Making Memories: Dad Style

Four GSHPA Dads Share their Stories

As Girl Scouts we learn all about how awesome Girl Power can be, and we learn from our amazing leaders and other women in our lives. But sometimes it can be easy to forget that our Girl Scout dads play a huge role in helping us to grow into our Girl Power too. This Father’s Day we celebrate all of our amazing Girl Scout dads out there, and thank you for all you do! We checked in with a few of our volunteers to see why they love being Girl Scout dads:

David Jensen, Lancaster County Girl Scout Dad

              “I was familiar with Girl Scouting from a young age. In vague memories I remember bits and pieces of Girl Scout meetings, parades, outings, etc. My sisters were Girl Scouts and my mother was their leader. The two activities that stand out are the monthly Leader meetings in our dining room and that my sisters and mother and their troop went to Puerto Rico. Yes, Puerto Rico…for a week!

            Fast forward a bit and now I have a daughter that wants to be a Girl Scout and a wife that wants to be a leader. So my wife Anne decided to start a Brownie Troop. There were enough girls but not enough adult leaders, so I decided to be her assistant.

            We did many activities such as fishing, knots, archery, whittling, rocketry, cooking (chicken soup – which the girls’ parents somehow didn’t want to try!), Daddy/Daughter dances and even sewing.

            Slow forward (because now the knees hurt, the back is stiff and I don’t move as fast anymore). I now have a granddaughter Arianna that is a Juliette. Well here I go again… Coding badge, making Swaps and Swap holders, helping build their cookie booth and even camping.

            Recently we have helped plant 50 trees and bushes at Camp Furnace Hills, participated in the camp clean-up (and received a parting gift of poison ivy).

            It has been quite a journey so far and I have enjoyed every minute. And for all the fellas – If you know of someone in Girl Scouting, wife, daughter, granddaughter, niece etc., even though you are not a “Girl” they would be happy to have you.

            Now off to our next adventure – Rock Climbing on Sunday. Wish me luck…”

Rich Ainey, Lackawanna County Girl Scout Dad

“Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working side by side with my wife with Troop 50863 and Troop 50866. Both of these troops were started to ensure that my daughters had a Girl Scout Troop to belong to. It has been great to be able to watch not only my daughters flourish and grow, but also a number of other girls do the same.

I was there when girls operated a power tool for the first time to build a “buddy bench” for a service project. I was there to teach many girls how to shoot a bow and arrow for the first time at a community camp at Camp Archbald.

I was there to help the girls to finish and install their little free library as well as another service project. Many times I have been able to witness girls overcome a fear of something or experience something for the first time. This is just some of the many things I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy about being involved with Girl Scouts.

 One particular story I distinctly remember was our last time at community camp at Camp Archbald in 2019. We were up there for the weekend and having a great time. Some strong storms were supposed to move in on Saturday evening around dinner time. As luck would have it, the power got knocked out and stayed out as we were preparing our typical spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.

Rather than backing down and accepting defeat, we managed to finish off dinner by flashlight, serve dinner, and get everyone fed. Not only did we do that, we managed to get the generator up and working so that we could have lights in the dining hall. We also made s’mores in the ovens and made sure everyone was safe and secure.

When we woke up the next morning, power had been restored and we proceeded to finish up our weekend. I don’t think any of the girls that were there that weekend will forget all of the different events. Most certainly, they will all look back and think about the obstacles we overcame while we still managed to have some fun.

For other guys out there saying, “What can a guy do at Girl Scouts?” I would challenge them to come and find out. Become an archery instructor, help out at a cookie rally, experience a rope runner rally, come up for community camp (when COVID restrictions are lifted), help out at a camp cleanup, or do any variety of activities that include being involved in your daughter’s Girl Scout journey. I can promise you that it will be something you won’t regret.”

Matt Reed, Union County Dad

When Matt was growing up he dreamed of being a Boy Scout Leader. His plans took a turn though when he and his wife had two beautiful daughters, instead of sons! Being outdoors is his passion, and he has worked hard to introduce the girls in his troop to as many outdoor activities as possible. Matt’s troop has gone camping and kayaking, and the girls hope to soon cross backpacking off of their list too!

