year-old tradition that started in my home state. It’s an honor to continue the legacy and vision of Juliette Gordon Low, and see her work living on through our girls. 

What advice would you give to new leaders?

Resist the urge to “take over”. Keep it girl-led, stand back, and be amazed at what your girls can do. Be a cheerleader and mentor versus a leader. 

How has your troop grown since it first started?

I was a Troop Leader for the Girls Scouts of Southwest Texas, and this is my first year as a Troop Leader in Alaska. Our troop is new for 2021-2022 and growing!

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

They tend to lean towards outdoor activities, and Alaska has tons to offer. I do encourage them to explore activities they may not normally pick to get them out of their comfort zone. 

What have you gained as a troop leader?

I’m given the gift of wonderment! I’m constantly impressed watching the girls blossom and build confidence in their leadership skills as the year progresses. 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Rachel for her dedication to girls in Anchorage and beyond!

June 2021 | Elizabeth Nicolai

June's Volunteer is...

Elizabeth Nicolai

Elizabeth is a Troop Leader in Anchorage.

What area do you volunteer in?

I volunteer with a Daisy/Brownie troop in South Anchorage.

Were you a Girl Scout? If yes, where?

Yes, I was a Girl Scout through my Cadette years in Overland Park, Kansas. My favorite part was being a junior camp counsellor.

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I wanted my daughter to have the same fun experience as I did. In my career, I get to work with children but only for short times. I was excited by the chance to work with girls for years and see them grow and develop into amazing young women.

What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop, and how have you overcome it?

COVID! Probably the answer everyone has given. Our troop had been meeting less than six months when COVID happened, and we were still bonding as leaders with the girls, and the girls as friends when we were suddenly thrown into online meetings. I hope we did a good job of activities we could do together online, and not asking too much from people overwhelmed by Zoom fatigue and pandemic feelings. We are excited to be back in person now!

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

I love all the great opportunities, the community, and the large group activities and online meetings have been so much fun. I feel like so many people know what Girl Scouts are and have a positive experience with them, and I’m excited to bring my daughters and other girls into that sense of connection.

What advice would you give to new leaders?

Be okay with making mistakes. Some of our activities didn’t work out so well. I just apologized to the girls (and the parents) and we all learned together. It’s powerful for children to see adults unafraid to make a mistake, admit it, and make a correction with them.

Has your troop grown since it first started?

It has! Even without in-person meetings or advertising, it grew. I think people just wanted something that would be a little bit normal, even if online, during COVID.

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

Going outside! No matter what, they just want to be outside. The second is probably snack time (pre-COVID).

What have you gained as a troop leader?

Friends! I had never met my co-leaders before we started the troop, but now I consider them friends and we text and share parts of our lives, even outside of Girl Scouts. I knew my daughter would make friends, but friends for me was such an amazing bonus.

Anything else you’d like us to know!

I’m only one person. If we do well, it’s because my co-leaders, the troop parents, and the girls are all incredible.

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Elizabeth for her dedication to girls in Anchorage and beyond!

May 2021 | Kelly Mullanix

May's Volunteer is...

Kelly Mullanix

Kelly is a Troop Leader for Troop 20051 on JBER.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I work at a hospital in Anchorage and have three young girls. I volunteer a lot on JBER when I'm not working, and I spend all my weekends camping, building a cabin, and playing games with my family. I was born and raised in Alaska, and went to college in Florida to be a youth/children’s pastor.  

I've been married to my husband for 9 years. He is active duty military, so I'm a Girl Scout leader for one of the JBER troops. When I was younger, my Mom was my Girl Scout leader when we lived in Anchor Point, Alaska. 

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

With my husband being in the military, I wanted to provide an easier way for my daughter to make lasting friendships. Lots of families come and go, and many have a hard time connecting with others. I felt like I needed to find a way to allow my girls to form bonds with other girls and to have some of what a normal childhood looks like for other kids who don’t move around a lot. I knew the best way to make this possible would be by starting a Girl Scout troop on base. It’s been the most awarding experience! 

What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop, and how have you overcome it?

 Our biggest challenge as a troop has always been numbers. We've had so many girls wanting to join, but not enough room. We started out as a troop of over 24 girls, but then we split into two troops when it kept growing. It’s really hard turning girls/parents away when they ask to join our troop. I would let everyone join, because I think it's important and great for military kids to experience. Lately we've had to focus on finding parents who would like to join as a leader and have a military moving date that is 3 to 4 years out.  This is the only way our troop will continue on past the original leaders. We've been trying hard to help other troops start/form on base. There is a huge desire for troops on JBER!

Many moms just need encouragement and resources to get a troop formed, so I try to connect them with other moms who would like to help start this journey for their girls. In the last few months, I was able to help two new troops form on JBER, and I am excited that girls aren't having to wait for spots right now. I really hope 2 to 3 more troops start on JBER by this fall.

I encourage leaders to help do the same in your area. If you have a few girls that want to join but you don't have the space, help connect the moms and encourage them to start a troop by giving them resources. 

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

Watching the girls light up when they accomplish tasks/projects or learn something new. I love finding ways for them to volunteer or projects for them to do around the community. 

What advice would you give to new leaders?

Find more leaders and don’t do it all on your own. We have six leaders in a troop of 19, and we all take turns with lessons. We make sure to pair up with another leader when it’s our turn to do the lesson, so it’s less overwhelming. When planning big events, we all take one piece of it. It doesn't matter who started the troop, you are all in it together for your daughters—give everyone a chance to lead. Lots of hands make the work light, and its helps you not burn out. Communicate what you need help with, even to the parents, and you will be surprised how many actually step up to help. 

How has your troop grown since it first started?

When COVID happened, we almost disbanded. Zoom meetings were a lot of work and it was discouraging not being able to meet. One of our volunteers reminded us that we need to show the girls how to push through and to be the example that, when things get tough, you get creative. I think that was the biggest growing experience for our troop. We are now all stronger and closer because of it. One day, our girls will all move to a different base, but they won't forget their time as a Girl Scout with friends from all over the world. 

What have you gained as a troop leader?

 I’ve gained amazing friendships with other moms, and encouragement. I’ve also been able to learn a lot about my own daughter. I love watching her interact and grow with other girls. 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Kelly for her dedication to girls on JBER and beyond!

April 2021 | Christa Wallace

April's Volunteer is...

