Girl Scouts of Colorado is celebrating extraordinary volunteers throughout the state in honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month. Jill Hoilman from 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 Jill 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?
In 2000, my daughter became a Daisy. And as so many other moms before me, I was introduced to the Girl Scout organization. The following year the troop needed an assistant leader, so I joined at the Brownie level to help the troop out. In 2002, the main troop leader moved away and I was asked by the other parents to take the troop on. Wanting to give careful thought to the commitment and make sure the organization would be compatible with my Christian beliefs, I researched Girl Scouts of the USA. That year was the 90th anniversary and a new theme had just been released. It was “Girl Scouts, For Every Girl, Everywhere.” That really spoke to me. I loved the idea of a club that accepted every girl. As a public school teacher, I saw the value in bringing girls together outside of school work to camp, sing, do crafts, and develop leadership skills. As a parent, I welcomed the opportunity for my daughter to get to know girls from all walks of life and travel to meet girls in other countries. And now, 20 years later, I am still involved in providing the program to every girl, everywhere.
Tell us about your different volunteer roles as a Girl Scout.
My favorite role is that of troop leader. I have had 11 troops over the years and each of the girls has a place in my heart. I still hear from many of them. As an avid camper I have enjoyed roles of unit camp director, day camp organizer, and volunteer staff at council camps. In my unit, I have served as the treasurer, recruiter, large events coordinator, service unit manager, and currently, program director for 6th – 12th grade troops. At the state level, I was a charter member of the MCC. I served nine years as a national representative, attending GSUSA conventions in Georgia, Indiana, and Texas. I supervised the Colorado Girl Delegates at two of those conventions which allowed me to work with girls from all around the state and the nation.
One can hardly be in Girl Scouts for 20 years without being involved in the Cookie Program. I have held volunteer positions at the troop, unit, area, and state level. Many of the positions I held as a cookie team member no longer exist. Did you know that originally we set around a table at council with slips of paper from troops listing their booth sale request? Then, we manually assigned the sales. I remember the first computer program that was written in-house at the council level to do this function. It was so exciting to leave the council office late that night when it was completed, drive home, turn on our single home computer, and receive the test email to see if it was going to work! How far we have come to our fabulous programs of today. The Girl Scout organization continues to evolve with the times.
What have you learned as a Girl Scout volunteer?
I have been learning right along with the girls over the years as we have gone on field trips to the Dumb Friends League, a sewage plant, the bank, NREL, the fire station, a dam, a female mechanic, a news/weather station, homeless shelter, the emissions station, the post office, the sheriffs station, and a hospital ER. It gives me great satisfaction that the girls are expanding their knowledge with each of these experiences. Each badge develops a unique skill set and encourages lifelong learning.
I have also learned from the girls! My high school troops keep me up to date with technology. I got my first smartphone only because the girls promised to help me learn to use it. That skill allows me to keep in contact with troops in a way email does not, especially the high school girls. Honestly, I balked a bit when COVID-19 caused our troops to move to Zoom meetings. I considered that it might be time to retire since I was going to have so many new things to learn in using the virtual format. But, then I thought of the 55 girls I am currently working with and wondered what all those girls would do during the long months of the pandemic. So, I plunged in and with the help of my high school girls and some other leaders, got a Zoom account, and learned how to use its programs. After some trial and error, we have developed a format of girls picking up a supply sack from a table in my driveway a few days before the meeting. Then, on meeting day we get together on Zoom and open up the bags. The girls enjoy having hands-on items to work on as we earn badges together virtually. The younger troops have baked, painted, worked in clay, and earned a cookie badge. 23 of the unit Seniors completed the Sow What? Journey (including the Take Action project of decorating and filling Thanksgiving dinner boxes for 31 families). And, many are finishing up the Games Visionary badge. Both Senior and Ambassador troops earned the new Democracy badge. One of my Ambassador troops had a blast with the Photography badge and another focused on College Knowledge. We have supplemented with online resources from Girl Scouts of Colorado and a few girls have attended badge seminars. While we are all anxious to see each other again, we are persevering at home, together.
What do you hope girls have learned from you?
It’s important to me that the girls realize this is their club. They should set the mood and atmosphere, creating a safe, no judgement, place to meet and work together. Certainly, they need to be taught how to do this and it starts in Daisies. I begin by encouraging the girls to help each other. When one asks to have her orange pealed or juice box opened or craft assembled, I direct her to find a sister Girl Scout who has already managed to do it. So, we look around and see who is doing the job well. Then, we ask her to assist the girl who wants help. It is very affirming at six-years-old to be recognized as being good enough at something that an adult ask you to help another six-year-old. My job then as the adult is to make sure every girl is recognized and all play a part in the “helping.” As girls advance through the program, this skillset continues to develop through Take Action projects, leadership roles, PA Training, and Highest Awards, allowing girls to build confidence and character.
Want to nominate a volunteer for Girl Scouts of Colorado to spotlight? Please email Public Relations Director AnneMarie Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org.