Jamie Stefl, Northumberland County Dad

“Throughout my life I’d heard about Girl Scouting, but it wasn’t until my daughter joined that I started getting involved. My wife had been a longtime Girl Scout so we were excited to get our daughter started in the program and it has been a family journey ever since! It has been an amazing opportunity to connect with my family while making a difference in the community. While my daughter is fully grown, and working for GSHPA, I still enjoy being involved as a volunteer in our Service Unit.

Over the years I have attended a wide variety of Girl Scout events and activities, but I think my favorite has always been going camping. I remember the first time I went on a Girl Scout camping trip as a volunteer and it was an adventure! My daughter was a Brownie at the time and her troop planned an overnight stay at Knoebels in Elysburg. We pitched tents in the parking lot and had a wonderful time, but I don’t think I have ever been that cold! It was well below freezing overnight and we awoke to frost covering all the tents! We all had a good laugh about it once we thawed!

Since then I have continued to stay involved with Girl Scouting as a volunteer. As an engineer I was always involved with creating Girl Scout floats for the local parades. I remember helping out with cookies, well, helping get cookies out of my house that is! And I really enjoyed attending events. In 2012 our group traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the Girl Scout 100th Anniversary Celebration which was quite an experience! I’ve attended all of GSHPA’s Gold Award Ceremonies and even went to GSUSA’s National Convention.

I think my advice to any father considering joining Girl Scouts, would be, just to do it! Yes, as a dad you can experience a wide variety of things with your daughter through Girl Scouting, including camping and selling cookies, but I think it is so much more than that. It is truly an amazing experience to personally see your daughter grow through Girl Scouting.”

Each of these wonderful Girl Scout dads work hard to provide girls the best possible Girl Scout experience, and certainly prove that being “man enough to be a Girl Scout” is a wonderful thing! Girl Power champions come in all shapes and sizes, and out Girl Scout dads are great examples of this. Shout out your Girl Scout dad stories in the comments, we’d love to hear more about our amazing GSHPA Dads!

Post by: Rebekah Stefl
Post by: Colleen Sypien

Remembering Memorial Day

Memorial Day was originally observed to honor the men lost during the Civil War. Throughout our history this holiday has changed to honor both the men and women that we have lost in all wars, including World Wars I and II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Over the years, the traditions of honoring those we have lost have evolved. Since Girl Scouts traditions and ceremonies are so important to us, we heard from Girl Scouts across the nation for ideas of ways to celebrate Memorial Day. Even though COVID has changed the way we are able to do some things, honoring our fallen soldiers can still be done. If your troop needs ideas for how to observe Memorial Day this year, check out these ideas from other troops!  

  • As a troop, visit a cemetery to clean trash and debris 
  • Contact your local American Legion to look into placing flags on soldiers graves, or holding a flag ceremony 
  • Work with local Women Veterans of America, VFW’s, Veteran Affairs or military posts to not only honor those who have fallen, but also to help those dealing with the loss of their comrades 
  • Hold a flag retirement ceremony 
  • Participate in a local parade that commemorates fallen soldiers 
  • Contact your local American Legion to find and attend a salute at a monument 

Other ideas could include holding a troop flag ceremony for the girls and their families to honor family members who served and are no longer with us. Honoring the men and women who have fought for our country and are no longer with us is important, no matter how little or big the ceremony or parade.

For troops who choose to take this time to learn more about Memorial Day and our soldiers, leaders can use the resources below to help their girls learn more.  

 
Is your troop commemorating Memorial Day this year? Let us know in the comments how you will be honoring the men and women who died serving our country! Don’t forget, we love to see what your troop is up to. Fill out a Mission Moment form so we can see the great things your girls are doing in and for their communities. 


Written by Colleen Sypien

SPOTLIGHT: Happy Mayday!

Have you ever heard of May Day? May Day is a public holiday usually celebrated on the first of May. It is an ancient festival of spring and a current traditional spring holiday in many European cultures. Do you enjoy dancing? Singing? How about eating sweets? Then you will love May Day traditions!

