GSHPA Volunteer Conference Preview

By Colleen Buck

January is fast approaching, and with the new year comes the Virtual Volunteer Conference! GSHPA is excited to offer this virtual opportunity for volunteers across our 30 counties to learn, grow and network together. We connected with two staff members who are leading the team responsible for this event to learn more. Jess Mislinski, Regional Director, and Janelle Brewer, Volunteer Training Manager, have spent this year working with a team of other staff members to bring this event to fruition.

GSHPA: Why is it important for GSHPA to hold a Volunteer Conference?

Jess & Janelle: Holding a Volunteer Conference provides our volunteers the opportunity to learn more about how they can provide the best experience for our Girl Scouts, as well as the opportunity to network with fellow volunteers from across our council. Hosting the conference virtually arose out of necessity due to the pandemic, but we quickly saw the benefits of providing a virtual conference. It allows so much flexibility for our volunteers who already devote so much of their time to Girl Scouts and other activities. We wanted to make learning and networking as easy as possible for as many people as possible, regardless of geographic location.

GSHPA: What are some of the topics volunteers can look forward to from our conference speakers?

Jess & Janelle: This year we will be featuring specialized tracks on a variety of topics including Product Program, Outdoors, Service Unit, New Troop Leader, Girl Support, and Girl Programming. Each track has several sessions available for volunteers to choose from. There is something for everyone. And the best part is that all attendees will have access to recordings of all of the sessions! The learning can continue beyond the day of the conference!

Sharmi Albrechtsen, creator of SmartGurlz
Sharmi Albrechtsen, creator of SmartGurlz

GSHPA: Who is the featured speaker, and why did we choose them?

Jess & Janelle: We are so excited to feature Sharmi Albrechtsen as our Featured Speaker. While Sharmi may have closed on a deal on Shark Tank in 2017 for her creation of SmartGurlz, we are most excited about Sharmi’s journey as an entrepreneur, just like our Girl Scouts! Why did we choose Sharmi?  Sharmi is a female entrepreneur that founded a robotics company out of not having a toy that worked for her daughter.  After watching Sharmi speak on a Ted Talk, we knew she was the one!  Watch it here: https://youtu.be/zkK0TlJr8Co

GSHPA: What is the draw of this conference that volunteers can be excited for?

Jess & Janelle: We are so excited about so many aspects of this conference! This year we have Sharmi as our keynote speaker and we have no doubt she will inspire our volunteers! In addition to our keynote speaker, we have so many incredible presenters for this year’s conference. Our volunteers will get to learn directly from their peers, current volunteers who have years of Girl Scout experience. We even have some outside speakers who are experts in their field, such as Michelle Fox from Olivia’s house who will be presenting resources for Grief & Loss and Anne Norgren from Little Brownie Bakers, who is an expert on eBudde.

In addition to the learning opportunities this conference provides, our volunteers will get the opportunity to network with one another! We know how important it is for our volunteers to feel connected and this is a great opportunity to make new friends and share ideas!

The 2nd Virtual Volunteer Conference is on Saturday, January 15, 2022, 9am-2pm. Virtual doors will open at 8:30am, with Opening Remarks kicking things off at 9am. Registration closes January 8th, so register today: https://www.gshpa.org/en/sf-events-repository/2022/virtual-volunteer-conference.html

Comment below if we will see you there!

Amy Wallace: Reaping the Benefits of Girl Scout Lessons

By Cathy Hirko

Amy Wallace

Amy Wallace is a former Girl Scout and now the Vice President of Learning and Development at Members 1st Federal Credit Union in Cumberland County. While chatting with Amy at a recent Members 1st Federal Credit Union employee/family function in Lancaster, I found out that she and her family have a rich history with Girls Scouts. She gladly agreed to share her story with us.

Amy now lives in Mechanicsburg with her husband and two children. In her day-to-day work with Members 1st, she said she has “the honor of focusing on associate growth and development each day.”

She originally grew up outside Boston, but the opportunity to play college basketball brought her to the Central Pennsylvania area.  After graduation, she decided to stay. She loves it here. 

