Monday, March 31, 2014

Young Women of Distinction Luncheon and Twenty-Second Annual Southeast Auction Draw Crowds, Support Girl Scouting in Alaska

Most charitable nonprofits, including Girl Scouts of Alaska, rely on the generosity of corporate and individual donors for some or all of their funding. GSAK is fortunate to have many generous donors! Donors who give to Girl Scouts of Alaska are investing in the next generation of female leaders. Their money supports Alaska's girls through a variety of pathways including troop membership, summer camp in 35 communities, council events, and series such as our Girl Scout all-girl LEGO robotics teams.

Young Women of Distinction Luncheon 

The highest achievement in Girl Scouting, the Girl Scout Gold Award challenges Girl Scout Seniors (grades 9-10) and Ambassadors (grades 11-12) to improve their world. Girls who pursue the Gold Award aspire to transform an idea into an actionable plan with measurable, sustainable, and far-reaching results.    

This year GSAK honored its eight Gold Award earners at a luncheon in their honor: Sierra De La Cruz, Anchorage; Ellie Hakari, Palmer; Emilyanne Lohrey, Juneau; Sarah Miller, Chugiak; Diane Murph, Petersburg; Nicole Nelson, Juneau; Margaret Wallace, Chugiak; and Lydia Weiss, Chugiak. The event was held  March 26 at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage. 

L to R: GSAK CEO Sue Perles, Sarah Miller, Ellie Hakari, 
Sierra De La Cruz, Diane Murph, and Deborah Bonito

More than 300 attendees turned out for the event, which featured speeches from four of the Gold Award earners. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Girl Scout alumna and member of honorary Congressional Girl Scout troop Troop Capitol Hill, addressed the girls via video. “I wanted to say thank you for all that you have done in your communities around Alaska,” Murkowski said. “The [Gold Award] is an excellent opportunity to highlight the dedicated young women who are influencing their towns and neighborhoods in positive ways.”

Deborah Bonito, wife of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and a former Girl Scout, presented the girls their Gold Awards. GSAK CEO Sue Perles, GSAK Board Chair Mary Siroky, and GSAK Board Second Vice Chair Beth Nordlund addressed the girls and luncheon attendees. 

GSAK Board Chair Mary Siroky (L) with Jane Angvik, 
our Camp Singing Hills capital campaign chair 

“We had an impressive group of Gold Award earners this year,” GSAK CEO Sue Perles said. “Their projects required them to think deeply, explore opportunities, and challenge themselves. The Gold Award shapes leaders for today and the future. The work these girls will do – be it in public service, business, science, education, or the arts – will make a positive mark on their communities that create a lasting impact on the lives of others.”

The 2014 YWOD luncheon drew more than 300 attendees

Though there was no charge for the luncheon there was a suggested minimum donation of $100, and many donated more. Corporate donors included Alaska Commercial Company, ConocoPhillips, Donlin Gold, and Wells Fargo.

Twenty-Second Annual Southeast Auction 

GSAK's Annual Southeast Auction is a can’t-miss event that supports Girl Scouting in Southeast Alaska. This year's auction featured a silent and outcry auction and, as always, delicious hors d’oeuvres and libations. It was held Feb. 15 at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. 

Volunteers in Juneau worked to gather a variety of desirable auction items. Silent auction items included furs, purses and jewelry; a vacuum cleaner and chainsaw donated by The Home Depot; a flight to and hotel stay in Gustavus; a day of sailing; and a geoduck dinner for eight. Outcry auction items included round-trip Alaska Airlines tickets and an ocean voyage to Seattle aboard a TOTE ocean freighter.

GSAK board member Shari Paul bids on a silent auction item

“The Southeast Auction is one of Juneau’s premier annual events,” said Mary Siroky, GSAK board president and Southeast Auction committee member. “This fun and exciting event draws community members and Girl Scout supporters from across the state. Our supporters help make the Girl Scout Leadership Experience – which helps girls to discover themselves, connect with others and take action to create positive change in their communities – available to all girls in Southeast Alaska, regardless of socioeconomic status or ability to pay.”

The Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, all decked out for the 22nd Annual Southeast Auction

The Southeast Auction committee is composed of Juneau residents Susan Cox, Cherry Eckland, Sharon Fishel, Cori Mills, Shari Paul, Margaret Pugh and Mary Siroky. GSAK received corporate support from BP and event support from Abby's Kitchen & Catering, Viking Lounge & Pull Tabs, and KTOO Public Media. 

We thank our board members, volunteers, and community members for their support at both the 2014 Young Women of Distinction luncheon and the 22nd Annual Southeast Auction! If you would like to give to GSAK directly, please visit the donor page on our website. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

‘Bling your booth’ to boost cookie sales, have lots of fun, and win prizes!

Girl Scouts of Alaska girls, parents, and troop leaders know that the Girl Scout Cookie Program teaches girls invaluable skills such as goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—aspects essential to leadership, to success, and to life.

One-hundred percent of the money girls raise through the Girl Scout Cookie Program – every penny after paying the baker – stays in Alaska with the council and troops. Cookie proceeds benefit girls across the council by keeping Girl Scouting affordable for all girls; subsidizing the registration cost of GSAK camps; supporting girl programming, curriculum and events; and providing scholarships to girls and troops experiencing financial barriers.

What girls, parents, and troop leaders might not know is that selling cookies is just plain fun! Girls spend time with their friends, earn great items when they reach their sales goals, and attend exciting events centered around the Girl Scout Cookie Program. For example, in January, Mat-Su Girl Scouts attended a Cookie Kickoff Party where they spent the night at the local community center and enjoyed a taco dinner, Cookie Program learning stations, games, community service projects, movies, and more.

One way girls can reach their cookie-selling goals while flexing their creative muscles is through “bling your booth” efforts. Setting up fun, blinged-out booths communicates both professionalism and excitement to potential buyers. Anything fun, bright, colorful, energetic, and creative will attract customers – just be sure to follow the guidelines set by your booth sponsor. Ideas include posters, background music, balloons and tablecloths, a theme, and costumes. You’re limited only by your imagination, so brainstorm with your troop and troop leader creative ideas you would like to implement!

For inspiration, check out Pinterest and what girls in the Girl Scouts of Connecticut council did to bling out their booths.  

We want to see what girls across the Girl Scouts of Alaska council are doing to bling out their booths! E-mail us a picture of your booth and include your troop number and the troop leader’s name and contact info. Submissions must be received by 5 p.m Friday, March 28 to be considered. The winning troop will receive a $25 gift card to the GSAK council store (good for store credit only). Submissions will be judged by GSAK staff. The winner will be posted to the GSAK Facebook page by 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 2.

With your help, we look forward to a fun and successful 2014 cookie season!         

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Gearing Up for the 2014 Girl Scout Cookie Season

What do goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics have in common? They are aspects essential to leadership, to success, and to life, and they are acquired through participation in the Girl Scout Cookie Program!

Cadettes unload cookies

One-hundred percent of the money girls raise through the Girl Scout Cookie Program – every penny after paying the baker – stays with the council and troops. Girl Scout cookie sales fund programs, camps, and activities for Alaska's girls. Along the way, girls discover fun and friendship and acquire the values that will guide them along life’s path.

“The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl financial literacy program in the world,” GSAK CEO Sue Perles said. “One of the most important lessons you can teach a girl is how to set a challenging goal and reach it. The cookie program allows girls to set two kinds of group goals: What can we do with our cookie money to help others, and what can we do with our cookie money for fun and learning? Girls also set personal-learning goals, such as money-management skills or business ethics. Nationwide, an incredible 80 percent of women business owners were Girl Scouts. Our alumnae are living proof that what we teach girls today impacts them tomorrow."     