In the 19th and 20th centuries people would create May Day baskets to leave at their neighbor’s doorsteps. They were often handmade paper baskets or cones, filled with flowers and sweet treats. The idea was to go to the door of a neighbor, often where a child or significant other lived, leave the basket on the step, knock on the door and then run away yelling “May Basket!”.

Since May Day is all about the arrival of spring, there are lots of fun ways to celebrate! One such way is to dance and sing outside! Some people even dance around a maypole. A maypole is a tall pole, usually made of wood, that has long ribbons connected to it. Everyone grabs a ribbon and dances around the pole in a circle. After some time the ribbons are wound around the pole and create a beautiful wrap! Maypoles were a part of many European folk festivals, and they are still sometimes used in parts of Europe and the Americas today!

Here are more ways to celebrate May Day…

  1. Light a bonfire. Always build fires with an adult present and remember your campfire safety tips!
  2. Gather wildflowers and green branches and decorate your house. Traditionally this was called “Bringing in the May”. You can take beautiful blooms and green items from outside and spread them around your home. Consider putting them in jars or vases.
  3. Make and dance around your own maypole. Get creative! If you don’t have the ability to make or use an actual pole, consider tying some ribbons to a bush instead.
  4. Make a flower crown! Gather flowers with long stems and weave them together in a circle to create a crown.
  5. Take off your shoes and go outside! This is called “grounding” and is a great way to connect with nature. Take a few deep breaths. Feel the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair. What do you hear? Birds? A barking dog down the street? Nothing?
  6. Leave a May Basket for your neighbors, just like they did in the 19th and 20th centuries. Follow these directions to make a May Day Basket Cone

Now that you know more about May Day, consider celebrating every year. WELCOME SPRING!


Written by Jess Delp

A Pot O’History for St. Patrick’s Day

While Girl Scouts associate March with Girl Scout Cookie Season there is another holiday to consider: Saint Patrick’s Day, which is celebrated on March 17th annually! As we approach this special holiday it has us wondering, what is the best way to celebrate? Outside of wearing green, searching for leprechauns and chasing rainbows to find a pot of gold, there is so much more to this famous Irish holiday. We want to take this opportunity to dive into Saint Patrick’s Day and share all the amazing things to come from Irish Culture today!  

St. Patrick’s Parade

Ireland is a small island located just west of the United Kingdom with a very rich heritage. Many of our traditions and celebrations have come from Ireland, including Saint Patrick’s Day. Traditionally Ireland celebrates this national Irish holiday with parades, festivals and much more! So, who was Saint Patrick exactly? Saint Patrick was actually born in England, but arrived in Ireland around 430 A.D. and quickly made his way across the country. Saint Patrick explained Catholic religious beliefs using the three-leaf clover, making many of these teachings much more accessible to the public. He is also credited with banishing snakes from Ireland before his death on March 17th.  

While Ireland wholeheartedly celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day there is much more to Irish Culture than this famous holiday. Today, Ireland is a bustling country filled with kindhearted people, delicious food and traditional folklore tales.   

Believe it or not, the culture of Ireland has had a large impact on the world today and our traditions. Did you know that Halloween actually started in Ireland? Halloween was first celebrated over 2,000 years ago in Ireland to honor and celebrate the souls lost throughout the year. The day was celebrated with bonfires, carving pumpkins and even trick-or-treating!  

Ireland has also had a huge impact on our sense of humor throughout the years! As you may be able to guess Ireland was the birthplace of having a good time and showing your love by teasing your friends and family! If you ever visit Ireland don’t be surprised if they welcome you by teasing you. Additionally, when in Ireland they use the term “craic” (pronounced crack) constantly. Craic simply means to have fun!  

