In honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month, Girl Scouts of Colorado is celebrating extraordinary volunteers throughout the state. Heather Gardner, leader of Troop 675 in the Mountaineers Service Unit, was nominated as a shining example of the wonderful role Girl Scout volunteers play in the lives of girls and our community!
For the last three years, Heather has led her high school troop to plan a girl empowerment event, Perfectly Imperfect, Perfectly You!, with a great guest speaker. Last year, it was 9News Traffic Reporter and pilot Amelia Earhart. This year, it will be celebrity mountain climber Meghan Martin. Heather is described as “articulate and passionate about giving 5th-8th grade girls the tools for self esteem, confidence building, and more as they either enter or are in the middle school years.”
We asked Heather to answer a few questions about her experiences as a Girl Scout volunteer. We hope you find her story as inspiring as we did!
How long have you been a Girl Scout?
This is my 10th year being a Girl Scout leader/volunteer.
Why did you become a Girl Scout volunteer?
I became a Girl Scout volunteer to allow my daughter the opportunity to be in Girl Scouts. When I was 6-years-old, I tried to join Girl Scouts, but there were no troops or volunteers in my area. When my daughter was in first grade, we went to an orientation meeting and they did not have any available troops or volunteers for our area. I did not want her to miss out on Girl Scouts as I did, so I started a troop.
Tell us about your different volunteer roles as a Girl Scout.
Girl Scouts allows so many different volunteer roles and growth as a leader. Just a few of the roles I have had the privilege to fill are leader, cookie manager, troop secretary, finance advisor, volunteer coordinator, community outreach, overnight troop camping, CPR/First aid training, event planner, website designer, a second mom, friend, etc. There are so many ways to contribute as an individual, your strengths can always be utilized.
What have you learned as a Girl Scout volunteer? What do you hope girls have learned from you?
The sky’s the limit! Don’t be afraid to think big, and never be afraid to ask. I truly try to set the example that everything is possible. When I first started to suggest ideas to the troop for events and/or guest speakers, I think my girls thought I was crazy. They never thought we could get so much support from our community, celebrity role models, other troops, etc. I believe I have inspired the girls to think big and that anything is possible.
What is your favorite Girl Scout memory?
There are so many Girl Scout memories to choose from! Three of my favorite and most memorable moments were: 1.) Our troop was planning for our next girl empowerment event, and I had just flown in from a week-long business trip the day prior and was super tired. We were brainstorming for our event’s activities and completely got off topic. Some of the silliest things were said and laughed about that night. I truly believe you have to have those moments with your girls! If you ask any of them about it, they will know exactly what I’m talking about. 2.) One of the proudest moments of being a volunteer, was at our very first troop hosted the girl empowerment event. I remember that one of the younger attendees was having some anxiety issues, and one of my older girls took her under her wing and spent time just talking to her. I can’t tell you how proud I was of that moment, and how I felt that everything I did as a volunteer completely paid off then. 3.) Our troop went to Magic Sky Ranch for our annual family camping trip. This was the first time we had been to MSR, and we were in awe when we watched a lightning storm from our cabin window. We all sat there for about an hour in complete darkness, just enjoying the spectacle and each other’s company.
What words of advice do you have for other volunteers?
Ask for help! I am somewhat controlling, and have really had a tough time listening to my own advice. Over the last couple of years, I have asked for more help than ever – from my co-leader, parents, community, and girls. Surprisingly, people really do want to help, you just have to be specific with what you need. It can be as simple as asking to host a troop sleepover, picking up cookies and running cookie booths, helping with sewing on patches, sending out meeting reminders, going to monthly leader meetings, coming up with volunteer ideas, etc. If you try to do everything yourself, it no longer feels like a troop and you will tire fast. Ask for help and everyone feels involved and has a happier troop.
Want to nominate a volunteer for Girl Scouts of Colorado to spotlight? Please email Public Relations Director AnneMarie Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org.