Girls earn recognition items and cookie credits, which can be applied toward a girl's camp registration fee. What’s more, the Girl Scout Cookie Program benefits girls across the council by:
  • Keeping Girl Scouting affordable for all girls;
  • Subsidizing the registration cost of GSAK camps;
  • Supporting girl programming, curriculum, and events; and
  • Providing grants to girls and troops experiencing financial barriers. 

Girl Scout Cookies are an icon of American culture. For nearly 100 years, Girl Scouts, with the enthusiastic support of their families, have helped ensure the success of the annual sale. From its earliest beginnings to its current popularity, selling Girl Scout Cookies has helped girls have fun, develop valuable life skills, and make their communities a better place. It’s a time-honored program that works!

If you want to know more about cookies, ask a Girl Scout - she would love to give you the scoop!

Barbara Knaak serves as the Chugiak/Eagle River Service Unit cookie manager. She also leads a Cadette troop. Barbara initially got involved with the Girl Scout Cookie Program four years ago because there was a need, but she has stayed involved “because the rewards are awesome. My daughter, who’s now in eighth grade, sold nearly 250 boxes of cookies last year so she was able to go to camp. Our troop used the money to attend Encampment. When the girls earn the money themselves and then figure out what to do with it, it empowers them and boosts their confidence.”

Barbara’s daughter, Janna, has Prader-Willi syndrome, which causes developmental and cognitive delays. “Selling cookies is really good for her,” Barbara said. “I don’t even take the order form to work – she calls my friends and co-workers herself. She has to tally up the total boxes of cookies, figure out who’s paid and who still owes her money. Janna will sit there all day selling cookies. It puts her out there. I’ve seen it with the other girls too – once they find their groove, they excel.”   

2014 booth sales will run Feb. 28-April 6 in select communities 

2013 Cookie Facts
  • 2,725 girls in our council sold Girl Scout cookies
  • Girls in our council sold more than 500,000 boxes of cookies
  • Last year’s top-selling individual was an Anchorage girl who sold 3,138 boxes of cookies
  • Last year’s top-selling troop was a Mat-Su troop that sold 12,725 boxes of cookies
This year we are selling the “Super Six” cookie varieties: Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, Trefoils, Do-Si-Dos, and Savannah Smiles. Thin Mints are the top-selling Girl Scout cookie in America, while Samoas are the top-seller in Alaska.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Alaskans support GSAK through Pick.Click.Give.

Pick.Click.Give. allows Alaskans to share their Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) with causes they care about. Girl Scouts of Alaska is pleased to announce we are part of Pick.Click.Give. for 2014.

Based on the program’s history of success, GSAK is excited to participate this year! Money received through Pick.Click.Give. will enable GSAK to expand leadership opportunities for girls, help send girls to camp, reach more girls in underserved communities, and develop volunteers to ensure high-quality program delivery.

"Courage" in Hooper Bay

Spearheaded by the Anchorage Youth Development Coalition, GSAK has joined other youth-serving organizations to establish a joint marketing campaign called “LovealaskaYouth.” “Anchorage’s youth represent 30 percent of our population and 100 percent of our future,” said Deborah Williams, executive director of the Anchorage Youth Development Coalition. “Our youth are our most important natural resource, and investing in them through Pick.Click.Give. is both critically important and rewarding.”

Chugiak resident Gretchen Wehmhoff donates to GSAK through the Pick.Click.Give program because she believes “Girl Scouts is one of the best organizations for empowering young women.” A retired educator and current troop leader, Gretchen is a lifetime member of Girl Scouts (she started as a Brownie when she moved to Alaska in 1966) who received the organization’s highest achievement. (The highest achievement is currently called the Girl Scout Gold Award, but it has been known in the past as the Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar, and First Class.) As an adult Gretchen received the Honor Pin, which recognizes an individual’s exemplary service in support of delivering the Girl Scout Leadership Experience in two or more geographic areas. “Pick.Click.Give. is so easy because I look at the PFD as ‘free money.’ I donate to three organizations every year, and Girl Scouts is always one of them,” Gretchen said.