 Irish Culture is heavily rooted in having fun, but the food is just as important to the people! So many Irish dishes are rooted in tradition and simplicity.  I think two of the most common (and delicious) dishes would be Irish Stew and Irish Soda Bread. However, they have many more delicious dishes to try including; Corned Beef & Cabbage, Fish Pie and Irish Apple Cake. And we definitely recommend you try out some of the recipes found here (https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/classic-irish-recipes/)  

Now last, but certainly not least we have Irish Folklore. Ireland has celebrated the tradition of folklore and storytelling for over 2,000 years. Long before history and events were recorded in writing they were passed down through story telling. While Ireland has its very own set of folklore tales, believe it or not, many of our fairy tales today have been heavily influenced by these Irish traditional tales!  

An example is actually fairies! While stories of fairies can be found across the globe the fairies we know today and the term “fairy tale” originated in Ireland! Irish Folklore states that the first fairies were believed to be a part of the “Tuatha de Danann” one of the first tribes in Ireland. The story goes that they were magic people that loved Ireland so much they decided to shrink themselves and move underground. Yes, the stories have evolved over the years, but many Irish people, especially those living in the countryside believe in fairies. The fairies are considered Ireland’s tiny protectors, so the Irish people still honor fairy trees, fairy rings and much more – “just in case”.  

Fairy Circle
Fairy Tree

Speaking of fairies, there are more than just folklore fairies in Ireland. A “fairy” is actually a common nickname for Irish Girl Guides at the Brownie level. As you may know, Girl Scouts are part of the W.A.G.G.G.S organization which stands for the “World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.” Well Ireland is also a part of this organization, but they are called Girl Guides instead of Girl Scouts!  

Girl Guides across Ireland celebrate their very own ceremonies and traditions, including having their very own promise and law. And did you know that Irish Girl Guides even sell their own cookies? Yes, but they only sell one flavor for a short time every year:  a chocolate cookie with milk chocolate chunks inside. You can learn more about Irish Girl Guides by visiting their website here (https://www.irishgirlguides.ie/)  

We hope you learned something new, just in time to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! And don’t forget to share your Irish knowledge, traditions and celebrations in the comments below!  


Post Written by Rebekah Stefl

Happy Birthday Girl Scouts!

On March 12th we will be celebrating the 109th anniversary of when Juliette Gordon Low registered the first 18 Girl Scouts in Savannah, Georgia.  I’m sure Juliette could have never imagined the impact she would have on Girl Scouts, over a century later. With the organization turning 109 years old this year, has anything changed from Juliette’s original vision? 

During a time when women still could not vote in 1912, Juliette wanted to defy standards of the time, and give girls the chance to gain skills, and become more independent.  Skills including knot tying, harvesting food, and canning goods.  The first Girl Scouts were encouraged to get outdoors, to camp, to hike and to play basketball. Community service projects and Take Action projects became a huge part of Girl Scouts especially when the Great Depression and World War II started.  The cookie program was also started by Juliette, as a way to raise funds for her Girl Scout troops.   

Looking at the Girl Scout values of today, not much has changed.  Girl Scouts continue to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.  Girl Scouts can explore interests and learn new skills while working on badges that center around STEM, outdoors, life skills and entrepreneurship.   The organization empowers girls to make connections so that they can make a difference in their community.  All these years later, you cannot mention Girl Scouts without someone asking about buying Girl Scout cookies.  We want girls to continue to chase their curiosity and dream big, in a girl only safe space. 

The only changes we have seen in the last 109 years is the number of Girl Scout members, going from the original 18 in 1912 to over 2 million today. We need to celebrate not only because Girl Scouts is turning 109 years old next week, but also because our values and goals have changed very little since Juliette Gordon Low first registered the original 18 members.  During the next week, take the time to celebrate this achievement.  Leading up to March 12th, your troop could celebrate by having a small party at their troop meeting.  What would a party be without eating some cake or cupcakes (maybe try incorporating your favorite Girl Scout cookies like this S’more campfire cupcake recipe from Little Brownie Bakers)? During your party your troop could sing their favorite Girl Scouts songs like “Make New Friends” and “Princess Pat”.  To end this celebration, play a game of pin the petal on a daisy.  No matter how you decide to celebrate this year, take the time to reflect on the Girl Scout first meeting, all those years ago.  

