Dedicated to my mother, Irene Farley.
April is national volunteer month. It’s a great time to thank and honor those whose selfless efforts help most nonprofits get their work done.
Girl Scouts would not exist without volunteers. Volunteers are the cornerstone, the heart and the soul of our program.
I have such an affinity for our troop leaders. Those women (yes, usually women) who want their daughter (yes, usually mothers) to have the Girl Scout experience. To ensure their daughters have the Girl Scout advantage in life.
I have this affinity because of my first troop leader. A story many have heard me tell.
More than 57 years ago my mother got on her bicycle and rode up to Collis P. Huntington elementary school. She did not know how to drive a car, but wanted to attend a meeting about starting a Girl Scout troop at the school where my oldest sister was in first grade.
My mother, the daughter of Italian immigrant parents, was not a Girl Scout growing up and really didn’t know much about Girl Scouting. But she thought it would be important for her oldest daughter (my sister) to be a part of it.
She agreed to start the first troop at the school and fell in love with it. She brought other moms on board, engaging them in the experience. These co-leaders became her good friends. The women she confided in and supported throughout their lives.
Mom had to think about transitioning her troop leadership, as my next oldest sister was ready for her troop to begin. When I came along, she took on two troops at first, and then once again, engaged other moms to help.
I realize my mother did not, at this point in her life, work outside the home. She was a 1960’s homemaker extraordinaire and did not just “have” the time, but “took” the time to be a leader of girls in our community.
I loved my Girl Scouting experience (which I suppose is pretty important given my role as CEO of a Girl Scout council) and so much of that love came from my mom’s participation in the program.
My mother lived by the Girl Scout Promise. She exemplified the Girl Scout laws as articulated in my 1964 Junior Girl Scout Handbook:
- A Girl Scout’s honor is to be trusted.
- A Girl Scout is loyal.
- A Girl Scout’s duty is to be useful and to help others.
- A Girl Scout is a friend to all and a sister to every other Girl Scout.
- A Girl Scout is courteous.
- A Girl Scout is a friend to animals.
- A Girl Scout obeys orders.
- A Girl Scout is cheerful.
- A Girl Scout is thrifty.
- A Girl Scout is clean in thought, word, and deed.
I never heard my mother speak poorly of another girl, mom or volunteer. I never heard her complain about how much work it was to be a troop leader. I never heard her argue with another adult.
I saw her stepping in to help when others wouldn’t. I saw her take my fellow troop members under her wings when they needed extra love and care. I saw her giving us experiences we would not otherwise have; experiences that shaped our lives for the better.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized my mother was my first example of a woman leader—my first example of influence, of courage, of confidence by a woman.
I hope the troop leaders of today understand the important role they are playing in the lives of girls. How they are giving girls an experience they cannot get anywhere else. How the girls they are leading will never forget them. How the girls in their troop look up to them as leaders.
I believe one of the powers of Girl Scouting is the impact on not just the girl, but on the volunteer as well. On that mom—or whoever the volunteer is—to step into her leadership and help girls obtain an advantage in life. I am so thankful for these leaders.
I will be forever grateful for my mother getting on her bike that day oh-so-long ago; for having the courage to take on something so unknown to her; for being so selfless in her service; for giving me an advantage in life; for being a leader.