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

GSHPA’s Cookie Story Finds Success

Janet Donovan
President and CEO
Girls Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania

A recent Associated Press story regarding unsold Girl Scout Cookies on a national level highlighted the challenges that many Girl Scout Councils faced as we emerge from a nationwide pandemic. This was not the story for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania.

Like many nonprofits and businesses, Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) was not immune to the trials COVID-19 forced upon our organization.

But we met those challenges and in many ways exceeded our goals. Our Girl Scouts thought like entrepreneurs. We found creative and innovative ways to reach our membership, our volunteers and to continue to implement our important girl-led programs. Those connections were especially crucial to many girls in our membership during this time of unprecedented isolation.

GSHPA, which represents 30 counties in central and northeastern Pennsylvania, worked hard to seek out that success during this past cookie-selling season, which officially ended in April.

We are proud of our efforts!

In fact, our local inventory controls, unlike the overall theme of the AP story, were actually tighter this year than in years past.   

We did have fewer Girl Scouts participating in the program this year, but our program leadership, which collaborated with every department in our organization (as well as neighboring Girl Scout Councils), projected, budgeted and adapted appropriately.

We found new and exciting ways for our Girl Scouts to sell safely both online and in-person, which included holding traditional cookie booths.

Here are some key highlights:

·         In our S’mores Executive Club, which is an exclusive club that spotlights our brightest entrepreneurs who go above and beyond our product program efforts, the number of girls reaching that benchmark in 2019 was 94. In 2021, that number was 138, an increase of 46 percent.

·         In that same time period, our Girl Scouts increased their average number of cookie packages sold from 178 to 231.

·         When COVID hit in 2020, Girl Scouts sold about 300,000 packages that year in direct sales. This year, and under most of the same conditions, our planning paid off. Our Girl Scouts sold more than 580,000 packages.

In fact, when our council began our booth sales for 2021, we couldn’t meet the initial demand.

“Although our booth opportunities were down 50 percent this year (locations where businesses allow us to sell directly) our girls created safe and innovative ways to continue to reach their goals. During the first two weeks of our direct sales in March, we connected with a sister Girl Scout Council to purchase cookies from them so as to meet the demand of our local entrepreneurs,” said Jess Delp, GSHPA Director of Product Program and Retail.

We are also very proud of the overwhelming success of our 2021 Gift of Caring program. This council-wide service project gives our GSHPA community the chance to donate cookies to military troops overseas and other nonprofit partners.

This year, Operation Gratitude was the recipient of our Gift of Caring initiative, and we easily surpassed our goal of donating 30,000 boxes to troops. Donations were up by 60 percent! Those donations are a testament to the giving nature of our local Pennsylvania communities.

It’s important to note that all proceeds from the Girl Scout Cookie Program remain local and help to fund all of our programs: our camps, outdoor programs, STEAM, leadership training and more.

We know that we will continue to face many challenges as we tackle the rest of 2021 and plan for 2022. But the lessons learned during these past 15 months have certainly shown us that we can adapt and find success in the most trying time period in recent history.

We are grateful to note that we have a strong and resilient GSHPA community to thank for our support as we move forward and we thank the central Pennsylvania community. Your support allowed us to experience the success that we enjoyed.

How you can help

GSHPA has received questions regarding how to reduce the excess cookie inventory of our sister Girl Scout Councils. We appreciate your outpouring of support!

To help, please visit digitalcookie.girlscouts.org/scout/girlscouts2021 where you can donate cookies to first responders, food banks, and other worthy causes. In addition to helping other Girl Scout Councils with their cookie inventory, part of your donation will support local GSHPA Girl Scout Troops as well.

Thank you!


Corporate Spotlight: Debbie Kolsovsky

Critical advice: We need to invest in girls, stay curious, and step out of our comfort zones

A PNC exec shares insight on career advice, the financial sector and support of Girl Scouts.

The following post is part of a new corporate sponsored series feature for the GSHPA Blog. The series will highlight local business and community leaders who understand the value and impact Girl Scouts can play in your community.

Debbie Kolsovsky, PNC, Lackawanna County

This month we are featuring Debbie Kolsovsky of Lackawanna County.

Kolsovsky is the executive vice president and regional managing director northeast region, Institutional Asset Management at PNC. She is also the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors at Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA. 

GSHPA: PNC has been a great supporter of GSHPA and we thank you for that support. Tell us, why is it important for a company to invest in the growth and development of girls?