Happy Birthday Girl Scouts! We hope you had the BEST Girl Scout week. We want to see how you celebrated. Tag us on Facebook or on Instagram. You could be featured in an upcoming blog post!


Written by Gina
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Faith Like a Girl Scout

Happy almost Girl Scout Week GSHPA Blog Fam!  We are so excited to be gearing up for the 2021 Girl Scout Week which kicks off on Girl Scout Sunday, March 7th.  Make sure you keep an eye on the Blog next week, because there will be so many exciting posts celebrating Girl Scout Week as we lead up to our 109th Birthday!   

I would be remiss if I did not also wish you a Happy International Women’s month!  We are excited to celebrate International Women’s Day on Monday, March 8th, the second day of Girl Scout Week.  There are so many exciting things happen in March I can barely stand it!  

Now, let’s talk about the first day of Girl Scout Week, the kick off for a full week of celebration that girls across the country celebrate, Girl Scout Sunday!  (Stay with me, there is a little bit of a history lesson before we get into the good stuff!) 

As we all know, Juliette Gordon Low (JGL), met and worked with Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts while in London.  She worked with him on creating the female equivalent while in London.  Together, they then came to America to build the Girl Guides of America movement.  Juliette learned so much from Lord Baden-Powell; how to run a youth organization, activities that were important for girls to learn including confidence, courage, and character, and the importance of creating a space for girls of any religion to participate together, as a unit.  Lord Baden-Powell made it a point to never tether the Boy Scouts to a specific Religion, and JGL followed suit.   

On March 12, 1912, Juliette Gordon Low hosted the first Girl Guides of America meeting (later the Girl Scouts of America) in her carriage house (it was the early 1900’s version of a garage).  There were 18 girls in attendance, that Juliette invited herself.  Some were from families of prominence in Savannah, and some from the local synagogue!  The mixing of religions was something that was seldom done in the early 1900’s.   

When the time came to recruit Troop Leaders for the newly established Girl Guides of America, JGL asked four women to lead the first troop.  Three of those four women were Jewish.  Two of the three of those original leaders went on to hold high ranking positions within the Girl Scouts of America in the first established councils.  Again, the mixing of religions was not something that was commonplace in the early 1900’s, but JGL did not care about the social norm, she cared the girls who joined her organization had the best possible experience, and she knew that would come from powerful female leaders.  

Random Fun Fact! Did you know that the first commercially baked Girl Scout Cookies were made in a Jewish Bakery?  Bonus points if you know what year the first cookies were made commercially!  (If you need a helping hand for your guess, take a look at this article!) 

Juliette Gordon Low was a woman of faith.  She was progressive in her thinking about religion and the relationship it should have in your social engagements, which made her an outcast.  However, her church, the Christ Church of Savannah, was no stranger to being ahead of the times.  The Christ Church was the first Georgian church to have a female ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons.  (To learn more about Susan W. Harrison take a look at the Christ Church of Savannah’s historical timeline!) 

While the Girl Scouts are still a non-denominational organization, and we welcome girls of any and all faiths. Girls are encouraged to recognize that faith can be a driving force for many.  What you put your faith in is where we all differ, and that’s what makes this such a great organization.   

Now, let’s talk about some of the awards girls can earn based on their faith! 

Girls are able to earn multiple different faith based awards.  The official Girl Scout awards include the My Promise, My Faith Pins.  These pins are able to be earned annually from first year Daisys through Graduating Ambassadors.  These pins are earned by choosing a line from the Girl Scout Law and studying how that line corresponds to their faith.  The girls are tasked with researching poems, songs, or stories in their faith that also show the line they’ve chosen from the Law.  They are also tasked with researching inspirational quotes from women and in talking to women within their faith or outside of their faith to discover how they live the line from the law.   

What makes this award unique is that it is not denominational.  Girls of any faith could earn these awards.  In our thirty county foot print we have had girls earn this award in almost every religion.  We currently have a troop finalizing their award in the Hindu Religion!   