Christa Wallace

Christa is a Troop Leader for Troop 664 in Chugiak.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Christa Wallace, wife, mother, educator, food pantry volunteer, and Girl Scout leader.  I was in Girl Scouts from Brownies to Juniors in the late 60’s and early 70’s. 

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I volunteered to lead a troop because I was asked to step up.  We could not find a troop for my Brownie-level youngest daughter and my oldest daughter’s troop had retired.  I do not like to complain without having suggestions to offer. My inspiration for this is from the American Civil Rights icon Eldridge Clever, "There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you are going to be part of the problem" (Cleaver & Geismar, 1967).  I want to validate my role in finding solutions to educational problems, and this also applies to Girl Scouts.  My favorite thing about Girl Scouts in helping the girls earn their highest awards; seven of my girls have earned their Gold Awards.  I have enjoyed offering STEM journeys to Ambassadors, Seniors, Cadettes, and Juniors. 

What advice would you give to new leaders?

Many of the parent leaders see some of the badges as out of their element and don’t try to offer them.  I would encourage them to pool together with other troops.  

How has your troop grown since it first started?

Troop 664 began with two Brownies and two Ambassadors.  While my Ambassadors graduated in 2013, my youngest daughter graduated in 2020.  I still have my original Brownie, now Ambassador, who is graduating this year.  Our troop has grown and shrunk (almost all have been military family transfers) and after this school year, I will be back to two girls—Ambassadors working on Gold Award projects.  I think I will hang up my Troop Leader badge next year, as I am retiring.  Perhaps I can find another way to help Girl Scouts once I retire. 

What have you gained as a troop leader?

Girl Scouts is not about what we gain, but what we give.  I want my girls to be resilient.  I taught them how to change a tire, white water raft, use their resources wisely, and advocate for others.   As an educator, I am pleased to see my girls grow and head off to college, and I got a chance to affect their lives in a positive way.

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Christa for her dedication to girls in Chugiak and beyond!

March 2021 | Shawn House

March's Volunteer is...

Shawn House

Shawn is a Troop Leader for Troop 21002 in Ketchikan.

Tell us a little about yourself.

We moved to Ketchikan in the summer of 2019. We had been active in Girl Scouts in NW Arkansas – where we moved from – for several years. I really love what Girl Scouts stands for and how and what they teach. As the mother of two daughters, I feel like it is my job to teach them to be the best people they can be. Girl Scouts embodies so many of the values that are important to me.

I currently volunteer as one of the Troop Leaders for troop 21002 in Ketchikan. My daughters and I decided to start this troop last summer, and although we haven’t been able to meet as often as we like because of Covid-19, we love the energy and enthusiasm of our new troop. We have a great group of girls here who are excited to learn and make a difference together.

I was not a Girl Scout when I was young. However, my oldest daughter has been in Girl Scouts since she was in kindergarten, and I have loved what she has learned and the experiences she has had. Girl Scouts is such a great organization and teaches so many important things to help our girls be forces for good in the world.

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I believe strongly that despite the strides women have made in the world, we still have many obstacles to overcome. I think it is my duty, as a mother and a woman, to help in this in whatever way I can. Girl Scouts gives me a very direct way to make a difference in the lives of the girls in my community. It is wonderfully empowering for myself and for the girls in our troop.

What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop, and how have you overcome it?

My biggest challenge is keeping up my enthusiasm and energy. Life is hard, and with Covid-19 as an additional challenge we are all dealing with, keeping optimism and hopefulness for the future sometimes seems harder than it ever has been. But when I look at my daughters and the other girls in our troop, I have no doubts that the world is in capable hands that will treat each other better than humans have treated each other in the past. These children give me hope. 

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

Having the opportunity to help facilitate the girls in our troop becoming forces for good within their own lives and in their communities.

What advice would you give to new leaders?

Ask for help. Know it’s okay if you feel like you are winging it some of the time. Keep your focus on what your girls want to learn and let them lead.

How has your troop grown since it first started?

We have grown in numbers and in friendships.

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

They are very enthusiastic about learning about our local environment and making a difference in our community.

What have you gained as a troop leader?

That the time and energy I have invested in the girls in our troop is so very, very worth it.

Anything else you’d like us to know?

I love Girl Scouts!

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Shawn for her dedication to girls in Ketchikan and beyond!

February 2021 | Anita Smyke

February's Volunteer is...

Anita Smyke

Anita was a Troop Leader in Cordova.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was a Girl Scout leader for 21 years and retired last year. I have three daughters and had a troop for each of my daughters. Each troop went from kindergarten through 12th grade and I had 120 girls total over the years.

When we got down to the last 30 boxes of cookies that we would ever sell, I got a few moms together and we dressed up in the Girl Scout cookie costumes and went down to the harbor and gave the boxes away to the fishermen!

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

 I was thinking that my troops probably sold at least a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of cookies over the years! We were always fundraising for camps and trips. We went all over Alaska, traveled around Europe, Peru (the Inca trail and the Amazon), Canada (the Chilkoot trail), and Nepal. We visited each of the world centers in Mexico, England, Switzerland, and India. The girls had to work for their money for these trips. I didn't believe in donations, where they got money without doing anything.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

I loved being a leader and getting to know such a variety of girls and parents. My main goal was to expose them to as many different things as possible. By traveling, the girls realized that there are good people everywhere, and that we don't need to fear other countries and people. I always did activities with elders and had the girls do community service projects.

In elementary school, we had meetings each week but would only meet about once a month in junior and senior high school since they were so busy with other things. I think many of the girls will have long-lasting friendships and hopefully will try and make the world a better place. 

What advice would you give to new leaders?

If you want to know about activities that we did, how to plan trips or any other information, just ask. I would be happy to talk to other leaders. 

Note from GSAK: Anita has so many photos from over the years. We compiled just a few of them in the album below. Take a look at her Troops' adventures!

Anita Smyke Troop Trips

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Anita for her dedication to girls in Cordova and beyond!

January 2021 | Kayla Hinds

 January's Volunteer is...

Kayla Hinds

Kayla is a Troop Leader in Anchor Point.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Kayla Hinds and this is my second year as a leader for Troop 515 in Anchor Point. I was never a Girl Scout, but have enjoyed being part of Girl Scouts with my daughter, who is a second-year Daisy. Our troop is multi-level and ranges from Daisies to Cadettes. Currently we have 14 girls in our troop. 

What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop, and how have you overcome it?

The biggest struggle during the first year was dealing with the pandemic. We have tried Zoom, but mostly girls have been completing tasks at home with their families. Although it is difficult for some ages to use Zoom, it has been nice to be able to meet as a troop! 

