Volunteer Spotlight: Innovator

“Girl Scouts is all about the girls… but if you don’t have volunteers, then the girls have nowhere to be.”

As we celebrate National Volunteer Month, GSGLA is honoring the stellar women and men who dedicate countless hours to our mission. One outstanding example is Cindy Bernsdorf, who received the Thanks Badge at our Volunteer Recognition Ceremony, one of the highest honors bestowed on volunteers.

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Cindy (top row, third from left) with her Brownie troop.

A lifetime Girl Scout, Cindy embodies the Girl Scout Promise and Law and has made a long-lasting impact on the Movement here in Greater LA. Today, she serves as the lead for the Communications Go Team, but her Girl Scout journey began in second grade, when her mom was her troop leader.

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Cindy as a senior in high school.

She continued in the program for the next 10 years, and has fond memories of visiting local sites as a Brownie, including Olvera Street, and of traveling to Mexico City as a high school senior, stopping by Our Cabaña, one of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ World Centers.

Years later, Cindy returned to her Girl Scout roots as a leader for her older daughter’s troop and “fell in love with [the program] because I didn’t realize as a girl there was a beautiful structure [to it],” she says. “Girls could have opportunities to do all these things they’d never done before.”

Over the course of the next decade, Cindy’s Girl Scout career included volunteering at the service unit level where she served as a recruiter, a consultant, service unit manager, area manager, council trainer, and more. Cindy says she particularly enjoyed being a liaison between the staff and service units, and “getting all the information from the council, since I’m a person who loves to have information” (which makes her a natural fit for the Communications Go Team!).

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Cindy serving on a GSGLA alumnae committee.

After she rose through the ranks of various operational jobs, Cindy became a member of the council’s board of directors. Her tenure coincided with the merger that resulted in Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles. She played an instrumental part in ensuring the transition to Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles went as smoothly as possible, particularly in ensuring a volunteer recognition system was in place. “Volunteers need to feel that what they’re doing is important and appreciated,” she says. “They need to see the impact of what they do and how that feeds down to what everybody wants—a great program for girls.”

For the last several years, Cindy has served as the lead for the Communications Go Team, a position that has fueled her number-one passion: supporting volunteers. The Go Team has developed and refined materials to streamline communications across the council. “I want volunteers to have an easier time, to be recognized, and to be able to do what they do with the least amount of problems,” says Cindy. “Obviously Girl Scouts is all about the girls… but if you don’t have volunteers, then the girls have nowhere to be.”

Cindy wholeheartedly encourages others to volunteer for Girl Scouts—not only for the longstanding friendships you form, but also the important skills you acquire: “I can’t say enough about the things I’ve learned that I wouldn’t have done. There’s something there for everyone.”

We’re so thankful to Cindy for her years of service to our council and Movement, as well as her innovative thinking and tenacious spirit. Congratulations on earning the Thanks Badge!

Want to learn more about volunteering for Girl Scouts? Visit our website.

Volunteer Spotlight: Leader

“As you empower others, it reflects back on you, and it builds you without your knowing. It’s only in time you see how much you’ve changed.”

We all know Girl Scouts exists for girls, but it exists because of volunteers. Throughout April, we’re recognizing our amazing, dedicated volunteers across the council, and profiling some of them right here on our blog.

One of the highest honors Girl Scouts can bestow on a volunteer is the Thanks Badge. Longtime GSGLA volunteer Sandra Hardy has provided outstanding service to the council and the entire Girl Scout Movement for years—which is why she received the award at our 2017 Volunteer Recognition Ceremony.

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Sandra (top right) with her Brownie troop.

Sandra is currently an adult educator, lead for the Outdoor Program Go Team, and member of several other Go Teams. But her Girl Scout story started when she co-led her daughter’s troop in kindergarten. She eventually became a troop leader, a position she held for 14 years—even after her own daughter graduated. That’s because of the strong bonds she fostered with the girls, whom she empowered to make decisions: “It was very girl-led, very girl-driven. I let them pick all the activities and I provided a safe environment or site.”

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Sandra’s troop working together.

One of her fondest moments happened shortly after she formed a large pathway troop with girls from across Santa Clarita Valley, when her daughter was in middle school. To ensure the girls started off on a positive foot, Sandra organized an inspirational (albeit challenging) weekend: one focused on rock climbing and rappelling! According to Sandra, “The girls were terrified, and we had to work together. Within a few months, everyone was still working together and being respectful, even if someone else had a different idea. The whole experience changed my life, and I didn’t realize how I had affected the girls until they all graduated.”

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The troop at Marine Landing.