Embracing the possibilities in Metlakatla

Anchorage resident Karen Jordan served on the GSAK board 2010-2013. Currently, she serves as a member of our Finance Committee. “I usually give my big donation to Girl Scouts at the Young Women of Distinction luncheon, but in 2012 I decided to donate through Pick.Click.Give. I wanted to set an example and encourage folks who might not be able to attend the luncheon to give. What’s great about the Pick.Click.Give program is it gives participants the opportunity to not only seek out new organizations, but make an additional gift to those organizations they already support.”   

The 2014 PFD filing period runs Jan. 1 through March 31. Donating is easy:

1. Complete your PFD online 
2. Choose "Participate in Pick.Click.Give." 
3. Search for "Girl Scouts of Alaska" 
4. Choose "Girl Scouts of Alaska"
5. Contribute 

For information about the Pick.Click.Give. program, visit

Monday, December 16, 2013

Senior volunteers helping GSAK create tomorrow's female leaders

Alaskan seniors are lending their time, talents, skills and expertise to Girl Scouts of Alaska.

Seniors play an integral role in helping non-profit organizations such as GSAK fulfill their missions. According to data released this year by the Corporation for National and Community Service, senior volunteering is at a 10-year high – one in three volunteers is a senior age 55 and older. These men and women tap a lifetime of experience to help a variety of faith-based, social service, health, educational and civic organizations. 

“Volunteers are an important part of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience,” GSAK CEO Sue Perles said. “Adult volunteers act as cheerleaders, guides and mentors for girls, helping them develop skills and confidence. Our senior volunteers are especially valued because they can share the skills and talents they’ve developed over a lifetime with our girls, helping shape tomorrow’s leaders.”

Leading a troop is one way to participate. GSAK senior volunteers also coach LEGO robotics teams, present at Women of Science workshops, lend administrative support in our council office, and help out at summer camps.

A volunteer leads a kite-making activity

For 44 years, Anchorage resident Judy Weimer has volunteered with Girl Scouts. A retired elementary-school teacher, Weimer currently leads three troops and serves as treasurer of her Service Team. Service Units are neighborhoods or regions comprised of troops and managed by Service Team volunteers.

“Working as a troop leader, I see the difference Girl Scouts makes in the lives of girls. The younger girls learn the basics of being a good, moral human being, and the older girls learn to give back to their community and why it’s important. Girls of all ages learn leadership skills, which makes them stronger people and capable of doing things they may not have tried otherwise. I’ve seen shy girls develop the confidence to organize and lead an event for 400 people. Girl Scouts gives girls opportunities they simply don’t get elsewhere,” Judy said.

Combining her love of travel with her passion for volunteering has taken Girl Scout troop leader Kim Ballard to Japan and Ireland, with a European excursion planned for 2016. Ballard was a Girl Scout herself, having achieved the organization's highest achievement. (The highest achievement is currently called the Girl Scout Gold Award, but it has been known in the past as the Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar, and First Class.)

“I always say, ‘Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout,’” Kim said. “Unlike many people my age I still work full time, but I volunteer with Girl Scouts because the organization’s values are ones I want to perpetuate. I think it’s very important for girls to have something that builds their self-esteem. The activities we do as a troop, the girls take it one step further. They’re so enthusiastic. That’s what I love about the organization.”

In November 11-year-old Sarah Mixsell, a member of one of Kim’s three Girl Scout troops, received the "Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy" award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Alaska Chapter, for her Alaska Kids for Kids charity. Sarah thanked Kim during her acceptance speech.

Kim herself was recently appointed to by the World Foundation for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, Inc., to serve a three-year term on the Friends of Our Chalet Committee of the World Foundation. Our Chalet, located in Adelboden, Switzerland, is one of four Girl Scout world centers. The other three are in located in Hampstead Village, England, Cuernavaca, Mexico, and Pune, India.