What advice would you give to new leaders?

My advice to new leaders would be to let the girls lead the meetings as much as possible, and have fun! Being a leader is very rewarding when you hear from parents that their Girl Scouts look forward to the meetings and outings planned.

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

Last year our girls loved to have in person meetings! The older girls were big helpers with the Daisies. Each group would work on earning their badges and shared a lot of laughs. 

Once cookie season hit last year, our troop was very excited! For most of the girls, it was their first cookie season. We learned a lot and had a great time! Selling cookies during booth sales was also a lot of fun for the girls. 

What have you gained as a troop leader?

Being a troop leader has taught me to be more creative and adjust to different challenges that arise. I am very thankful to be able to lead a great group of girls! 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Kayla for her dedication to girls in Anchor Point and beyond!

2020

December 2020 | Ola Williams

 December's Volunteer is...

Ola Williams

Ola is a Service Unit Manager in Susitna.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am in my 40th year as an volunteer with Girl Scouts and have been in two different Councils (7 Lakes GS Council in NY state and here in Susitna, now GSAK). I was a Troop Leader for three different troops and Service Unit Manager for Cato Meridian for 12 years before moving to AK. Since 1999, I helped with three troops in Willow before starting a Daisy troop. I kept that troop going for 3 years until I was asked to become Service Unit Manager for Little Su. I also have now been involved with the Girl Scout cookie sale for 39 years, mostly as the Service Unit Cookie Manager.

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I joined Girl Scouts because my best friend, who had three girls, was the leader for her oldest daughter's Junior troop. The middle daughter wanted to be a Brownie, so I became her leader. The next year we moved to Juniors, where I stayed for 11 years before a group of girls talked me into moving up with them. Five of the girls who came to me in 4th grade were still with me when they graduated from high school. Four of those five girls completed their Gold Award.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

As a volunteer, I've been a chaperone on trips to Washington, D.C., New York City, Orlando and Virginia. In the 90's I got to represent 7 Lakes Girl Scout Council at the National Council meeting in Texas. 7 Lakes council also sent me to Camp Edith Macy's Outdoor Education Center for a week-long training called "Gourmet cooking and the camp stove". Over the next year I led trainings in 4 parts of the Council for leaders. Three years ago, I was chosen as a delegate to represent GSAK in Columbus, Ohio.

Anything else you’d like us to know?

I usually don't do things like this, but I do treasure my years in Girl Scouting.

Girl Scouts of Alaska would like to thank Ola for her service and dedication to Girl Scouts over the past 40 years, and for the impact she’s had on the Mat Su area in that time!

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Ola for her dedication to girls in Susitna and beyond!

November 2020 | Leah Eskelin

 November's Volunteer is...

Leah Eskelin

Leah is a Troop Leader in Kenai.

Tell us a little about yourself. 

My Girl Scout story starts in the late 1980s as a Brownie in what was the Suncoast Council in Tampa, Florida. I still remember attending the Girl Scout Membership Jamboree in my elementary school’s lunchroom. My mom was my troop leader through Juniors. Selling cookies for $2.25 was a quick lesson in making change! Thin Mints were ALWAYS the most popular in our community. 

I’m a proud Lifetime Member now, leading my two daughters’ troops on the Kenai Peninsula: 210 Cadettes and 20302 Brownies. It’s sometimes a balancing act to plan for two troops while working full-time, but seeing my troop girls growing up supporting each other is great, and makes it all worth it.

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I volunteer as a leader to give my girls the fun I remember with my mom, to develop their personalities with positive influences and build friendships with other girls. I’m still friends with one of the girls in my Brownie troop from Florida! 

What advice would you give to new leaders?

My advice to leaders just starting out is to remember that input from your girls is so important. If you work really hard to make a meeting happen but the girls aren’t interested, don’t be surprised if it falls flat. On the other hand, if you bring their interests into the plan and let them lead the planning, you get to witness such happy girls. That makes every late night prepping materials worth it!

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Leah for her dedication to girls in Kenai and beyond!

October 2020 | Linda Slaght

 October's Volunteer is...

Linda Slaght

Linda is a Service Unit Manager and Troop Leader in Petersburg.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a career Forest Service employee, which has been a good match for me because I have always had a strong affinity for natural resources and the outdoors.

I have been a Girl Scout volunteer in Petersburg since 1999, when I became the Troop Leader for my daughter’s second grade Brownie troop (Troop 129). I was a Girl Scout for only one year, as a 5th grade Junior in Texas, so I had no idea what I was doing. Fortunately, I had a couple of great co-leaders and good community support, and our troop stayed active for 7 years. After that, I became the Petersburg Service Unit Manager and remain in that position today. In 2018, I became co-leader of a Junior troop (Troop 4065) that was about to disband due to lack of leaders. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made as a Girl Scout volunteer! I love serving my community as Service Unit Manager, but there’s nothing better than providing direct service to girls through the troop experience.

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

There are never enough volunteers in my community. I chose to make a long-term commitment to Girl Scouts because I love the mission, and I love that Girl Scouts provides this experience in a girl-only, girl-led environment. It makes me feel like I’m doing something important that will have a lasting impact on the community.

What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop, and how have you overcome it?

I feel like I need to answer that pre-COVID and post-COVID.

Scheduling troop meetings can be difficult when the girls are involved in so many other activities. It seems to get harder as the girls get older. With my current troop, we work with parents to schedule important planning meetings, then we have the girls make decisions about when they want to meet and what they want to do. We stay flexible so we can work around the girls’ schedules. Participation seems to be better when we are following the girls’ plans rather than trying to keep them on a rigid schedule.

With COVID-19 mitigations, the biggest challenge has been to stay connected as a troop while not being able to meet in person. We had a couple of Zoom meetings early in the summer, but they didn’t seem to generate a lot of excitement. We have given the girls activities to do at home, but we’re finding that they don’t stay as motivated as they would be if we were all meeting together in person. Now that we can meet in person with guidelines [Note: this interview was done in August], we are reconnected and finding ways to meet outdoors. We’ve adapted our meeting activities to allow for lots of socializing instead of being hyper-focused on badge work. For example, our first outdoor meeting was a dragonfly hunt. Our second meeting was a simple campfire with s’mores on National S’mores Day, during which we awarded the Girl Scouts their first earned Cadette badges.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

  • The friendships I’ve made among the other volunteers, and the relationships I have with the girls who’ve been Girl Scouts in Petersburg.
  • My favorite things to do with Girl Scouts is anything outdoors - camping, hiking, picnicking, exploring. I love to see how it energizes the girls and opens their eyes to the natural world around them.
  • I’m also proud that I’ve helped to keep Girl Scouts alive and vibrant in our small community. This has not always been easy, but it is so important. 