“We still get all four seasons, but it’s a good bit warmer here than in New England!” she said.

GSHPA: Your parents (before they were your parents) have a unique connection to the oldest running Girl Scout Camp in the United States, Camp Bonnie Brae. What can you share about that?

Amy: This is such a neat story and one that is near and dear to my heart.  When my father was growing up, he served as the “Handy Man” for Camp Bonnie Brae.  The camp resides on the same lake where my parents have a summer home.  My dad grew up on the lake and spent many summers working at the camp.  My uncle (my mom’s brother) also worked at the camp as a cook.  My dad and my uncle became great friends.  When my uncle got married, my dad and my mom were both in the wedding, but they didn’t know one another yet.  The wedding was the beginning of my parents’ epic journey.  They have been married for 49 years! 

Now, during the summer, when we are sitting on the porch at the lake house, we can still hear the dinner bell at Bonnie Brae ring across the lake.  The camp is an active reminder that the Girl Scouts are alive and well as the waterfront is bustling and the campers return each year.  My parents continue to attend the Bonnie Brae reunions as there are many former workers, like my dad, who are still in the area and enjoy the chance to return to camp and see how the legacy continues. Bonnie Brae will always have a special place in the story of our family.

GSHPA: Share with us some of the memories/experiences that you had as a Girl Scout.

Amy:  It’s hard to choose just a few.  I began as a day camper at the former Camp Virginia and then graduated to sleep-away camp.  I had the privilege of attending Camp Wabasso in New Hampshire, which specializes in horseback riding and then Camp Favorite on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where I chose the overnight bicycling adventures. 

Girls Scouts has allowed me to try new experiences that I would have not encountered in my daily life.  From windsurfing to sleeping in a hammock in a tall stand of pines, I was always challenging myself to step outside my comfort zone and try new things.  Girl Scout camp afforded me the ability to tackle a ropes course with a team of people, to learn archery, to create and act in a camp skit, to go trail riding by horseback, to go sailing, to hike through cranberry bogs, to camp outside and cook over a fire …  The Girl Scouts are masterful at creating activities that not only allow you to try new experiences, but learn impactful life lessons.  At a young age, I didn’t appreciate those many life lessons, but today I reap the benefits of those experiences.

GSHPA: What skills or attributes did you learn from the Girl Scouts that you still carry with you today?

Amy: To know that stepping outside your comfort zone can bring growth, joy, and life lessons. I learned the value of teamwork.  As a dominant, outspoken personality, I learned the value of letting all the voices in the group be heard to solve problems and tackle challenges.  The high ropes course (for example) is an excellent place to solidify that sometimes it takes a group effort to achieve a tall feat.  I also learned about the value of communication, adventure, ingenuity, creativity, empathy, independence, encouragement and respect/appreciation for nature.  I know that my experiences as a Girl Scout helped to build the foundation that I draw from on a day-to-day basis in my current occupation and interactions.

Why is it important to mentor others? What can we learn about lifting others up and helping in our professional lives?

Amy: While at Camp Wabasso, I had the opportunity to go rock climbing.  In hindsight, it was not something I enjoyed, but I sure did learn a lot by challenging myself to climb a rock face in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. 

At one point, I fell.  I was dangling from the side of a mountain by a tiny rope, being anchored by a complete stranger (who turned out to be my biggest cheerleader in that moment) who was telling me to keep calm, get my footing, and try again.  Isn’t that the greatest metaphor for life?  Do you surround yourself with people who cheer on your crazy adventures?  Do they remind you to stay calm and find your inner peace in moments of panic?  Do they uplift you with words of encouragement and guidance when needed?  Do they remind you that inside yourself is a strength that sometimes you lose sight of?

Just like that counselor who had me anchored to the mountain and held my fate in their hands, I want to be that voice of reason and encouragement to others.  Self-discovery and growth can be challenging.  Pushing yourself into new situations can reap great rewards, but it can come with self-doubt and imposter syndrome.  The ability to be a cheerleader, motivator, and counselor is such an honor.  For someone to trust you enough to be vulnerable with you is an amazing gift.  Mentorship is a chance to give back to others and your community as a whole.

