Volunteer Spotlight: Tiffany Baker

Girl Scouts of Colorado is celebrating extraordinary volunteers throughout the state in honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month. Tiffany Baker from Highlands Ranch/ Lone Tree the Metro Denver region is a shining example of the wonderful role Girl Scout volunteers play in the lives of girls and our community.

GSCO asked Tiffany to answer a few quick questions about her volunteer experience. We hope you find her as inspiring as we did.

Why did you become a Girl Scout volunteer?

I became a Girl Scout volunteer to create opportunities for girls that they might not otherwise have. These opportunities include access to guest speakers, special tours, unique overnight experiences / other events only offered to Girl Scouts, outdoor skills, Highest Awards projects, certifications (camp counselor, babysitter, first aid, CPR, etc.), travel, and access to a community of adults who help form a village of knowledgeable support for developing leaders.  

Looking back at my elementary school days, groups of girls wearing Girl Scout uniforms would gather together and they seemed so happy to be part of a club. To me, their uniforms were a symbol that they, belonged.  When I asked my parents if I could join, they were “too busy” to take me.  So, I created a club with the neighbor kids, where we hid in a ditch with weeds much taller than us as the makeshift walls of our clubhouse. As a child who was abused and had a parent struggling with addictions, I felt these experiences prepared me to be an empathetic ear to girls who struggle with adversity.  We are a small link, in an historic chain of women, helping to make a positive difference one generation at a time.

For years, girls in our troop assumed I was paid to be their troop leader, like a piano or ballet teacher. My simple response has been, “I get paid in smiles.”  Those smiles sometimes looked like unsolicited greeting cards created by the girls, laughter when they’re comfortable to express themselves, increased self-confidence when they’ve picked up a new skill, or simply renewing their membership during Early Bird. In reality, our volunteer time is one of the biggest gifts we can offer youth because we’ve decided that we are not “too busy” to develop and provide opportunities for their growth.

As a volunteer, we have the unique opportunity to create programming that draws girls in for learning not found in a textbook. Sometimes, these lessons can be messy (both literally and figuratively). However, the messy lessons can be the most important challenges for girls to take-on and we can offer them a safe place to do just that.  

I also became a volunteer to be able to share Girl Scout experiences with my own two daughters. They have never questioned whether or not to continue in Girl Scouts, because they will tell you that it is a part of who they are.  As the daughters of a troop leader volunteer, they have often seen the work involved in coordinating large scale events, are regularly the girls who help with set-up / take-down, and are typically the first to know when a girl has left or joined our troop. They have grown to understand and appreciate what volunteerism can look like, which is often giving more of ourselves than is required in order to serve our communities.   

Tell us about your different volunteer roles as a Girl Scout.

Troop Leader for 10 years, who has volunteered with over eighty Girls Scouts in the Lone Tree / Highlands Ranch area.

What have you learned as a Girl Scout volunteer? 

Being a Girl Scout volunteer has challenged me to learn how to work with different personalities/abilities. We cannot change the way other people behave, but we can adjust our personal expectations of them according to what we know.

Girl Scouts has challenged me to learn new skills like backpacking and every outdoor bread making technique that exists. I had a co-leader that found it amusing to put me (the non-cook) in charge of bread making at every troop camp for years.  Love her.  

Girl Scout volunteering has also challenged me to face my fears.  I wouldn’t ask the girls to take on a challenge that I am not willing to try myself.  Only for Girl Scouts, have I done rock rappelling and an extreme ropes course, due to my ongoing fear of heights.  There’s also my anxiety with public speaking in front of other adults, which I deal with when hosting special ceremonies and family scouting events (I’d rather have my teeth scraped than have focus on my public speaking).

I have also questioned how prepared I would be if faced with a real-life emergency situation, which I met when carpooling Brownies home from a troop camp at Lazy Acres. There was a motorcyclist driving 80 mph without a helmet who lost control of his bike. Our volunteers had just spoken with our Brownies about multiple uses for bandannas and there I was using a Girl Scout bandanna to help keep bandages on a biker’s head, while also restricting his movements by propping one of his sides against a rolled up sleeping bag, until EMS arrived to the scene. It is because of Girl Scouts that my first aid / CPR certifications are always up-to-date and that I had supplies on hand. Be Prepared.   

The girls who have been the most actively engaged in our troop have parents that understand the program. Try to include more volunteers whenever possible.

What do you hope girls have learned from you? 

I feel it’s important for kids to know that adults don’t know everything.  Life is a journey of learning, and we will find success with a growth mindset. My hope is that girls become confident that they can find solutions to needs in their communities and take action. Inclusion of people with different backgrounds and abilities can help us all to understand that everyone has something to share. Celebrate diversity, learn from failures, and always stay connected to people who can be part of your support network. Appreciate the people who give their time freely because they understand what it takes to create positive change.  Volunteering means that you are not too busy to care for the wellbeing of others. Find your passions, get involved, and volunteer.

Want to nominate a volunteer for Girl Scouts of Colorado to spotlight? Please email Public Relations Director AnneMarie Harper at annemarie.harper@gscolorado.org.