What advice would you give to new leaders?

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Experienced leaders love to help out new volunteers, but they need to be asked.
  • Don’t over program your meetings. Leave plenty of space for spontaneity.
  • Really embrace the concept of “girl-led”.

How has your troop grown since it first started?

In 2018, the troop consisted of three girls without a troop leader. I stepped in to keep the troop going, because I believe every girl who wants to be in a troop should have that opportunity. At a recruiting event I found a great co-leader, and since then the girls have been our best recruiters. Our troop topped out at nine girls, but we are currently down to seven after two girls moved out of town. I would say we have a close-knit troop now with good parent support, and the girls are maturing quickly as they get ready to enter 6th and 7th grades. One thing I’ve noticed is that some of the girls are more willing to try new things even if they think they can’t do it.

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

I am fortunate that the girls in my troop are enthusiastic about a lot of things. It would be hard to pin down one thing. They love skills-building activities, camping, and music. Some of them really love the cookie program. Both of my troops have been extremely interested in overnight travel.

Anything else you’d like us to know?

In 2016, I traveled to Peru with a Wrangell troop on an EF Tours-guided adventure. It was the trip of a lifetime and it is my ultimate dream as a volunteer to inspire at least one group of Petersburg Girl Scouts to engage in international travel together. 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Linda for her dedication to girls in Petersburg and beyond!

September 2020 | Kristi Willing

 September's Volunteer is...

Kristi Willing

Kristi is a Troop Leader in Chugiak.

Tell us a little about yourself. 

Hi! My name is Kristi Willing. I’ve been married to a wonderful Air Force man for 16 years and we have 3 amazing kiddos, two girls and one boy. I am a stay-at-home mom, run my own photography business, and help with the office tasks for my husband’s handyman business. We have been stationed here in Alaska for almost 9 amazing years. 

I began my Girl Scout experience in Quincy, Illinois as a young girl while completing both the Daisy and Brownie levels. My favorite memories are of selling cookies door to door in my neighborhood!

I’ve been volunteering with Girl Scouts since my oldest daughter started as a Daisy Girl Scout nearly seven years ago. Since then, I’ve transitioned into a leader for two troops, for both of my daughters. I’m currently a co-leader for Troop 114, brand new Brownies, and Troop 639, second-year Cadettes. Both troops are located in Chugiak.   

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I love working directly with the girls and planning fun activities! I love camping, hiking and enjoying all the amazing outdoor activities with my troops!  I love seeing each girl accomplish so many amazing goals! 

What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop, and how have you overcome it?

COVID-19 has been our biggest challenge. We are of course pushing on and finding creative, safe ways for our girls to continue Girl Scouting! 

What advice would you give to new leaders?

Have co-leaders!! I couldn’t do it without all the support from my amazing co-leaders and troop volunteers! 

How has your troop grown since it first started?

The Cadette girls have accomplished countless goals, participated in so many unique experiences, and have bloomed into amazing young women. They have created a special bond with each of their troop members! 

These girls have been phenomenal role models for our “sister” Daisy troop.  We do so many activities where both troops are involved at the same time! 

The Brownies started off a little shy as Daisies, but over the last two years have blossomed into eager Girl Scouts who want to do good things in their community, as well as learn new things! 

Both troops have learned so much about community involvement and how to help others. They’ve learned about their environment and how to take care of it. They’ve also embraced leadership skills. 

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

Hands-on, exciting activities! Community involvement and giving back to those in need, outdoor activities, STEM activities such as building robots, camping and hiking, Encampment…The list is endless! 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Kristi for her dedication to girls in Chugiak and beyond!

August 2020 | Emily Ingram

 August's Volunteer is...

Emily Ingram

Emily is a leader in Wasilla.

Tell us a little about yourself. What Troop/area do you volunteer in? Were you a Girl Scout? If yes, where?

I am a Daisy and Brownie Troop Leader in Wasilla. I grew up in a rural community in Georgia, where we were not able to take advantage of the wonderful programs Girl Scouts has to offer. I can recall seeing information about them on television and begging my mom to start a troop. We moved to Alaska when my active-duty husband was stationed at JBER in 2015. I became a Leader in 2019 when I realized there wasn’t a group for my daughter (she was 5 at the time) near our home in Settlers Bay. I loved being able to provide her a space to be a leader and make new friends. I have 2 kiddos and have been happily married for 9 years. I worried I wouldn’t have much to offer our troop, as I’m an administrator for a real estate company. I’m so lucky to have had a troop that is full of leaders and ideas!

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I started volunteering with Girl Scouts to give my daughter a chance to make new friends and stretch her leadership muscles. I was lucky enough that we both achieved this.

What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop, and how have you overcome it?

Our biggest challenge came when COVID-19 forced us into a new normal of virtual friendship. These girls reminded me Girl Scouts can be anywhere that there’s a Girl Scout, and we had some incredible meetings via Zoom.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

My favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts is the girls. Being able to create a space where they are in charge and working as a team is my favorite!

What advice would you give to new leaders?

I’d love to tell new leaders that they should remember what it’s like to be a girl when planning meetings and activities. Creating a space for them to be themselves and teach others is a skill they don’t get to learn anywhere else!

How has your troop grown since it first started?

Our Troop started with 4 girls & now has 12!!

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

We are so lucky to have a diverse group of girls with a wide range of enthusiasm. The best example is seeing them use each of their specific interests and talents to share their knowledge about Egypt and then to share with new friends at the World Thinking Day event. Each girl had such pride for the piece they brought to our booth.

What have you gained as a troop leader?

I have gained so much appreciation for the work parents and teachers do each and every day. All the parents in our troop are beyond helpful and willing to share their knowledge, experiences, and help with just about any project. I think showing our girls how to work together as adults has been as valuable as the lessons taught.

Anything else you’d like us to know?

Having time with my daughter through Girl Scouts has taught me so much about the person she’s turning into. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to lead with her.

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Emily for her dedication to girls in Wasilla and beyond!

July 2020 | Steph Hunt

 July's Volunteer is...