Darryl Royce, director of community outreach for AARP Alaska, said senior volunteerism was a driving force behind the creation of AARP. “Our founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, had a motto: ‘To sere, not be served.’ Volunteerism was a founding tenant of our organization. The thing I try to drive home to seniors is that their experience is relevant. No matter your age, you can use your life experiences, skills, and passions in your community today.”

Volunteers at 2013 Encampment

Ola Williams has helped manage the Girl Scout Cookie Program for the Mat-Su Valley for 13 years. She was never a Girl Scout herself and did not have daughters in the program, but she started managing her best friend's daughter's troop in the late 1970s in upstate New York. Ola became involved with the Cookie Program as a troop leader, and later served as cookie depot manager in Ithaca, N.Y. When Ola moved to Alaska in 1999, she knew she wanted maintain her involvement with the program.    

"The Girl Scout Cookie Program is such a worthwhile program for the girls. I own my own business and in the spring I pretty much schedule my time at work around the cookie sale. For myself, not having kids of my own, it's a way to keep in contact with younger people. I've touched hundreds of girls’ lives because of my involvement with the program. Girls will stop me in the grocery store and say, 'You’re the cookie lady!'” 

With the help of more than 1,500 adult volunteers, Girl Scouts of Alaska serves nearly 6,000 girls in communities from Bethel to Ketchikan. To volunteer, contact the member service specialist in your area:

  • Anchorage (midtown, Sand Lake, south-side, and west-side): Amanda Morgan, 907-273-0310
  • Anchorage (north-side, east-side, JBER, Eagle River): Sarah Guthrie, 907-273-0314
  • Bethel and Southwest Alaska: Amy Von Diest, 907-273-0317
  • Kenai Peninsula and Copper Center, Cordova, Glennallen, Kenny Lake, Kodiak, Valdez: Roslyn Lack, 907-602-8619
  • Juneau and the upper Southeast region: Taralee Ellis, 907-586-1710
  • Ketchikan and the lower Southeast region: Victoria Lord, 907-617-2160
  • Mat-Su: Julie Alexander, 907-376-3822

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Adult Learning Summit Draws Volunteers from Across the State

They came from Bethel, Kodiak, Ketchikan and Homer. They learned how to conduct ceremonies and traditions, work with youth with disabilities, lead environmental education programs, and even basic bow and arrow skills. 

GSAK's fourth annual Adult Learning Summit, held November 8-9 in Anchorage, taught adult volunteers about GSAK, strengthened their youth-development skills, and allowed them to network with other volunteers. This fun and educational two-day event also included an awards ceremony and addresses from U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and state Rep. Mia Costello.

 GSAK CEO Sue Perles (left) with Anchorage Rep. Mia Costello 

“Our goal is to better prepare our adult volunteers,” Director of Program & Membership Tasha Nichols said. “When adults gain skills and strengthen their techniques, it creates a better and more positive experience for our girls.” 

Valerie Peace is a troop leader in Anchorage. This was her second year attending the Adult Learning Summit. “When I found out Girl Scouts was holding the event again, I was ecstatic,” Valerie said. “Last year I was desperate for information. I’d just become a troop leader and I needed basic information on what do to and how to do it. An unanticipated benefit was meeting incredible volunteers from across the state; I was mesmerized by their talent, experience and think-outside-the-box approach. This year I was able to connect more with these volunteers. They shared experiences my girls are champing at the bit to do. I came away feeling hopeful and energized.” 

A volunteer from Kodiak (left) and Victoria Lord, member service specialist for Ketchikan and the lower Southeast region, attend a "Journey to Girl Scouting" learning session

GSAK works with 1,500 adult volunteers to help create a safe, inclusive environment for Alaska’s diverse population of girls. Guided by these volunteers, girls develop qualities that will serve them all their lives. 

