Cookie sales and campouts don’t just happen. In the world of Girl Scouting, it takes committed adult leaders willing to spend hours organizing, planning, studying, preparing, doing whatever it takes to build “girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place,” as the Girl Scout mission states.
The southern Kenai Peninsula is fortunate to have three such women — Gibby Bachiochi, Poppy Benson and Brenda Dolma — working with scout troops in Anchor Point and Homer. Each of those women were recently honored with Appreciation Pins for their efforts. They were nominated by Tina Seaton, Kachemak Bay Service Unit Manager.
The awards were presented at the Girl Scout annual meeting in Anchorage Nov. 8. Benson was the only one of the three attending; Bachiochi, librarian for Chapman School, was at a National Library Conference out of state; Dolma was in Juneau supporting her daughter Katherine’s participation in state diving competition.
Bachiochi’s Anchor Point troop includes three levels of scouting: Daisy, Brownie and Junior.
“She is able to coordinate activities for the three levels to work seamlessly together, creating a feeling of community for the girls that can be difficult to accomplish with the differing levels of involvement,” said Seaton.
Born in Hungary, as a child Bachiochi participated in “The Squirrels,” an organization she described as similar to Girl Scouts. She came to the United States in 1969 and became involved in scouting when her stepchildren’s troop needed an assistant leader. As each of her three daughters joined Girl Scouts, Bachiochi’s involvement grew to include serving as a counselor, program director and assistant director at a summer camp. Her daughters continue to be involved as adults and Bachiochi’s grandson is a Cub Scout.
“I do this because I really enjoy spending time with kids,” said Bachiochi of her 32-year involvement with Girl Scouts. “I love watching them learn, the laughter, the community they create for themselves.”
Bachiochi is leader of a troop of 14 girls in Anchor Point and also works with her husband Dana’s Boy Scout troop.
“I’m so fortunate that Dana has 37 years in Boy Scouts with his sons,” said Bachiochi. “He’s dedicated as well. This couldn’t be done without him.”
Benson joined the service unit two years ago after years of service in Boy Scouts.
“Her high energy, depth of knowledge and experience in outdoor activities, and concern for every girl quickly made her an important member of our service unit team,” said Seaton.
A Girl Scout through her high school years, Benson’s first experience as an adult leader was life changing.
“I fell in love with all my kids,” said Benson. “And as a result of that, I completely changed my mind about having kids. I was one of those outdoorsy women who never wanted to have kids, but when I had my first troop, I thought, ‘That’s it. I’m going to have kids.’”
When her son, Cedar, was in the second grade, Benson became involved in Cub Scouts.
“I went on most of the scout trips, even though Boy Scouting is a daddy deal. I just liked to be there,” said Benson, who organized big outdoor adventures such as canoeing the Yukon River from Dawson to Eagle and bicycling from Haines Junction to Whitehorse, Carcross, Skagway, taking the ferry to Haines and then completing the 360-mile route by bicycling from Haines to Haines Junction.
She’s carried her love of outdoor adventures into Girl Scouting, with troop trips to Kodiak and Lake Clark.
“It’s just really fun. I enjoy working with kids and I feel passionate about getting kids involved with outdoor activities,” said Benson. “The girls need us.”
As a child, Dolma participated in Campfire Girls and had adult leaders who “made all the difference in my life.” When her daughter Katherine became involved in Girl Scouts in the first grade, Dolma was an assistant leader for the troop and when Katherine was in fourth grade, Dolma became the troop leader.
“(Dolma) has been a leader for eight years, guiding her troop from Juniors to Ambassadors, now in their last year,” Seaton said. “She encouraged her girls to explore environmental issues important to them, to tackle projects that could make a difference in our community and to not take no for an answer.”
Dolma’s Junior troop earned the bronze award, four silver awards, two gold awards, a national award and a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet the president of the United States.
“She has helped her girls learn that they can make a difference: in their school, in their community and in their world,” said Seaton.
Dolma puts the emphasis on girls in her troop.
“I cannot say enough times how proud I am of what healthy, wise choices the girls of Troop 580 are making,” she said.