Steph Hunt

Steph is a leader with Troop 261 in Soldotna.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a currently a Cadette Troop Leader in Soldotna.  I grew up in Canada, so I was a Girl Guide.  I started as an assistant leader in 1993 while I was going to university and started my own troop in 1996.  I have been lucky enough to have troops in Ontario (Canada), California, Hawaii and now here in Alaska.  I am happily married with 3 kids; both of my girls are in my current troop.  I am a Chemical Engineer and love incorporating STEM activities into Girl Scouts.

Name: Steph Hunt

Girl Scout Name:  Sunshine

Volunteer Experience: Sparks (Canada), Daisies, Brownies, Junior, Cadette (Current) and Explorer Scouts (California Teens).

Best Known For: Being loud, valuing Girl Scout traditions and Being Prepared (at least trying!), and expecting the girls to do so as well.

Best Girl Scout Memory: Visiting Juneau with Troop 261 in 2019.

Biggest Girl Scout Accomplishment: Organizing Annual Junior Oil Up Badge Event at the Chevron Refinery in Hawaii.

Favorite Girl Scout Activity: Camping!  Especially Troop Camp at Togowoods and Encampment.

Shout Outs: All of my co-leaders throughout the decades! My awesome troop parents and of course, my amazing Troop 261.

Best Story: Last year our troop used our cookie funds to visit Senator Micciche and his family in Juneau.  We had the most memorable trip where the girls visited the Senate, Governor’s Mansion, Mendenhall Glacier and much more.  It was wonderful to explore parts of our beautiful state that we may not have had the opportunity to see otherwise.

Upon our return, as part of the girl’s Junior “Inside Government” badge, the girls made a political statement video about prioritizing their education.  It was a great way to see them take action on issues they had learned about on their trip.  Of course, we shared it on Facebook.

Shortly after posting the video, I saw that someone had shared our video and attached a lovely note.  It was the mom of a former Brownie in Hawaii. It said: “I share this because Girl Scout Leader, Steph Hunt, is part of the ‘village’ I often reference. Our children need to see examples of people who are willing to invest in their future. Steph is truly one of the reasons my daughter…values volunteerism. Steph, it’s so beautiful to see you’re committed to changing lives one troop at a time almost 20 years later. #thankyou!”

It’s things like this that make being a leader worthwhile! I am happy that I can be a part of these girls’ lives and their Girl Scout Experience. 

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

Because it’s FUN!  Also, I love the leadership opportunities that Girl Scouting provides for kids.  I want to make sure the girls in my community get a chance to take part.

What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop, and how have you overcome it?

As the girls get older, they get harder to retain.  We are doing what we can to encourage them to continue to participate in ways that best fit them.

What advice would you give to new leaders?

Get to know the other leaders in your Service Unit Area as they are an amazing resource.  We are extremely lucky with the great group of leaders and volunteers we have in the Soldotna area. 

I have also had great success with recruiting my closest friends to be my co-leaders.  Most of them had never participated in Girl Scouts before, but they were more than happy to help.  Even though we now live far away, they are still some of the most important women in my life.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

MY TROOP!  “TROOP 261 HAS THE MOST FUN!”  These girls are amazing and a blast to be around.

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Steph for her dedication to girls in Soldotna and beyond!

June 2020 | Matthew Dobson

 June's Volunteer is...

Matt Dobson

Matt is a volunteer with Troop 4039 in Juneau.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a co-leader with Troop 4039 in Juneau and would consider myself the “outdoor coordinator”. I was a Boy Scout as a kid and then served in the Marine Corps. I have been a state trooper in Alaska for the last 24 years. My wife and I have three children. I enjoy spending free time in the outdoors camping, hiking or boating.

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

As my daughter’s troop moved from Juniors to Cadettes, they really wanted to increase their outdoor activities and start doing some bigger trips. I was happy to get involved and we have had a great time working on our outdoors skills.

What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop, and how have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge that I see is that every one of these Girl Scouts is very busy! So, coordinating times for all of them to meet and plan outdoor events is a challenge. We have overcome that by having them do some long range planning so we can get events on the calendar well in advance. 

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

My favorite thing by far is being able to just be around the Girl Scouts when we are camping. There is a lot going on with young ladies in the middle school years, but when we are out camping or hiking with just the troop, they can let some of that go and just be kids. Our troop is just really fun to be around. Of course, as they’ve grow it is awesome to see their confidence levels increase, which makes me proud as not only a leader but also as a father.

What advice would you give to new leaders?

Stay involved. Our kids grow up so fast that you can miss some things if you aren’t there. I also know that our kids will act differently at Girl Scouts than they do at home and it is really enjoyable (sometimes very refreshing) to see that. I always enjoy watching the older Girl Scouts interacting with the younger girls and really stepping up as leaders. That is something you just shouldn’t miss.

What have you gained as a troop leader?

For me, it has just been a pleasure watching these young ladies grow in their abilities and confidence. It is very rewarding to know that in the future they will be more than capable of taking a leadership role when going into the outdoors, whether it is as a career or with family and friends. I also think that the skills they learned in preserving natural food items like jams, jarred fish, etc. will hopefully serve them well in the future as they continue on with life. 

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

Making biscuits in the Dutch oven when we go camping! This has turned into the trademark meal for our troop. The girls really like to cook, but biscuits are a must on every trip.

How has your troop grown since it first started?

The most obvious thing that I see as these girls get ready to bridge over to Senior is their increased confidence level. Being involved in the outdoor aspect of the troop, I know they are ready and wanting to challenge themselves more and more on bigger trips. They have taken over the planning of events and could do some of these things completely on their own.

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Matt for his dedication to girls in Juneau and beyond!

May 2020 | Mary Graber

 May's Volunteer is...

Mary Graber

Mary is a Troop Leader and Service Unit volunteer in Eagle River.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a troop leader in Eagle River, and my girls are currently Junior/Cadette.  I was a Girl Scout growing up in Nebraska. Many towns did not have Girl Scouts, and Daisies didn’t exist, so I joined as a Junior when we moved to a bigger town. I continued through high school and then joined the Army after graduation. I’ve always been a “helper”: working in the school cafeteria, as a candy striper, Girl Scouting, etc. I have lived in Alaska for 26 years, have been married for 28 years and have two adopted children.

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

 I remember how much I gained as a Girl Scout and how much I appreciated the adults who took on leadership roles, including my parents! I’ve always wanted to pay it forward.

What has been your biggest challenge when volunteering, and how have you overcome it?