Kolsovsky: We should all care about investing in the growth and development of girls because they are our future leaders. Speaking from personal experience in the financial services industry, we know better outcomes are achieved for clients when we have diverse teams, and that means more women in leadership roles. To have more women in leadership roles, it’s critical to start investing in young girls and giving them the opportunities to take risks and succeed.

Speaking more generally, PNC is focused on helping our communities thrive. Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA is aligned with our philosophy. They work to invest in our future generations across all economic backgrounds to develop strong girls with leadership abilities, an investment that will pay dividends for the future of our community and our world. 

GSHPA: We have 59 girls in the 2021 class that we are honoring this year who have achieved their Gold Award for our council. Many of them will be graduating this year from high school. What career and young-adult advice would you given them as they take this next step in their journey?

Kolsovsky: First, I would like to say congratulations to all the Gold Award winners on this significant accomplishment. My advice would be to enjoy the next part of your journey and fully embrace the next step, whether it’s entering the workforce or going to college. As you embark on your career, don’t be afraid to ask questions and take risks—that is how you learn and grow. 

GSHPA: How did you choose your career path? What were some of your influencers/mentors along the way?

Kolsovsky: I was given an opportunity through one of PNC’s development programs, and that’s how I learned about finance. My job has remained interesting and engaging because I’ve stayed curious, I’ve asked questions and I’ve taken risks, and that has all led me to where I am today. A lot of opportunities and challenges have kept my role interesting as well.

I have had the privilege of working with several great people here at PNC who have been mentors to me throughout my career. Much of the advice that I give others now was given to me at one time by a mentor. The most valuable advice I’ve received was to step outside of my comfort zone, because that is how you learn something new and expand your professional experiences. The worst that could happen is that it won’t work out, and you will still have learned something.

GSHPA: You are very involved in both leadership growth and volunteer activities in Lackawanna County. Tell us about them and why is it important to being active in your community?

Kolsovsky: In addition to my work with Girl Scouts, I am involved with a higher education organization, a few healthcare organizations, and nonprofits that focus on economic development and community support. I find value in giving back in a variety of ways, and I learn from each organization I’m involved in. 

Something that was said to me when I started at PNC has always stuck with me: we ask a lot from our communities — we live, work and do business here, so it’s only right that we also give back here. That is my philosophy and that is why it’s so important for me to stay involved in these organizations.

GSHPA: What advice would you give to someone interested in finance as a career?

Kolsovsky: You might be surprised how many different types of opportunities there are in the financial services industry. I’ve been with PNC for 31 years and I’ve held several different jobs over the course of my career. While numbers are a part of my work, banking is still very much a people business. At the end of the day, it’s about understanding what our clients need and coming to the table with innovative solutions that can help make their lives easier.

GSHPA: As the Vice Chair of GSHPA’s Board of Directors, is there anything else that you would like to add about your involvement in our organization?

Kolsovsky: I was never a Girl Scout, but through my work on the Girl Scouts board, my appreciation has only grown for the organization and its impact on our community. So many former Girl Scouts are still involved, which speaks to the positive impact this organization has had on their lives. GSHPA gives girls access to programming that opens their minds and expands their worldviews. They help girls develop the confidence to be leaders focused on making a positive difference in the world.

This Corporate Spotlight blog is proudly supported by PNC.

20 Girl Scout Summer Reads

Let’s be honest, when it comes to summer, reading might not be the first thing on every girls minds as a fun activity.  It was for me I loved to read and I know that others are not as obsessed with books as we are here on the GSHPA program team.  Reading can be the ideal summer activity, it is portable, can involve the whole family and will help the girls stay learning through the dreading summer brain drain!

We have put together this short list of book with inspiration from our personal bookshelves and local libraries.  They are organized by ages, but please do not feel like you can’t jump categories, I love a good pre-teen book, check out number 3 on the list!

Birth – 2

  1. Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
  2. Anne’s Colors by Kelly Hill
  3. Girl of Mine by Jabari Asim and LeUyen Pham
  4. Future Engineer by Lori Alexander and Allison Black

Preschool 3-5

  1. Because by Mo Willems and Amber Ren
  2. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez
  3. Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival
  4. Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood

Elementary 6-8

  1. Just Ask!, Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor and Rafael Lopez
  2. Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: the Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez and Felicita Sala
  3. We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
  4. Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro and Marion Lindsay

Pre-Teen 9-12

  1. Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
  2. Nat Enough by Maria Scrivan
  3. The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz
  4. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Teen 13+

  1. Cinder: Book one of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer and Erin Siu
  2. Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights by Deborah Kops
  3. I Will Always Write Back by Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka
  4. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

What other books are on your summer list, what is your favorite that you think everyone should read? Let us know in the comments below. Happy Reading!