by Nicolle Patton, GSSI Intern
Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois (GSSI) not only shows recognition to their girl members that have worked hard for the achievements they’ve earned, but they also recognize their adult members and volunteers that dedicate countless hours to helping their troop, community and service units.
At the GSSI Annual Meeting that was held April 1 at the Holiday Inn in Mt. Vernon, three service units were not only awarded the President’s Award, which recognizes the efforts of a service-delivery team or committee whose service in support of delivering the Girl Scout Leadership Experience surpassed team goals and resulted in significant, measurable impact toward reaching the council’s overall goals, but the Service Unit Trifecta award as well.
The Service Unit Trifecta Award is given to Service Units that have earned the President’s Award for three consecutive years in a row. The service units that received this prestigious award were Service Unit 54 - Perry County, Service Unit 201 - O’Fallon/Shiloh, SU 201, and Service Unit 202 - ClinClair.
A Service Unit consists of a group of individual troops in a geographic area that are organized and helped run by a service unit team made up of volunteers. Service Units often hold area registration nights, community service events, programs and even camps. They also help provide support for troop leaders.
The council has seen what the service units that earned the Service Unit Trifecta Award have done to not only help their girls and their communities and I wanted to see what lead these women to be a part of these service unit teams and how they made them stand out from the rest. I was able to discuss being part of a service unit team with volunteers from two of the three areas recognized – ClinClair and Perry County.
When asked how they even got involved with Girl Scouts in the first place, Marsha Shirley from ClinClair said, “I was a Girl Scout when I was a child. Then, as a young adult, I helped my friend lead her daughter’s troop. Now that my daughter is old enough, I am her leader and have been the past five years. Our SUM (Service Unit Manager) went back to school and needed to lighten her work load, so I offered to be a co-SUM.” Shirley said when asked how she became part of her service unit team."
“I first was a Girl Scout myself from second grade until fourth grade,” said April D. Stanley from Perry County. “I was reconnected as an adult when I became a step mother to three girls and was looking for a way to bond with them. I became an assistant leader for their troop and later a full leader.”
Just like everything that’s done in Girl Scouts, nothing is done solely by yourself, and I wanted to know exactly who was doing what in these successful service units to make sure everything was going along smoothly.
Sometimes, one person takes on multiple roles in a service unit, which is the case for Stanley who acts as not only the Service Unit Manager, but the Treasurer and the Orientation Manager too. Alongside her, there’s Jaci Kelly who does Communications, Patti Bardle who’s the Program Organizer, Amber Saylor the Product Manager, and Denise Robson who does Registration.
With so many people working together for the common goal of enhancing their service unit to create more opportunities for girls and volunteers, it’s clear to see that hard work gets results. What do these women think makes their units stand out from the rest?
“We hold a monthly leader meeting, and we host an event each month.” Shirley stated. “This way, the leaders stay connected, as do the girls from all of our different troops.”
When asked how ClinClair Service Unit has gone beyond its goals, Shirley explained, “There are so many people that play a part in our service unit. With such a great group of people, it is easy to go beyond any goal that is set in front of us. We hold registration events in each town to sign up more girls and adults. We push each leader and girl to succeed with all product sales. When they are excited about something, they will succeed!”
What if an adult volunteer wants to become part of their service unit team, are there any certain qualities or skills they should have before applying for these positions? Shirley said, “Leadership skills are a must! Being organized, creative, excited, encouraging, enthusiastic, and having the girls best interest at heart are all needed to be part of the service team.”
About Perry County Service Unit’s excellent performance, Stanley said, “We have to think outside the box on lot of situations in our county. We have so many low income families that we have to look at different ways to get our parents to come out in the public. We have businesses offer free meals for a registration to also having businesses let us set up at event to where they are offering certain things to the public -for example: back pack giveaways, dental exams, free haircuts.”
Stanley and Shirley were both Girl Scouts when they were younger, so being familiar with the organization and its dedication to helping build girls up, I wanted to know what they thought the benefits of Girl Scouts for girls were and what exactly keeps them involved.
Stanley explained that, “Girl Scouting teaches our girls to be strong, confident. It allows them to do problem solving and to have a variety of sisters they may have never had.”
She went on to say, “I stay involved to be a positive role model in the community. We just don’t have a lot of opportunity for our kids here and to see the smiles of these girls when they attend these events just makes it so joyful.”
Shirley said, “My troop grows a little each year. We gain one or two girls each year and many ask about it all year long. So, seeing the excitement and wanting to try new things really does make all of it worthwhile. And, I also get to spend quality time with my daughter!”
We see that girls get so much out of being active in this organization, but is it the same with adult members and volunteers?
“I believe that I have learned just as much as the girls have….whether it is a new skill, trade, or even friendship qualities, I believe they teach me just as much as I teach them!” Shirley said.
Stanley further stated, “Yes I do. If you love working with kids and making a difference in a young child’s life. It is so rewarding to hear these girls say we couldn’t wait to get to a scout meeting. Or when is this event coming? You got to love the smiles.”
“I love working with these ladies so much. I also love being out at our events and communicating with our parents of our girls,” Stanley explained. “But, most of all seeing the smile on these girls faces when you know they don’t have much to be offered to them at home and they attend an event held by our team and they have the most awesome time. That just makes me feel so great inside.”
Stanley and Shirley, along with their fellow service unit team members, have worked extremely hard to shape their service units into grounds that not only help the girls learn new things, build their skills, and encourage them to strive for bigger and better aspirations, but also give adult members and volunteers the same high flying inspiration. The Trifecta Award earned by their units are proof of that hard work and determination.