Girls can also earn awards specifically focused on their individual religion.  To Serve God awards are created by members of Faith Based organizations who are also Girl scouts.  Girls work with advisors, whether spiritual or Girl Scout, to earn their religious award.  There are more than 29 different denominations with advanced awards offered through the Pray Pub organization in partnership with the Girl Scouts.   

These awards, like all of our awards, are unique to the girls who earn them.  No two projects ever look the same and no two girls ever bring the same experiences to their Girl Scout Experience.   

To learn more about the My Promise, My Faith Pins or the awards offered through the Pray Pub Partnership, check out here, or here, your place of worship, or your Girl Scout Handbook!  


Post by Erica

Honoring Josephine Holloway

Josephine Holloway, is a champion of diversity and was one of the first Black Girl Scout troop leaders in the United States.  

Josephine wanted to bring the Girl Scout programming to girls at a local women’s shelter in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1924 she fought for that opportunity. By the end of the year more than 300 girls were participating in Girl Scout-inspired activities.  

Almost 10 years later in 1933, when Blacks and other minorities in our country still faced racism and segregation, Josephine first attempted to form an official troop for Black girls. Her request was denied, the local council cited the high cost of maintaining separate facilities for Blacks.   

Josephine fought on, and in 1942, after showing much perseverance, the region’s first Black Girl Scout troop was formed.  During a time that segregations and oppression was still commonplace.  

Learn more about Josephine Holloway and her vision, courage, and passion for bringing Girl Scouting to all girls here

You can also celebrate Josephine and Black History Month by completing the Josephine Holloway SWAPS from Girl Scouts of Colorado.  

We want to hear what you are doing to use your Girl Scout skills by taking initiative, serving your community and Girl Scouting at home. Share you story here.  


Post by Liz Bleacher

World Thinking Day

As we enter into February, GSHPA is getting excited for World Thinking Day! Observed by 10 million Girl Scouts and Girl Guides across 150 countries annually, World Thinking Day is a BIG DEAL! Since 1926, Girl Scouts of the USA, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS), and other organizations have been celebrating World Thinking Day on February 22nd

World Thinking Day is a day of international friendship and an opportunity to speak out on issues impacting girls and women. 2021’s theme celebrates what it means to be a peacebuilder and creating peace in the world around you! Peacebuilding is at the heart of Girl Scouting and is as important and relevant today as for the last 100 years. 

In order to help you celebrate World Thinking Day safely this year, GSHPA will be hosting a virtual celebration on February 20th from 1-3pm. Our virtual celebration features 3 different peacebuilding activities geared for different ages. Girl Scouts participate in the activity for their age group along with others if they would like. Find out more and register here.  

You can also find a list of Virtual World Thinking Day events happening around the country at this list compiled by Girl Scouts of Colorado, here.  

Hosting your own event? Learn more and get ideas at the activity guides below! 

WTD 2021 Girl Scout Activity Guides 

WTD 2021 WAGGS Activity Pack  

Cookie Season is Upon Us!

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Now, more than ever, the comfort and familiarity of biting into a delicious Girl Scout Cookie is needed. Our Girl Scouts are ready to build their business, reach their goals, and meet the cookie demand! 

Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania will begin selling cookies on January 15th. Girls will have their order cards until February 12th to take orders AND will be creating their cookie website so customers can order online. Customers can even order online and skip the shipping fee by choosing in-person girl delivery until February 12th. (Those cookies will arrive in March) 

Cookies will arrive in mid-March. Girls will fulfill their orders and then can go out into the world, safely of course, to continue reaching their goals! Contactless payment and delivery is an option all season long!  

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The cookie season ends on April 11th. Customers should make sure to stock up! Girl Scout Cookies are great in various recipes (find some hereand they freeze well! 

Here is GSHPA’s Cookie Line Up for 2021:  

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Ready to buy some cookies?! Beginning Friday, January 15th, you can go to our website and found out where to get cookies in your area!


Post by Jess Delp

GSHPA Holiday Traditions

We love to CELEBRATE! We hope it won’t be too surprising to know that the staff here at GSHPA like to have fun in creative and unique ways with our friends and families!  

Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA has an amazing staff and we are so grateful to work alongside so many wonderful Girl Scout volunteers and girls! We are a fun and diverse group of people, who come from very different backgrounds, but when we come together, we are a family!  

We have asked our staff to share some of their favorite holiday traditions to celebrate this time of year! We hope as you read these traditions you will find entertainment, joy and a better understanding of what makes Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA so special!  

So grab a hot chocolate and enjoy! You may even want to grab a pen and paper to take notes so you can try out some of our traditions as well!  

And don’t forget to share some of your traditions in the comments! We would love to hear them!  

Favorite Holiday Tradition Growing Up 

My family has always been very into the holiday season, so we have many traditions! One of my absolute favorites is baking Christmas Cookies with my mom. We would make dozens and dozens of cookies to give to our friends and family. While my mom and I spent the evening baking cookies my dad would spend his time wrapping presents, so we would ring a little bell after each batch so he knew our official “Christmas Cookie Taste Tester” should make an appearance!  -Rebekah Stefl (Sr. Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

My mother hand knit my Christmas stocking and we’d hang them by the fireplace, I still have that stocking. My daughter’s stocking was knit by my late mother in law so we hang them on the mantle each year. I love the history and care taken with each one. Love was knitted into these heirlooms. –Diane Bateman (Member Services Specialist) 

There are so many. Every Christmas Eve, my mom would get my sister and I matching pajamas. That was the only gift that we could open early. I have continued the tradition with my kids.  –Janelle Brewer (Volunteer Training Manager)  

My mom loved holidays. My favorite memories with her are from holidays, particularly Christmas. My favorite thing about Christmas morning was opening my stocking. I still love stockings (although I do not get them very often as an adult). My mom would also get me and my sister a chocolate advent calendar every year. This year I got a dog treat advent calendar for Libby! On Christmas morning I would eat my last chocolate, open my stocking and then my presents! Santa’s gifts were always unwrapped right under the tree. Family’s gifts were wrapped. There were always magical snowy Santa boot prints by our fireplace. (My mom would use my stepdad’s boots and sprinkle flour around them).  – Jess Delp (Director of Product Program and Retail)  

Grateful for Parents 

My parents would always take off work and spend time with me through my holiday break. There were many movie marathons when I was younger and it is something we still do today.  –Erica Hildabridle (Member Registration Specialist)  

My mom always made homemade sticky buns, and still does even though we’re out of the house!  -Olivia Novak (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Mom was diligent about keeping traditions solid year to year. Now that she’s gone, things are kept the same even more in our effort to hand on to her presence.  –Jenny Boyles (Member Registration Specialist)  

I am grateful for so many things my parents did around the holidays! I think the thing I’m most grateful for is that over the years my dad would make these adorable holiday home movies and take a million photos. And it has been wonderful to have them to look back on!  -Rebekah Stefl (Sr. Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

They always decorated the house to the nines to make things festive, and made sure that we had special family time all day.  –Colleen Sypien (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Favorite Holiday Food 

I love them all!!!! One that I particularly like is collard greens – my husband’s grandmother showed me how to make them and they are sooooo good!  -Adia Walker (Regional Director)  

My favorite is an apple pie that I’ve been making for 28 years…so I guess I make it best so people tell me. Even after all the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, they make room for this pie.  –Diane Bateman (Member Services Specialist)  

Pfauenaugen, don’t use google translate directly, since it translates as Peacock eyes. It is a type of cookie, essentially two shortbreads with jam in the middle. –Lisa Schweier (Member Services Manager)  

All of our Christmas cookie recipes are my favorites. They’ve come down through the generations and have been made into a book for each of the kids in the new generation.  –Jenny Boyles (Member Registration Specialist)  

Sweet Potato Casserole. My husband makes it best!  -Sheri Kline (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Holiday Heirlooms Passed Down 