More than 60 volunteers attended the 2013 Adult Learning Summit. Ten individuals and four Service Units received awards for their volunteer contributions to GSAK. Service Units are neighborhoods or regions comprised of troops and managed by volunteers.  

  2013 Adult Award recipients 

Anne Kurland, who volunteers as GSAK's Juneau Service Unit manager, was both an attendee and presenter at this year’s Adult Learning Summit. “This is my third time attending the summit. I love connecting with volunteers from all over the state and sharing ideas and stories," Anne said. "Everyone has so much to offer, and I always go home feeling more enthused than ever about all the possibilities of Girl Scouting.” 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Anchorage Forget-Me-Not Group Builds Bonds, Strengthens Ties

For a group of former and current Girl Scouts, the bonds they developed and nurtured over the years have led to lasting friendships. Known as the Forget-Me-Not Breakfast Group, these Anchorage-based women meet once a month to chat and reminisce. 

From left: Janice Baber and Joy Kutz. From right: Benita Colyar, Cheryl Lovegreen, and Mickie Pascar.  

The group was started by former GSAK (then Girl Scouts Susitna Council) Executive Director Marjorie Bailey upon her retirement in 1982. There are currently 20-plus members, "though not all the members come to every meeting - every time we meet, the group is different," member Janice Baber said. 

GSAK Communications Director Carly Horton Stuart attended the Sept. 19 Forget-Me-Not meeting. In addition to Janice, members Benita Colyar, Cheryl Lovegreen, Mickie Pascar, and Joy Kutz were present.

Benita is an original member of the group. She arrived in Alaska in 1954 and served as council president 1980-1984. Cheryl is a second generation Alaskan Girl Scout, having been a Girl Scout herself and later a troop leader with her mother. Cheryl's daughter, now grown, was also involved. "I started dropping in on the Forget-Me-Not group with my mom, and then I started coming on my own. These are all good people; there's not a bad one in the group. Since my mom passed away, these women have become like mothers to me," Cheryl said. 

Micki leads a Cadette troop in Anchorage. "I'm involved, my daughter was a Girl Scout and now leads a troop in Barrow, and my granddaughter is involved. That's three generations," Micki said. "My husband was even a registered member. For us, Girl Scouts has been something we can do as a family."

Joy's Girl Scout experience was also a family affair. Her father and husband were both members, and her daughter was a Girl Scout. In the early 1990s, Joy and her family were transferred to a military base in Germany where Joy led a troop of Brownies and Juniors. She also served as a Girl Scout trainer and age level consultant. "It was a different world," Joy said. "We didn't do cookie pre-sales, for instance - you just had to guess how many boxes you might need. Amazingly, we always managed to order the correct number of boxes!" 

Joy's travels have taken her to two of the four Girl Scout world centers: Pax Lodge in Hampstead Village, England, and Our Chalet in Adelboden, Switzerland. (The other two world centers are in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and Pune, India.) 

Cheryl, Micki, and Joy were all involved in Girl Scouts growing up and earned the organization's highest achievement. (The highest achievement is currently called the Girl Scout Gold Award, but it has been known in the past as the Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar, and First Class.) Unlike these three women, Janice was not a Girl Scout growing up. "I was actually recruited as an adult by another troop leader in Arizona. My son was always a tag along to Girl Scout events, which got him interested in Boy Scouts. I didn't have a daughter, but it was fun to be involved on my own," Janice said.  

Janice has attended every Encampment in Girl Scouts of Alaska history. She is known for leading "TLC" and "Craft Cash" activities. "I've made so many friendships in Girl Scouts," Janice said. "The Forget-Me-Not group is a way of ensuring those friendships last."

The Forget-Me-Not Breakfast Group meets the third Saturday of the month at Denny's Restaurant, 3850 DeBarr Road, Anchorage. For information or to get involved, contact Janice Baber at