I can think through my life and career and name many people who took the time to mentor me.  In the same way, I want to give back to others. My counselors at camp cheered me on, wiped my tears, held my hand, offered encouragement, asked me about my worries/doubts, and helped me to see a strength inside myself that I didn’t even know was present.  THAT is the beauty of mentorship and that is the energy I want to put out into the world. Helping others to live their best lives and find their core strengths is truly a humbling experience.  There may be many things we can’t control in this world, but giving back to others with our time and guidance allows us to make the world a better place from our little corner of the planet.

GSHPA: If you had a top memory to share about your Girl Scout experience what would that be?

Amy:  My favorite memory, by far, is the overnight trip I took from Camp Favorite.  The two weeks of camp involved several days of progressively longer bike rides until we worked up our stamina to hit the Cape Cod rail trail.  We biked from the camp to Hyannis, MA, roughly a 20-mile bike ride, to catch the ferry to Nantucket.  Once on the island, we stayed at a youth hostel where we were responsible for chores to help maintain the daily operations of the hostel.  We spent time exploring the island by bike for a few days, before we returned to camp.  More than 30 years later and I still have vivid memories of the trip, the challenges, the ways in which in I grew, our cheerleader counselors, and the feeling of accomplishment when our entire group made it back to camp.  As a pre-teen girl, the thought of biking 60+ miles, while carrying all of my personal belongings seemed unfathomable.  The Girl Scouts structured an experience to help me see that I was capable of more than I realized. 

GSHPA: What’s your favorite Girl Scout Cookie and why?

Amy:  Ooooo… this is a tough one.  I’m going to go with the classic and say: Thin Mints.  Straight out of the freezer is my favorite way to enjoy them!

Cathy Hirko is the marketing and communications director for the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email: chirko@gshpa.org.

What’s the difference, Community Service vs Take Action Project

By Liz Bleacher

Within Girl Scouts we do a lot of projects and activities that help our communities at a local, county, state, national and even worldwide level. Some of these projects are community service and others can be considered Take Action Projects, some even can be in both categories at once.  The question is – how do you tell the difference between the two? How do you decide if what you are doing will help you earn your Community Service Bar or qualify as a project to complete your higher award, like the Bronze award?

I have some answers for you, in this post I will go through the check list of both so everyone, girls, volunteers, and adults, will have a better understanding of the two and be able to plan correctly.  To start lets go over some vocab so that we all understand what is meant.  First, a need, this is something that is a condition that needs supply or relief, it is a temporary fix.  Second and often used interchangeably but not the same is, an issue, which is an important topic or problem that is addressed on a bigger scale.  An issue requires a more long-term self-sustaining solution.

An example of this would be a food bank “needs” fresh fruit and veggies on the shelves for their community.  And the deeper “issue” is that they don’t have a regular sources of donations or a place to store fresh produce. Now, how do “need” and “issue” fit in with community service and Take Action projects? Let’s find out!

Community Service Projects

When planning a community service project you are focusing on solving an immediate need, having a food drive or raising money to donate to the food bank so they can purchase some produce will help with that need.  You can work to help fill the shelves, this solves the need and is a fantastic thing to do, but it doesn’t deal with the issue.  Once they give that food away or it goes bad they will be right back where they started.

Community service projects make the world a better place right now. Girls can engage in short-term service, like collecting toys, or a long-term project like weekly volunteering at the food bank, the work helps with the immediate need in their community.

Take Action Project

A Take Action project is a project that solves an issue by discussing and discovering the cause and coming up with a plan to affect or eliminate the cause of the problem.  For the food bank, the root issue was they don’t have a regular source of produce or a way to store them for a short period.   You could start your Take Action project by asking, “Why can’t they find produce and what do they need to store it?” After research, a Take Action project would eliminate the issue by working with local groceries or farmers to collect their extra produce and may include working with local companies to get one or two industrial refrigerators donated to store the produce for the weekly/biweekly distribution. This would provide the food bank with a regular source of produce and a place to store it. 