There is a menorah that my grandfather used every Hanukkah from the time my mom and uncle were little that passed on to me when I had my daughter 28 years ago. I still have it and we still light it, every year in memory of my grandfather.  –Sheri Kline (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Each year, my grandmother would buy all of us grandkids shiny metal Christmas ornaments with our names and the year engraved. I still decorate my tree with these every year and they always bring back the magic of my Grandma’s presence over the holidays.  –Adia Walker (Regional Director)  

Our family traditionally passes down ornaments from generation to generation. We love to display them, but we usually put them in a special place rather than on the tree so they are not accidentally broken. Our oldest ornament to date is from the 1700s!  -Rebekah Stefl (Sr. Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Those Christmas Stockings….Also, my grandmother gave me a Raggedy Anne doll for my first Christmas and I’ve been collecting dolls ever since. That poor thing has been chewed on by the dog, lost tug of war with my little brother(her arms and legs have been sewed back on so many times)…I even temporarily lost her at Karns and mom had to go back for her….trauma happened without her with me. She came to college with me and yes, I still have her.  –Diane Bateman (Member Services Specialist)  

We have a melted snowman candle that is so ugly but was the first Christmas decoration my parents bought together when they were a young married couple. He’s a treasure.  –Jenny Boyles (Member Registration Specialist)  

At my Dad’s house I have a stocking that my grandma knit for me. She used stretchy fabric so it is HUGE and is never quite full because it just keeps stretching the more items are put in it.  –Jess Delp (Director of Product Program and Retail)  

5 years ago my family and I started getting live trees for our Christmas tree. They are a bit smaller than traditional Christmas trees but we plant them after the holiday and watch them grow long after! It is so fun watch the trees grow and have a living memory from that holiday. – Gabby Dietrich (Community Initiatives Coordinator)

Favorite Gift Given or Received 

A journal/book to my mother that asks her about her childhood, life experiences, and so much more. It will be great to have and show future generations.  –Olivia Novak (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

I bought my mom a birthstone bracelet. It was the first “real” gift I ever bought after I started working and it was a bracelet that she wanted but would never buy for herself. She wore it every day until she died.  –Sheri Kline (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Boxing gloves and punching bag – it really helps me get through the tough times.  –Adia Walker (Regional Director)  

I really enjoy giving presents to people, but I think my favorite is a present from last year. I had just taught myself to crochet and I spent countless hours crocheting a large fluffy blanket to gift my parents for Christmas!  -Rebekah Stefl (Sr. Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

A science kit/set that I made for my cousin that had instructions and materials for DIY science experiments. I went all out for it and included test tubes and fun experiments that played off of the things he liked at the time.  –Colleen Sypien (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

For me, I love giving gifts, not gift cards, a real, wrapped up in paper, bows the whole package. If I can get a smile from someone when they open that and they go, aw wow, I love it! That to me means the world. Not so much the gift itself, but the fact that they liked it…if that makes sense? This gets harder to do as they get older.  –Diane Bateman (Member Services Specialist)  

I made my brother 4 Game of Throne glasses. It was a challenge to make them but also a lot of fun and he definitely loved them as he asked for 8 more. –Lisa Schweier (Member Services Manager)  

I love giving gifts. I have so many favorites that I have given but the ultimate was probably a ceramic Christmas tree that lights up. I painted it for my aunt. She was so pleased with it despite the fact that I couldn’t wrap it properly because it was so big, I gave it to her in a reusable shopping bag. But she puts it up every year right inside her house. It is the first thing you see.  –Erica Hildabridle (Member Registration Specialist)  

Every gift that I have ever given to my son, Justice, because he was always so grateful and his face lit up no matter what it was, haha. He would literally say to everything – it’s just what I wanted.  –Nicole Negron (Volunteer Support Coordinator)  

Last year I gave my daughters a trip to Vermont. They love the movie “White Christmas” so this was an exciting first for them. And just like in the movie, when we got to Vermont, there was no snow!  -Jenny Boyles (Member Registration Specialist)  

We gave invitations to my daughter’s adoption day in court to our families! –Janelle Brewer (Volunteer Training Manager)  

We hope you enjoyed getting to know us a little better! Please share your traditions so we can get to know you!  May your celebrations be filled with hope, joy, and good food!