Even after graduation, the girls still keep in touch with Sandra, with one even reaching out recently for leadership tips for a presentation: “So here we are again, working together like we did in the troop.” As the lead for the Outdoor Program Go Team, Sandra says she runs the team the same way she led her troop: “We’re equals; it’s okay if someone doesn’t like your ideas—you accept it and move on.”

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Sandra (right) at Nature Rocks day camp.

Sandra holds many roles across the council, and recently made an indelible impact with the creation of the index for Volunteer Essentials. She along with another volunteer, Linda Harmon, combed through numerous keywords and phrases, and optimized the index for all users, using the “perspective of a new leader who doesn’t know Girl Scout wording yet.” The index now serves as a baseline for future versions of the guidebook.

The Thanks Badge recipient, who is also nominated for Santa Clarita Valley Woman of the Year, says Girl Scouts has been nothing short of an enriching, empowering experience—not only for the girls, but also for herself. Sandra recently landed a job as an EMT, and believes the confidence she gained through Girl Scouts made her career change possible: “As you empower others, it reflects back on you, and it builds you without your knowing. It’s only in time that you see how much you’ve changed.”

We’re so proud of Sandra and appreciative of her years of service to our girls and council, as well as her candor in sharing her experiences.

To learn how you can inspire and motivate girls through volunteering, visit our website.

Volunteer Spotlight: Go-Getter

When her best friend asked her to co-lead a troop, she couldn’t say no.

At Girl Scouts, we know our volunteers are the backbone of our organization, devoting countless hours to bringing out the G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader) in every girl. From cookie season to community service projects and everything in between—our volunteers are committed and passionate. We know the work isn’t easy, but it means so much to our 40,000 girls who are learning crucial skills, experiencing new activities, and making lifelong friends. Not only that, they’re also developing confidence and learning what it takes to lead with empathy. And it’s all thanks to our volunteers, who are showing our girls that yes—they are the future!

Here at GSGLA, we have more than 24,000 volunteers who contribute their time, talents, and energy to empowering our girls.  Throughout April (National Volunteer Month), we will be highlighting some of them right here on our blog.


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Gini hard at work at the Cadette overnight.

We begin our series with go-getter and long-time volunteer Gini Vandergon, who co-leads Senior Girl Scout Troop 3025. (She’s also receiving the Appreciation Pin at our Volunteer Recognition Ceremony on April 22.)

Gini started her Girl Scouting career in the second grade—and loved being a part of a troop so much, she stayed in Girl Scouts for 10 years. “Girl Scouts gave me opportunities that otherwise I wouldn’t have had,” says Gini, who grew up in the Bay Area. Even when she moved before seventh grade, she joined a new troop to continue her Girl Scouting experience and meet girls with similar interests—especially outdoors activities, like camping and canoeing. She even went to Hawaii with her sister Girl Scouts during her senior year of high school, using troop funds.

So when her best friend asked her to co-lead her daughter’s Daisy troop, Gini couldn’t say no. That was a decade ago. Today, the girls are Seniors and two of them have earned the Girl Scout Gold Award (the highest achievement in Girl Scouting), with one of them working toward it. According to Gini, leading a troop is “really rewarding, and if you can volunteer with the same group of girls, it’s really fun to see how they grow and mature.”

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As a role model, Gini has used her influence to introduce the girls to new experiences and broaden their horizons. Growing up by the beach, some of the girls hadn’t ever seen snow—until Gini and her co-leader took them to Frazier Park. She’s also encouraged them to help underserved communities, leading to many service projects over the years, as well as the girls’ pursuit of the Gold Award.

Gini herself is a biology professor and advocates for STEM education, particularly for girls and women. She believes Girl Scouts opens doors for girls and gives them leadership skills—much like it did for her: “I was very shy when I was young, and Girl Scouts helped me overcome that and gain confidence.”

Being a troop leader has also brought her into contact with like-minded women who want to empower and inspire girls. She says one of the draws of volunteering has not only been working with her co-leader (and best friend), but also “[the] wonderful women involved in Girl Scouting we’ve met over the years, who are great role models for girls.”

Gini looks forward to staying involved with Girl Scouts after her girls graduate in a couple years. Her advice for other leaders, particularly those of younger troops: “It gets easier. You don’t have to do everything—take it in pieces. Soon the girls begin to come up with their own ideas, and can take the lead on their own.”


Thank you, Gini, for your hard work and commitment to uplifting girls, and for providing the GSGLA community with your insight. We look forward to honoring you at our Volunteer Recognition Ceremony on April 22—Girl Scout Leader’s Day.

Stay tuned for the next profile in our National Volunteer Month blog series. For more information on volunteering for Girl Scouts, click here.