Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:04 PM on Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Girl Scouts celebrate 100 years

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

One hundred-year anniversary celebrations are happening this month here, across the Kenai Peninsula and wherever the 3.2 million girls and adults of Girl Scouts of the USA are located, marking a century since founder Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low first assembled a group of 18 girls in Savannah, Ga.

Low's belief was that girls should be given opportunities to develop physically, mentally and spiritually. The Girl Scout mission is built around that belief: Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.

Girl Scouts past and present, as well as any interested in joining are invited to a bonfire at the Wynn Nature Center from 3-5 p.m. Sunday.

"There will be a little ceremony and time to share stories, songs and s'mores," said Beth Trowbridge, assistant manager and cookie manager of the Kachemak Bay Service Unit. "We are hoping to get some past Girl Scouts up there to tell stories about what Girl Scouts was like when they were in the program."

The event coincides with the center's community bonfire held every Sunday, so the public also is welcome.

Girl Scouts in the Homer area reflect a wide range of scouting experience.

Trowbridge first became involved in Girl Scouts as a fifth-grader growing up in St. Louis.

"Because I grew up in the city, we didn't do a lot of outdoor activities. It was more about service projects, crafts, that sort of thing," said Trowbridge, executive director for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies.

She became reinvolved in scouting through her daughter Cora's interest in Girl Scouts, an interest that carried Cora from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Trowbridge credits Girl Scouts for developing her awareness of "using resources wisely and being comfortable in the outdoors." Locally, she has seen how the community has benefited from Girl Scouts' service projects.

"We participate in a lot of events and are always looking for ways to interact with the community, going to the senior center, decorating, telling stories, participating in food drives, recycling programs, things like that," she said. "Girl scouting has done so much in Homer at all different levels. It's pretty neat."

Marilyn Parrett, who organizes the Homer Relay For Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, began her Girl Scouting experience in elementary school and, like Trowbridge, became a troop leader when her daughter became a Girl Scout. The troop's activities included bicycle and camping trips, helping replant trees in spruce bark beetle-killed areas, visiting Peterson Bay oyster farms and attending the Alaska Girl Scouts encampment at the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer.

"It was the start of my wanting to be more adventurous," said Parrett of scouting's impact on her life.

For Peggy Chapple's family, Girl Scouting has been a multi-generational experience that, besides herself, includes her mom, Dorothy; her daughter, Elysha; and her three granddaughters, Katie, Kyla and Megan.

Homer Public Health nurse Bonnie Betley, who grew up in Wisconsin, was a girl scout from the time she was in second grade through her freshman year of high school. She credits Girl Scouting with the direction her life has taken.

"One lesson from scouting was compassion for other people and the desire to help others," said Betley. "It was probably why I went into nursing."

Judy Dean, also a public health nurse, had the privilege of being in a Mariner Girl Scout when she was growing up in Chicago.

"We were focused on boating. Our troop owned three sailboats and 12 canoes and wore blue instead of green," said Dean. "In the summer, we had the opportunity to go on a 120-foot schooner on the East Coast. I did that twice."

In addition to being on the water, scouting was Dean's doorway to the wilderness.

"My mom jokes I could cook over an open fire before I could cook with a stove," she said.

Billeen Carlson leads a troop in Anchor Point in which her daughter and six other girls participate. Carlson said scouting's international aspect appealed to her. That influence has spread to her daughter, Colleen McDougal, an eighth-grader at Chapman School. Colleen applied for and was accepted by the Girl Scout Destinations program. In June, she will travel with a group of 10 girls to Peru where they will spend a week experiencing the environment and participating in a service project.

"It's a big honor for her," said Carlson. "She's extremely excited."

Closer to home, Carlson's troop has taken the lead in developing a community garden in Anchor Point. The effort has attracted donations from community members and they have applied for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to continue their plans.

Two Homer Girl Scouts have achieved the Gold Award, the highest award available in Girl Scouts. In 2011, Katherine Dolma received the award for completion of "No More Trash Talk " Let's Clean Up Our Act, a 172-hour project encouraging waste reduction. Katie Bauer received the Gold Award in 2007. She designed and implemented "Ribbons of Life," a support group for children with family members diagnosed with cancer.

Attending the Sunday celebration in spirit will be Tina Seaton, Kachemak Bay Service Unit Manager, who is currently out of town. Seaton's experience with scouting began when she was in the second grade. As an adult, she became a leader for her daughter Tawny's troop in Anchor Point.

"As a girl, I joined because Girl Scouts did fun things and I'm sure my mother encouraged it. I think she was a co-leader," said Seaton. "As an adult, I did it because I wanted my daughter to have the wonderful experiences that I knew were available through Girl Scouting."

As a youngster, Seaton recalled the confidence that by mastering camping skills and being part of a team on a three-day canoe trip.

"As an adult, Girl Scouting has pushed and stretched me in so many ways, learning to be organized and better prepared for troop meetings, campouts and fun learning events for 60-100 girls, how to network with other adults to provide opportunities for girls and having to speak in front of adults, still not something I am comfortable with, but am getting better at," said Seaton.

In the fall of 2011, Seaton's efforts in scouting were recognized with the Honor Pin. She was nominated by her peers for service that was "above and beyond the expectations of the position held," according to Tasha Nichols, director of program and membership for Girl Scouts of Alaska. Recipients of the Honor Pin "embody the Girl Scout slogan of 'be prepared' and have stepped up to help make Girl Scouting in Alaska possible for so many girls," said Nichols. "They truly represent the heart of Girl Scouting."

There are about 6,000 Girl Scouts in the state of Alaska, according to Joyce Cox, member services specialist for this area. The Kachemak Bay Service Unit includes 10 troops, 96 Girl Scouts and 30 adults. It received the President's Award in 2011 "for their increase in membership, for making sure people were trained and for events they held," said Cox.

For more information on Girl Scouts USA contact Trowbridge at bat@xyz.net or visit forgirls.girlscouts.org/.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

100-anniversary bonfire celebrations:

March 11: Wynn Nature Center, Homer, 5-7 p.m.

March 12: Marathon Road, near Walmart, Kenai, 6:30 p.m.

March 12: Soldotna Sports Center, Soldotna, 5-8 p.m.

March 12: Forest Acres, Seward, 6:30 p.m.