I’m sure there are plenty, but I usually don’t notice. I just carry on!

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

I just love to see the curiosity the girls show for new things or new ways of doing things. I love helping the light bulbs go on and seeing the girls grow and shine.  I like the idea that I am in some way a part of growing world leaders and helping girls reach their full potential.

What advice would you give to new Girl Scout volunteers?

Take a deep breath and JUMP right in! YOU CAN DO IT! There are so many resources and so much advice available from other leaders, Service Units and Council, so you will never be alone. Also, if you’re from another area of the country, don’t expect things to be the same here. We are in a unique place with unique opportunities and a different way of life than most places have. Embrace Alaska and what it has to offer.

How has your Troop/SU/involvement grown since it first started?

I became a troop leader in 2012 when my daughter was 5. The first year I had 2 girls. It went up and down from there, anywhere between 6 and 14 girls. Most of the 12 girls I have now have been with me for at least 3 years, and some moved from other troops to join us. Since then, I have acted as SU secretary, treasurer, shed manager, and now SU manager.  Over the years I have organized and presented many successful activities and events for the girls in Chugiak/Eagle River. Several years ago I started inviting girls from JBER, Anchorage and the Valley to join us. Some of the events:  Mother-Daughter Tea, Women of Arts, Maker Days, Journey In A Day, Daisy to Be, and Recruiting Expos.  I helped at back-to-school nights and any SU activity/event that needed extra volunteers and preparations.

What are the girls you’re involved with most enthusiastic about in Girl Scouting?

Meetings of any kind, special events, Encampment, travel, Cookies, games and skits.

What have you gained as a volunteer?

A lot of joy and pride. These questions are hard to answer because I don’t like talking about myself. But, I love my girls! 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Mary for her dedication to girls in Eagle River and beyond!

April 2020 | Angela Owen

 April's Volunteer is...

Angela Owen

Angela is the co-leader of Troop 4018 in Juneau.  

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am co-leader of Troop 4018 in Juneau.  I never really knew much about Girl Scouts other than they sold cookies. A preschool mom said she was starting a troop and invited my daughter to join, and here we are almost nine years later. 

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

Our troop was started by two amazing Coast Guard moms in kindergarten. The first one moved away after Daisies and the second moved after Brownies. I became co-leader when they were second-year Brownies and once our leader left, the job just kind of fell to me to keep the troop going.  

What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop, and how have you overcome it?

I am not very comfortable leading the meetings and prefer to do all the other stuff such as planning, financial, tracking and ordering patches, cookies, etc. I have a wonderful co-leader, Samia Savell, who graciously leads most of the meetings. As the girls get older, finding a time to meet has been challenging.  We change our meeting times/day every year depending on the schedules of each girl. 

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

It’s been amazing to see the girls grow over the years. 

What advice would you give to new leaders?

You are not alone, so ask for help.  There are plenty of veteran leaders who are more than willing to help guide you through anything. 

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

My girls love to go camping, hiking, and anything outdoors. 

How has your troop grown since it first started?

They have become much more involved in the planning and leading of the troop.  They worked with the Red Cross to make disaster preparedness kits for their Bronze Award. For their Silver Award, they refinished and updated the timeline events and dates for the giant tree cross section that hangs outside the Nature Center at the top of Mount Roberts Tram. It will be exciting to see what they plan for their Gold Awards. 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Angela for her dedication to girls in Juneau!

March 2020 | Elizabeth Bolton and Amy Crabtree

 March's Volunteers are...

Elizabeth Bolton and Amy Crabtree

Liz and Amy are the co-leaders of Daisy Troop 20107 in Ketchikan.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Liz: I am co-leader of Ketchikan-based Daisy Troop 20107 with my friend Amy. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York and I was in a Brownie troop for a few months there before it fell apart. I remember meeting in the school cafeteria and making pinhole cameras, but when we took them to the park we couldn’t make them work. (That may have been the beginning of the end for the troop!) That was a good lesson for me: when I decided to become a scout leader, I was committed above all to keeping the troop going, even if I felt discouraged at times.

Amy: The Coast Guard brought my family to Ketchikan in 2018. I instantly fell in love with the peaceful beauty of this island and with the people who live here. I work as a nurse in the ICU here and I’m a mom to two girls, the oldest of whom is one of our Daisies. I have never been a Girl Scout.  In fact, I gained most of my knowledge of Girl Scouts from the website while I was online searching for a troop for my daughter. 

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

Liz: Actually this is the definition of girl-led: my daughter made me do it. There are several troops in Ketchikan but there wasn’t one that was exclusively Daisies and that met near her school. I wanted my kindergartener to have a chance to be a Girl Scout but becoming a leader seemed like a daunting task, especially because I had a new baby. When Alyson Cooper visited us here in Ketchikan, though, she was so helpful and so excited to have a new troop starting up that I decided to take the plunge. Getting Amy onboard sealed the deal, because I knew I would feel more confident with a good partner.

Amy: I love the concept of these brave little leaders coming together to make the world a better place! My own personal leadership experience has been limited and I want more than that for my daughters. I want to model what a good leader is for her while also allowing her to play a big role in this as well. Plus, it’s super fun!

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

Liz: I love watching the girls get to know each other. We’ve only been meeting for a few months, but already I see lovely little friendships forming. My daughter likes to write the names of all the girls in the troop and draw pictures of them; I find slips of paper all over the house, usually in the days right after each meeting. I went to a women’s college, so I also find a lot of joy in watching them get to be a part of an all-girl space. That feels special to me, and I hope they sense it too.

Amy: Several weeks after starting our troop and still unsure of how things were going, I ran into one of our Daisies while out and about.  She immediately got a huge smile on her face and screamed, “I can’t wait until the next Girl Scout meeting!” That has to be my favorite thing so far. 

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

Liz: I notice that they like to share their knowledge. When we ask them about a topic, or brainstorm ideas for upcoming meetings, they all have so much to say. The benefit of a troop of eleven is that there’s more opportunity for them to be vocal about their ideas than there might be in school, where their classes are bigger than that. They all love to do crafts, but they’ve got big plans for the spring when we’ll be doing more beachcombing, hiking, and exploring. (Full disclosure: they also love the snacks.)

Amy: It seems to vary from girl to girl. For some it’s the cookie sales, for others the crafts and activities or earning those petals at the end of the day! Most of all it seems to be the camaraderie.  They all seem to look forward to that every other Monday meeting when we come together to be Girl Scouts. 

