April is National Volunteer Month, and we thought it would be the perfect time to share one of our volunteer’s perspectives on being a troop leader! We’ve all heard the phrase “Man Enough to Be a Girl Scout,” and Greg Gressel, the leader for Troop 2163, owns that title with pride! Read on below to hear about his experience as a volunteer with Girl Scouts for the past 15 years.
How did you first get involved with Girl Scouts?
I first became involved 15 years ago when my daughter brought home a paper from school wanting to get involved in Girl Scouts. We all got involved as a family, and I became an assistant leader along with several others in our troop. There came a time when our leader had to step away from leading the troop and the other parents encouraged me to be the leader – they promised they would help, and they did.
I may have been an unlikely candidate for leading a Girl Scout troop, but I took it very seriously – reading everything I could find about Girl Scouts and its history. To this day, I continue to read and educate myself on the organization and what we can do to make it the best leadership and life-forming influence for the girls in our troop.
What is the most rewarding part about being a volunteer and troop leader?
The most rewarding part about being a volunteer and troop leader in Girl Scouts is seeing the difference the program makes in the lives of the girls. It is truly a well-rounded, confidence-and-leadership-building tool for all of them. It builds a team that becomes a family for life. I love to help the girls think deeper as they develop ideas and plans for their Highest Awards – Bronze, Silver, and Gold! I believe it is through Girl Scouts that they master the skills that will shape them for life.
What is one of your favorite memories with your troop?
Wow! That’s a tough question! We have a saying in Girl Scout Troop 2163 – “make memories to last a lifetime.” We have always tried to capture the memories and even reflect on the thing that we have done, so we can see the significance that it had on us. We have always been a high adventure and traveling troop. We have hiked some incredible trails over the years and camped in some beautiful places. We have traveled from California to New York City. We have visited Savannah as a troop five times and working on our sixth. We have traveled to London, Paris, and Switzerland – visiting two of our World Centers, Pax Lodge and Our Chalet.
One memory that has always stuck out to me was while we were hiking up to Our Chalet in Switzerland, my daughter, who was beside me, said “Wow! I can’t believe we are here! I remember eating my Lemon Chalets (her favorite Girl Scout cookie at the time) and saying ‘I’m going to go to Our Chalet one day’ but I never knew it would really come true.” Making little girls’ dreams become a reality are the memories that I will cherish.
Being a troop leader has required some extra creativity this past year. What are some of the ways that your troop has continued to meet and stay involved?
2020 has definitely been a year of challenge, but I believe we are a stronger troop because we met that challenge head-on! The first couple of weeks of the pandemic lockdown consisted of porch drop-offs to the girls with special treats and things for them to do. Then we began Zoom meetings. At this point, the porch drop-offs consisted of items that we would use in our next Zoom meeting. We meet once a week and definitely do not take the summer off! During our Zoom meetings, we worked diligently on badge work, made gallon jar terrariums, learned the art of canning, made strawberry jam, planted trees for Earth Day, planted home vegetable gardens, and many more things.
Once we began meeting back together, we originally did outdoor activities like Memorial Day Flag Placement at a local cemetery, a flag retirement ceremony, building bat boxes for a local city park, and camping.
After this, we transitioned to meeting indoors with social distancing, hand washing, and sanitizing regularly. Although things have been different, we have managed to meet every week and stay connected with each other through it all. One thing about the year that was very significant was the fact that 2020 was the celebration year of the 19th Amendment and Women’s Right to Vote. We had plans to be very active throughout the year with our #2163GirlScoutStrong campaign. I am glad to say that we were able to host ten different activities and events to celebrate this moment in history.
Now speaking of creativity, Troop 2163’s Cookie Truck was an awesome idea for this year! Tell us how you got that idea and how it worked for this year’s Cookie Season?
We have had our “Troop Van” for about 6 years and use it for all kinds of activities and trips. My older girls, who are now in college, always joked that we were “dealing” cookies out of the Girl Scout van and that we should make it a food truck or something. After joking around with the younger girls in the troop now about it, we came up with the idea to make it a Cookie Truck, like a food truck but for Girl Scout Cookies. We started talking about ideas and playing around with graphics, and came up with this final idea. We had friends at three businesses in town – Nick’s Auto & Repair, A&R Glass Company, and Minuteman Press – that helped us with bodywork, creating the window, and creating the magnets and decal work for the “Cookie Truck.” Tying other organizations into the iconic event has really increased the visibility of Girl Scouts in our community.
How did your troop juggle both truck sales and normal booth sales? Has one done better than the other this year?
We have great parent involvement and have been able to have traditional booth sales simultaneously with the Cookie Truck. We have operated as many as three locations at one time. According to the traffic in the locations, all booth types have performed very well.
What has your troop learned from adapting to this new selling method this year?
We have learned that thinking outside of the box helps to bring new attention and life into what we do. People have loved being a part of this new selling idea and anytime you can bring awareness to your cause you should go for it. They have learned also that hard work pays off and gives you great opportunities to do other things.
Has the Cookie Truck helped your troop reach people you otherwise would not have reached?
The Cookie Truck has absolutely increased our visibility and has drawn people to us. We have had a social media presence that has allowed people to see where we would be so that they could come buy cookies.
What were your troop’s Cookie goals this year?
Our goals have been to sell as many cookies as possible. We have doubled our sales from the last several years which has been very exciting. We were not able to sell during the extended weekend of sales because we were completely sold out and there were no cookies available for us to get. This year’s cookie proceeds will go to several community service projects, two Ambassador Girl Scouts completing their Gold Award Projects, and our Trip to Savannah, GA.
If you could give a piece of advice to new volunteers and leaders, what would it be?
Make memories! Think of ways that you can make things special for the girls, things that will add to the memory of the event. Be a part of each other’s lives by celebrating the things that they do outside of Girl Scouting – it creates family and binds you together for life. Do not take the summer off – summer is a time, because of the flexibility of everyone’s schedule, that you can do great things you can’t do during other times.
Thank you to Greg Gressel for sharing his experience as a volunteer! Do you have some tips and insights you would like to share with other leaders? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and share your troop’s story!