Girl Scouts of Colorado is celebrating extraordinary volunteers throughout the state in honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month. Erin Sullivan-Ortiz of Greeley in the Northern & Northeastern CO region is a shining example of the wonderful role Girl Scout volunteers play in the lives of girls and our community.
GSCO asked Erin 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 for several reasons! I was a Girl Scout myself, and my mom was my troop leader for a while. Some of my favorite childhood memories were formed in Girl Scouts, many of my values were strengthened through Girl Scouts, and two of my still-best friends were sister Girl Scouts! My grandmother, whose only child was a son (my dad), was a Girl Scout volunteer for over 50 years! Her commitment to empowering girls was nothing short of inspiring. Given this rich family history with Girl Scouts, when my daughter joined Girl Scouts in kindergarten as a Daisy, it felt completely natural to join as a troop volunteer!
Tell us about your different volunteer roles as a Girl Scout.
I started as a troop volunteer. I could not attend most regular meetings with my work schedule, so my first couple of years I helped plan events and ceremonies, organized speakers for meetings, and supported wherever else I could. I became a co-leader of our multi-level troop and “cookie mom” my third year, and the next year took on overall troop leadership (yay paperwork!) as well as continued to lead my daughter’s level (Brownies). I continued those roles, moving to Juniors with my daughter!
What have you learned as a Girl Scout volunteer?
So much! I’ve learned even more about how thoughtful, innovative, compassionate, generous, and creative girls can be! I’ve learned the importance of slowing down to give each girl the space and time to explore and express her own opinions, thoughts, and feelings. I’ve learned that collectively, they are even more amazing than the sum of the individuals, which is saying something since they are each so unique and wonderful! I’ve learned that by creating our own annual traditions, like camping trips or ceremonies, we are not only creating opportunities to develop memories, but cumulatively reinforcing special memories from years past – and with them, unbreakable bonds of sisterhood. I’ve learned how powerful it is for younger girls to have older girls to look up to, and how engaging it can be for older girls to have younger girls to guide and teach.
I’ve also learned that the community as a whole loves to support Girl Scouts! We’ve had so much support from so many people and organizations, from the Larimer County Park Rangers teaching us about how to “Leave No Trace,” to the CSU Society of Women Engineers helping us earn an engineering badge, to local businesses encouraging our pursuit of booths for cookie sales, to people taking time out of their busy lives to share their passion and/or career with our troop, and so many more. I’ve figured out that if we think creatively as a group, we can find support for just about any interest we want to pursue!
Furthermore, I’ve again learned about the power of friendship as an adult. Our troop leadership team and volunteers are so incredible and engaged. I’ve learned that as an adult involved with Girl Scouts, not only do I get to support the girls, but I also get to make special memories and create/strengthen bonds with other parents who care about these girls and their success as much as I do!
What do you hope girls have learned from you?
I hope they’ve learned that they are capable of more than they thought possible. I hope they’ve learned that they are powerful, and truly can make an impact when they put their minds to it. I hope they’ve learned to listen to and care for their sister Girl Scouts and others. I hope they have learned to see the issues in their community as opportunities for change rather than just something to be sad or feel helpless about. I hope they’ve really learned the concepts of the Girl Scout Promise and Law, and creatively employ those in their everyday lives, now and in the future!
How has your experience as a volunteer helped you become a G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader)?
Anybody who tries to wrangle 22 second through fifth graders on a Friday after school for 2.5 hours will have their leadership skills stretched! 🙂
Some of the leadership skills I’ve developed by volunteering with and then leading this troop include patience, teamwork, and the ever-important skill of delegating. We’ve had to be innovative in how we connect with our community and make BIG things happen (like installing a drinking fountain/water bottle refill station at a local shelter, hosting a fun run to raise awareness about how to support kids going through tough medical situations, and more) while still encouraging our young troop to take the lead. These girls have huge ideas and even bigger hearts; daring to take the risk to pursue these projects rather than saying “no, that’s too big of an idea,” asking the girls questions and pushing them to figure out how to facilitate the ideas becoming reality, and then getting out of their way (!!) has been challenging to say the least. I could not ask for a better reward than hearing one of our troop members say to another last summer on the way back from a camping trip, “I LOVE Girl Scouts. I never want to quit being a Girl Scout!”
So worth it. I know they’ll keep challenging themselves, each other, me, and the world around them!
Want to nominate a volunteer for Girl Scouts of Colorado to spotlight? Please email Public Relations Director AnneMarie Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The nomination deadline for 2020 Volunteer Recognition Awards is April 30. GSCO invites members statewide to take this opportunity to recognize an outstanding volunteer by nominating them for a Volunteer Recognition Award. Nominators are responsible for ensuring enough endorsements are submitted to support their nomination of a volunteer for an award. Your volunteer support specialist can check nomination and endorsement submissions for you. Learn more.