What have you gained as a troop leader?

Liz: I’m realizing that I can extend the concept of “girl-led” into the rest of my life. Where are the places where I try to control what happens and how it turns out, and can I focus on letting others play their part? I have a lot of leadership experience but the Girl Scouts philosophy is a great reminder that a big part of leading can actually be stepping back and letting others take over.

Amy: I must agree with Liz on this. While our young girls still need much guidance, each time we meet it becomes a little easier to take that step back and make this the girl-led troop we set out for it to be.  I even notice positive changes at home in my parenting because of this.

Anything else you’d like us to know?

Liz: The cookie program has been such a terrific experience. Booth sales especially exceeded our expectations, and I really got to watch the girls’ different strengths shine through. Plus we had customers come up to the girls and thank them for being Scouts. It was so cool!

Amy: I am so grateful to my friend Liz for initially getting this troop going, for providing the girls with this opportunity and for giving me the chance to be co-leader. It has been life changing!

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Amy and Liz for their dedication to girls in Ketchikan! 

February 2020 | Irma Hernandez

February's Volunteer is...

Irma Hernandez

Born and raised in Anchorage, Irma is the troop leader for Troop 392. 

Tell us a little about yourself. 

My name is Irma Hernandez with troop 392. I am born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. I love the outdoors and the majestic mountains in the Land of the Midnight Sun. 

Were you a Girl Scout? If yes, where?

No, but I wish I was, as it’s teaching our girls a way of self-sufficiency. 

Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I couldn’t find a troop for my daughter, so I figured I would challenge myself to this task.  I enjoy the girls and their different personalities, as it makes you appreciate volunteering more. 

What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop, and how have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge is setting up our meetings and getting all the girls on the same level at the same time due to different schools.  I take a step back and communicate with the girls. 

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

I get to see these girls grow and see their minds blossom. 

What advice would you give to new leaders?

Be patient, it will be challenging and you will be challenged. Just know these girls are our future, and if we can show 1 out of 5 girls things are possible, it might spread. 

How has your troop grown since it first started? 

The girls are currently working on their Bronze Awards. The girls are leading more and not relying so much on adults. They put the definition of girl-led into this project. 

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

End-of-the-year trips and getting to do activities together. Getting to do things they would never have been able to do on their own. 

What have you gained as a troop leader?

These girls have taught me to be a great leader. To make a difference any way we can, even if it’s small. It’s not about the role, it’s about the goal. 

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

January 2020 | Susan Harai

A former Girl Scout herself, Susan is the troop leader for Troop 4111. 

Year 2014 Troop 4111 Bronze Award Project

Tell us a little about yourself. Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I am the Troop Leader for the Petersburg Unit Troop 4111. I have been the leader for Troop 4112 also. I believe in the Girl Scout Mission, “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place”.

I was a Girl Scout in Mililani Town, Hawaii where my mother, Margaret Harai, was the leader. I attended Camp Paumalu on Oahu, Hawaii for three years and loved participating in Girl Scout activities as a Junior and Cadette. I wanted to be involved in order to pass along the love of Girl Scouting I had experienced. I have five daughters, and all were actively involved in Girl Scouts as they grew up. Two are Gold Award Girl Scouts and now Lifetime Members, and my youngest has completed her Gold Award project and is a junior in high school. Girl Scouting is a great way to bring families together while the girls grow in courage, confidence and character!

What has been your biggest challenge when leading a Girl Scout troop, and how have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge is to keep the girls enthusiastic about Girl Scouting as they move into Senior and Ambassador levels.  There are a lot of activities competing for time and it is a challenge to not be overcommitted.

Year 1999 Troop 4112 Booth Sales
Year 2012 Troop 4111 Brownies
Year 2013 Cadette Silver Award Troop 4112

What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?

Getting to know the girls and becoming close to them as a mentor.

What advice would you give to new leaders?

“Never give up, Never surrender!” If Girl Scouting is important to you, pass that importance along to your girls. Always work with who you have, and encourage new members.

How has your troop grown since it first started?

My troop of girls has dwindled from Daisy to Ambassador, but five of the girls have received their Gold Awards, so I am very proud of the ones who have kept with it!

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

My girls’ enthusiasm has changed over the years.  When they were in grade school they liked camping, crafts, and selling cookies. Now in high school they enjoy community service.

What have you gained as a troop leader?

I have maintained relationships with girls who were my Girl Scouts. One of my Girl Scouts is now a nurse at our hospital and is taking care of my father, who is in skilled care. She arranged for him to have his veteran’s meal delivered to him at the hospital.  

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Susan for her dedication to girls in Petersburg!

2019

December 2019 | Renata Brennan

December's Volunteer is...

Renata Brennan

A Girl Scout since 1975, Renata is the troop leader for Troop 311. 

cold me

Q: Were you a Girl Scout?

I started Girl Scouts in 1975 as a Kindergarten Pixie (now Daisies) on Ft. Richardson, Alaska. My final year was in 1988 as a Senior Girl Scout, which now would be an Ambassador, at Ft. Greely, Alaska.  My dad was in the Army so we moved around a lot. The location of our home would change, but there was always a Girl Scout Troop to join when we got there.  I was lucky to get the chance to be a Girl Scout in Alaska, Colorado, Washington State and Germany.  While in Europe, I participated in the Girl Scout TOFFS (Troops on Foreign Soil) Program and WAGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts).  I got to meet girls from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France and England and my troop had a pen pal Sister Troop in Indonesia.   My mom was also a Cadette Leader in both Colorado and Germany, so I got to hang around with her troop when I wasn't with my own.  

Q: Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I became a GS leader because my daughter and several other girls wanted to be Girl Scouts in Kindergarten.  Since I had been a Girl Scout myself, I volunteered to lead their troop.  I have been their leader for 10 years now.  Sometimes it isn't easy to be a leader, but the girls are why I keep doing it.  I want them to have the opportunity to have a variety of experiences, push their comfort zones and perceived abilities and have fun doing it, so that they can grow into confident women who can take on anything.  I also really like exploring the world through their eyes.  Times have changed a lot since I was their age and they keep me up-to-date. I totally stan my Troop. 

Girls at their Bridging ceremony
Girls at a cookie booth

Q: What advice would you give to new leaders?

