Lifelong Adventure and Friendship

“We… love that we, as members of Troop 218, have a Girl Scouting foundation that will unify us for the rest of our days!”

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Troop 218 visit Olvera Street in 1957, the year the troop formed.

Girl Scouts brings together girls with different backgrounds, interests, and personalities as part of one big family. Like all families, Girl Scouts form bonds that last a lifetime—which is why many alumnae stay friends and continue to meet as a troop, long after they’ve grown out of Girl Scouts. Local alumna Dinah Raful shares her sisterhood story.


This past October, 16 members of Girl Scout Troop 218 met in Nashville, Tennessee, for our 60th Girl Scout “Gratitude” Reunion. The troop originated under the guidance of [longtime GSGLA supporter] Bernie Horst. We have had four previous gatherings in Los Angeles, but this time we decided to venture out to a new destination.

What a great time we had in Nashville! We experienced a lovely Jubilee Day Celebration at Fisk University; had a lovely tour of the Belle Meade Plantation and a long beautiful walk at The Warner Park Nature Center; and to top it off, we checked off an item on our bucket list: a musical evening at the Grand Ole’ Opry! We also got a quick tour of Honky Tonk downtown and even the amazing Parthenon!

Throughout our sightseeing, we had very special personal moments and reconnected as we walked and talked about what we were grateful for every day. We planned Girl Scout activities like getting-to-know-each-other games, a Scouts’ Own, singing, and sharing food. We were overwhelmed again with tremendous gratitude for our leader, Bernie Horst, for all that she gave us. We adore her and love that we, as members of Troop 218, have a Girl Scouting foundation that will unify us for the rest of our days!

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60-year reunion in 2017.

Thank you for sharing your reunion experience, Dinah!

Fewer things bring happier moments than witnessing lifelong friendships and knowing that it started with just a few girls in a Girl Scout troop. Staying connected with one another is as important as staying connected with GSGLA. To find out more about connecting with our alumnae team, email alumnae@girlscoutsla.org.

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.

A World of Possibilities

“Connecting with other Girl Scouts makes our world a better place.”

Girl Scouts is all about finding your passions, setting goals, and challenging yourself to reach them. For two GSGLA troops, the girls dreamed of visiting Europe. In true Girl Scout fashion, they didn’t just talk about going—they worked to make that dream come true. And this year, they did just that. Read about their trip of a lifetime, written by Troop Leader Francesca T.


eiffel-tower-whole-troopTroops 2835 and 2935 from Santa Monica are reflecting on an unforgettable year. The troops visited two Girl Scout World Centers, capturing their dream of traveling, learning, and connecting with Girl Scouts and Girl Guides in England, France, Italy, and Switzerland.  To get there, they spent years planning and raising funds through cookie sales and other money-earning activities.

All rising ninth through twelfth graders, the girls planned their trips to include tours of Pax Lodge in London, England and Our Chalet in Adelboden, Switzerland. They brought SWAPS (Special Watchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere) and photos to share about their own Girl Scouting activities in America, and they studied up on the countries to discover how Girl Scouts participate and take leadership.

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Troop Leaders Susan and Francesca at Pax Lodge.

At a stirring ceremony at Pax Lodge, the girls received special pins commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Lodge, home base for all Girl Guides of England, and the “nerve center” of WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts). Our Chalet in Switzerland welcomed the troops with hearty alpine food, home-cooked by the Center’s volunteers. The Swiss outdoors beckoned them to hike to a frozen waterfall together, while absorbing incredible views. Both world centers receive and sponsor Girl Scouts and Guides from all over the world for internships that teach leadership, environmental alertness, and common understanding among girls and youth.

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Francesca with Girl Scouts Sarah and Fiona at Engstligen Falls.

One Girl Scout journeyed on to Italy, where she met with Scout leaders in Umbria and visited two Scout bases. What she learned: Italian Scouts commit to self-reliance in the outdoors and do all their camping with backpacks! The Umbrian Scouts were especially dedicated to be ready in case of disaster, and talked about how they made their own Scout houses into places of refuge during earthquakes, fires, and other disasters.

“Where to next?” is a question for these roving girls. “We’d love to see the other World Scout Centers, for sure,” says Fiona T., ninth grade Girl Scout from Troop 2835, “And to have international Girl Scouts come visit us here in Santa Monica! Connecting with other Girl Scouts makes our world a better place.”


Thank you, Francesca, for sharing your troops’ inspiring travel story! As the fall product program gets underway, girls have the opportunity to raise funds for exciting activities, which (like Troops 2835 and 2935) can include an international trip. (Read more about the skills and benefits girls learn through the fall product and cookie programs here.)

Cadette, Senior, and Ambassador Girl Scouts can also explore the world—or their own communities—through the Destinations program. Click on the link to find out more.

Celebrate Fall, Fitness, and Fun

Five awesome reasons to register for Family Fit Fair.

Fitness, games, music, food—and more! Our third annual Family Fit Fair is GSGLA’s premier fall kick-off event. We’re so excited to welcome nearly a thousand Girl Scouts, family members, and friends to El Dorado East Regional Park on Saturday, Oct. 8. That’s because Family Fit Fair isn’t just about being active and healthy—it’s also a celebration of sisterhood and back-to-troop! But time’s running out to register. Sign up today before our Sept. 22 deadline!