Take Actions projects go a step further than a community service project that stop when you stop.  Take Action projects, do not stop, they are continual, sustainable.  Both community service projects and Take Action projects are great opportunities to strengthen your communities and make the world a better place, just in different ways.  Everyone from Daisies to troop leaders, to life-long members can choose to serve in the way that is best for them.  Now that you know the difference you can work with your fellow Girl Scouts to make the best choice for your troop.  Like Juliette Gordon Low said, “The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers.”

Quick Resources

You can take a look at the different ways Girl Scouts can give back with badges and Journeys.  As well as the awards Girl Scouts can earn that help build their skills to eventually earn their Highest Awards.

Crafting a Home for Small Fairy Visitors

By Colleen Sypien, GSHPA

As children we save our lost teeth to give to the tooth fairy, and they leave us something in return. When Tinkerbell needs us to believe, we clap and say “I do believe in fairies!”

I think a lot of us dreamed about having a fairy godmother like Cinderella! Or maybe you know that the best time to see fairies is during a Midsummer’s Eve, thanks to Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” 

For thousands of years there have been stories and folklore of fairies, or fey, as they are also known. Those stories can bring about superstition, and a desire to try to see fairies for oneself.

Maybe these stories resonate with us because they allow our imagination to explore the magical lands and fairy mystique.

For several decades now the craft of creating fairy gardens has become increasingly popular.

A fairy garden is meant to be a place for a fairy to live or visit. They can simply be a little house, or they can be as elaborate as having little furniture, small wishing wells, or even ponds.

Fairy gardens are meant to be little fairy worlds created in any inside or outside space. A flower bed corner, at the base of a tree, anywhere!

The steps below share how to create your very own fairy garden! There are so many supplies you could use for your fairy garden, so I recommend seeing what you have in your house that you can use. Remember to think about what will hold up in different weather if you will be putting yours outside. I love crafting, so all of my materials were recycled from past projects. Get creative and find ways you can recycle items!

I used moss, tiny rocks, puffy paint, terra cotta paints, a tray and craft sticks from the dollar store, old spools, string and a tiny felt flower I made for my supplies. There are so many options!

My supply list.

Once I gathered all of my supplies, I started creating the fairy house first. I built my fairy home and garden on top of the dollar store tray, so that I could easily move it around to find the best spot for it. My materials are best kept out of weather elements, so it will either sit on my front porch by my door under cover of the roof, or inside! After adding some moss and tiny rocks to my fairy home, I started to lay out the tray. If you are only making a fairy house, you might want to spend more time on it and make it more elaborate. If you are planting an actual garden outside for your fairy, your steps will look a little different than mine!

Have fun creating your design!

Once I planned out and covered my tray with moss and a little walkway for my fairies, it was time to add a few extra touches to this garden. I used old spools to create a little outdoor seat or table. I also used a little felt flower that I made a long time ago to add some florals to this garden. I also had a tiny little frog friend that I added to my fairy garden, but I did not glue him down, so that he can hop around to different spots of the garden! Can you spot him in my finished garden?

A walking-path has taken shape.

Fairy Gardens are wonderful ways to connect nature and the imagination together. Your garden could take up just a corner of the flower beds in your backyard, or as much space as the entire backyard! These are meant to be resting places for our fairy friends, and if you’re lucky you might just spot one. If you make your own fairy garden, be sure to share pictures with us!

It’s fun to see it come together.

If you loved our fairy garden craft, you might also love checking out the upcoming Enchanted Fairy Festival happening right in our council footprint in York! On Sept. 19, you can come in everyday attire or dress up as your favorite mythical creature and become part of the enchantment. There will be live music, strolling minstrels, magic, face painting, a unicorn, giants and so much more. You can do crafts, learn to belly dance, be a part of a drum circle, or visit some of the unique craft vendors.

Tickets can be purchased here, or if you would like to volunteer as a Girl Scout to help with decorations or to be day of help, please reach out to Claire at cgilbert@gshpa.org. We cannot wait to see all of the magical fun that day!

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