My advice to new Leaders is to make use of the parents.  Most people like to have you give them a task or directions on how they can help you rather than step in and possibly make a mistake.  Be as direct as you can.  Tell people up front that they will need to volunteer some time and most will be willing to help out any way they can.  Use your sources!  If a parent has experience in something the badge you are working on covers, give them the information/requirements and have them come in and be a guest leader for the day. The girls can practice a little leadership that day by running the routine aspects of the meeting themselves. A great transition to "Girl Lead" experiences! I would also make sure to register 1 parent per family.  You always have two registered adults for the events you attend and field trips.  This prevents a lot of scrambling for approved chaperones when you need them.    

Q: What have you gained as a troop leader?

I think the thing I like most about being a Leader is when I see a girl's face light up when she accomplishes something she didn't believe she could do.  Things like using power tools by herself or planning a whole event can seem intimidating at first, but with help and encouragement (and sometimes tough love) they realize they CAN do these things. Seeing them discover they can exceed what they thought were their limits is wonderful.  And in helping them push themselves, I've learned to push myself a bit more too.  I think that in their need for compassion and patience has really helped me to practice that more with my family, myself and the people I interact with.

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

November 2019 | Brandy Burks

November's Volunteer is...

Brandy Burks

Q: Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts? 

Volunteering with Girl Scouts is a way for me to do something fun with my daughters and also share that fun and learning with others to the best of my abilities. We all learn and grow as a group and as individuals.

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

My biggest challenge has been learning how to ask for help when I am slightly overwhelmed and not knowing what to do.

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

My favorite part of volunteering is seeing the girls learn and have fun doing so.

Q: What advice would you give to new leaders?

My advice to new leaders is to reach out to their fellow leaders and volunteers. Take parents up on their offer to help and always be willing to relinquish some activities to parents, they can be your best helpers if you let them. Also, attending Leader and Volunteer monthly meetings are an awesome source for information and resources.

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

Troop 906 started in the fall of 2009 when my oldest was in kindergarten. We joined a new troop of Daisies as parent and child, but a year and a half later I became the troop leader. In 2015 my youngest started kindergarten and wanted to join Girl Scouts like her big sister. There were no new Daisy troops starting at her school, so I decided to just add the girls that wanted to start into our existing troop. As the girls have grown we have continued to welcome other girls from other levels into our troop. The more the merrier and the more girls in each level makes it more fun than just having a few, especially for some of the activities. 

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

The girls seem to be most excited for activities that are hands-on. They love being active and moving around. The learning is always enjoyed more and rewarding when it is fun. They also look forward to moving up and the new things they will learn and do, such as destinations.

Q: What have you gained as a troop leader?

 I have gained perspective, patience, community, and opportunities. 

Girl Scouts of Alaska thanks Brandy for her dedication to girls!

October 2019 | Shanda Gladden

October's Volunteer is...

Shanda Gladden

Originally from the Kenai Peninsula, Shanda and her family have been in Anchorage since 2014. She the troop leader for Troop 19. 

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself!

I grew up on the Kenai Peninsula and moved to Anchorage for my husband's job in 2014.  I have 3 kids, 2 boys and a girl.  I recently left my job of 15 years as a theatre manager and started working in the Human Resources department at Worley.  I know it sounds like I switched from a really FUN position to something a little boring but the hours are better and it allows us a better routine and sometimes it is just nice to not be the boss!

Q: Were you a Girl Scout? Where at?

I was a Girl Scout growing up in Nikiski.  

Q: Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I started volunteering because there wasn't a troop available for my daughter at the school she was going to, so we made our own!  That was 3 years ago!  It was the best thing that we could have done!

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

My biggest challenge has been parent involvement.  From what I hear that can be pretty common.  We have changed our meeting night, time and location so that it isn't right after school which has helped.  We have also started communicating through multiple devices as to catch all technology levels!

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

Working with the girls! I feel like I have a lot to offer them and they sure have a lot to show me! I have a very creative bunch!

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

September 2019 | Colleen Viator

September's Volunteer is...

Colleen Viator

Originally from Texas, Colleen moved to Anchorage with her family three years ago. She has three daughters in Girl Scouts. She is the leader of Troop 32 and a troop helper for Troop 1125, both in Anchorage. 

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am originally from Texas, and after traveling the world with my husband's job, have been blessed with 3 years here in Alaska. I stay at home to care for my 3 daughters and 1 spunky poodle. After getting a taste of co-leading my youngest daughter's Daisy troop, I decided to take the plunge and lead the troop myself. What they say is true! You only get as much as you give and after giving much time and effort in leading the troop last year, I got 10 times the love and reward. It was by far the most rewarding volunteer position I've participated in and for that I'm so grateful!

Q: Were you a Girl Scout? Where at?

No. I grew up in South Texas and chose not to be in Girl Scouts. Honestly, at that time, I missed the boat on all the benefits of Girl Scouts. I thought that it was all selling cookies and crafts and what I really wanted to do was carry a pocket knife and be outdoors. Little did I know that since Girl Scouts is girl-led, those opportunities would have been available to me had I joined and given it a try!

Q: Why do you volunteer with Girl Scouts?

I want to help give our young girls a safe place to grow, learn, be themselves, and support each other. Young people are our future and there's nothing more important than trying to help shape our kiddos into caring and confident people.

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

Circle time is when a lot of the magic happens for my troop. That's when the girls talk together about their thoughts and ideas and reflect upon the badge work for that day.

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

My biggest challenge is most definitely keeping control of and guiding 12 very energetic 1st graders. I took a close look at how teachers manage their classes every day and started implementing calls and responses to grab the group's attention. I also break the troop up into smaller groups and rotate them through stations to complete the badge work. Having a parent at each station helps as well.

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

We have a variety of passions in our group ranging from tinkering with STEM projects, to crafts and service projects. They love selling cookies but also ask to go camping and hiking. We try our best to provide a variety of activities for the troop. They also LOVE feeling like they're helping their community. Many of them were super excited about the simple task of picking up trash at the park.

Q: What advice would you give to new leaders?

Definitely lean on experienced leaders! They have FANTASTIC ideas and advise. I happen to have a very experienced leader just down the street from me who has saved me on several occasions. Facebook groups can be super helpful as well. 

Q: Tell us about your favorite Girl Scout memory!

There are so many awesome memories with my troop, but my favorite was probably our first troop hike. The hike took three times as long as predicted because the girls had to stop at every mushroom and berry that they found. I just loved seeing their curious minds at work. 

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

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!

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!

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!

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!

 

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!

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!

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!

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!

2018

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)!

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!

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!