So what’s in store for participants? You can hit the pavement for our fitness challenge, hula hoop by the center stage, and even enjoy tasty treats (food trucks will be on-site). But that’s not all! Here are five awesome reasons to register for Family Fit Fair:

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  1. Run or walk the 5K/2K challenge course in a costume. Get started today planning your troop’s costume theme! (Not to mention Halloween is right around the corner.) Check out our running costume ideas on our Pinterest board. Tag your troop pictures with #FamilyFitFair and we could feature you and your sister Girl Scouts on our social media pages! (Take a look at our photo album from last year’s Family Fit Fair.)

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    Superhero capes for sale at the on-site GSGLA store (available in both colors).
  2. Speaking of costumes – you’ll want to purchase a superhero cape at our on-site GSGLA store! We’ll also be selling sports-themed gear, along with other Girl Scout items brought in especially for the event.

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    Emcee Katelyn Brooke.
  3. Super stuntwoman Katelyn Brooke is our emcee! Katelyn’s acted and performed stunts in a wide variety of productions, including CSI: Cyber, The Other Wife, and the upcoming HBO show Westworld. She’s also a trained boxer and former member of a hip-hop dance crew—talk about multi-talented!
  4. Earn the Go the Distance patch. Family Fit Fair fulfills one of the requirements for this walking and fitness program. Get fit, have fun, and receive a limited edition patch! Girls will also receive a pedometer to track their progress. (Keep in mind—you have to register for Go the Distance before the event.)
  5. Still trying to “catch ‘em all”? You just might find a Pokémon or two (or more!) hanging out around El Dorado East Regional Park, where the event is being held.

And there are plenty of other reasons to attend Family Fit Fair. Sign up before the Sept. 22 deadline*, and join your sister Girl Scouts for a day of fitness and fun, rolled into one!

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* There is no on-site registration—so don’t wait until it’s too late!

Top 5 Tips for First-Year Troop Leaders

Want to make a difference in the lives of girls? Volunteering for Girl Scouts is an immensely rewarding experience—helping to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who will become tomorrow’s leaders. As a volunteer, you will play a key part in your girls’ self-discovery.

Making it through your first year as a troop leader may seem challenging at times—but, no worries, our troop support staff can help you through the process! And fortunately, our volunteers are also gracious with sharing their tricks of the trade.

Angie Saldivar and Kimberly Primo are dishing on their first year as co-leaders of Troop 2116. Check out their “Top 5 Tips for First-Year Troop Leaders”—great advice whether you’re beginning your Girl Scout journey, or have been leading troops for years.

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Daisy Girl Scout Troop 2116 poses for a group photo.

As first-year troop leaders, it’s definitely been an adventure! Both of us had been girls in Girl Scouting, but neither of us had been an adult volunteer before. Our daughters were both interested in becoming Daisies, so we decided to jump all in and start our own troop. This past year we learned many lessons, but most importantly enjoyed the great times with our girls:

  1. PRE-PLAN. Decide ahead of time what you want your girls to accomplish for the year prior to getting started. We sat down together and planned out our “year-at-a-glance” which gave us a realistic idea of the year ahead. The Daisy Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting really helped us understand what themes to cover in each meeting. Use shared services like Google Drive so that both leaders can easily share ideas on the go. (Keep in mind Girl Scouts does encourage troops to be girl-led; however, since it was all our girls’ first year, they didn’t know what to expect or even what to ask for.) As our girls continue to get older, they will start to take over the planning.
  2. READ, READ, READ. There are LOTS of resources available to you, but do not get overwhelmed! The internet and Volunteer Essentials can get overwhelming and scary sometimes, so look to your service unit, council troop support staff, and fellow leaders for guidance on what is required by Girl Scouts. Our service unit provided us with a handy sheet that detailed which forms and other documents we needed to have. Use Pinterest! With a few clicks you can download the app and lose yourself in the rabbit hole. Use specific terms like “Lupe the Lupine” to find great suggestions for age-appropriate activities. As a troop, we started a shared board, which gave us inspiration and a springboard for our planning.
  3. INVEST TIME. Be prepared to spend much of your time devoted to Girl Scouting, especially in the beginning. Other than attending your own troop meetings, there are also monthly service unit meetings. Plus, time for preparing for girl activities and meetings, doing important paperwork (permission slips, financials, etc.)—did we mention paperwork?—and shopping for supplies.
  4. RECRUIT. Recruit a cookie chair! As a leader, you already have your plate full. If you can get a parent to be the cookie/fall product chairperson, you can focus more on your girls. Also, remember if you have parents attending your meetings, they need to have been screened and cleared before becoming Girl Scout volunteers. Ask your parents to help put together a quick craft or activity for an upcoming meeting.
  5. HAVE FUN! Last but definitely not least, take the time to get to know the girls and their interests. Enjoy singing, crafting, and creating with them. And definitely don’t sweat the small stuff.

Thank you to Kimberly and Angie for sharing your valuable insight! Girl Scouts provides a way for volunteers to positively shape the lives of our girls, and create lasting memories—for both the Girl Scouts and their leaders. Don’t forget to register your troop by our deadline: Sept. 23!