Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Girl Scouts Builds Bonds that Transcend Time and Space

A shared love of adventure, song, and the great outdoors created an indelible bond between former Girl Scout camp counselors at Camp Chalk Hills in White Rapids, Wisconsin. Some of the women have been friends nearly half a century, meeting every four years to reconnect and reminisce. Three members currently live in Alaska. CC Travers, who resides in Juneau and volunteers with GSAK, says Girl Scouts "has made me who I am today." CC even met her husband of 26 years while on a Girl Scout international opportunity in Australia!   

The group calls itself GROG, which stands for the “Gathering of the Royal Order of the Green.” Since the women share memories of the same camp, many of the relationships cross generational boundaries. Mary Julia Knox – or “Stringbean” to her fellow counselors – credits Anne Bishop (“Annie B.”), a retired professional Girl Scout and former director at Camp Chalk Hills, with creating a camp atmosphere that fostered lasting friendships.

"Annie's Girls" outside Annie's Place in Ketchikan. "Stringbean" is second from left.

“Annie B. really instilled in us the Girl Scout ideals, particularly ‘be a sister to every Girl Scout.’ We've shared so much over the years. These women feel more like sisters than friends,” Mary said.

The group decided to come to Alaska this summer because Mary and a fellow member hadn't yet seen the 49th state. “She hadn't been to Alaska and a few of the Southern states, and I hadn't been to Alaska and Hawaii. Since Alaska was the state we had in common, we decided to plan a trip,” Mary said.

At Skagway Centennial Statue

The group traveled to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Fairbanks and Denali National Park, Anchorage, and the Kenai Peninsula. The women shopped, talked, dined, and most importantly, sang. “That was part of the bond that Annie B. created, the singing,” Mary said. “We would sing after we put the kids to bed, often until it was time for us to go to bed. That’s what we still do when we’re together. We sing.”

Hiking in Denali 

CC, or "Ceesco," is a mother of three and a high-school math teacher. She credits Girl Scouts with "contribut[ing] to my professional development and teaching me how to be a leader and giving me lots of experience working with kids.

"Of the group that came to Alaska, I really only knew one of them... But that didn't matter. They were GROG... We feel like we know each other because we have the same common experience and common values even though we don't know each other. It really makes the 'sister to every Girl Scout' ring true. Eight of them stayed at my house for the weekend, and we had a great time." 

CC's two daughters are involved with Girl Scouts of Alaska in Juneau, one as a Senior and one as a Cadette. CC is co-leader of her daughter's Cadette troop. When the troop attended Encampment at Camp Togowoods last summer, CC was struck by "how wonderful and amazing to me how similar Girl Scout camps are... So much fun to remember and tell how awesome my Girl Scout experiences were and still are!"    

In addition to travels far afield, the group hosts “mini-GROGs” throughout the year. Recent mini-GROGs include a leaf-raking event, marching together in a Fourth of July parade, and a weekend at Mary’s lake house this summer.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Volunteers Brighten up GSAK Anchorage Office

Climbing ladders, wielding paint rollers, trimming hedges, and exhuming fencing - it sounds like labor-intensive work that would a inspire a fair amount of grumbling, but the volunteers who showed up at Girl Scouts of Alaska's Anchorage office Wednesday, Sept. 11 brought with them a positive energy that was contagious. 

Seven female Alyeska Pipeline Service Company employees donated their time, energy, and enthusiasm to GSAK as part of United Way of Anchorage's Day of Caring program. The program helps businesses and volunteers connect their energy and talents to their community passions. 

Frances Wesley tapes and paints a wall in the conference room

2013 marks the 20th year of Day of Caring. On Sept. 11, more than 600 volunteers from 17 companies worked on 43 service projects for Anchorage-area non-profits and parks. "By mobilizing and uniting, these skilled volunteers and dedicated corporate partners not only make an immediate difference, but they instill the value of volunteering all year long," said Sandy McClintock, director of marketing for United Way of Anchorage.

GSAK had a lot of work for the volunteers, but they proved up to the challenge. The women painted the walls in the conference room, doctored water-damaged ceiling tiles, pulled weeds and performed landscaping duties (in the pouring rain, no less), and took out an old fence that was obstructing the property.

Volunteers dispose of outdoor debris

Dawn McQuay, a telecom specialist, served as the volunteer team leader. Dawn had been a Girl Scout growing up in Illinois, so she was happy to donate her time to GSAK. "I worked out at Singing Hills last year [a GSAK camp property in Chugiak], and it was a ton of fun. When I saw Girl Scouts on the list again this year, I knew it's where I wanted to volunteer."

Frances Wesley, an oil movement analyst, has been participating in Day of Caring since Alyeska Pipeline joined as a corporate partner. "I'm a non-profit person. I volunteer a lot," Frances said. "Alyeska has always supported me in my volunteer efforts, so now it's my turn to do it for them." 

Like Dawn, Frances also participated in Girl Scouts growing up. Her daughters, now grown, were also members, and she plans to encourage her granddaughters to join the organization once they reach school age.

The painting crew!

Alyeska Pipeline Service Company formed in 1970 to design, build, maintain, and operate the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. Today the company provides safe, environmentally responsible, reliable, and cost-effective oil pipeline transportation from the North Slope of Alaska.

United Way of Anchorage is a non-profit organization whose goal is to mobilize the resources of individuals, companies, government, and labor to achieve positive and lasting change in the lives of the people in the Anchorage community.

GSAK extends a big thank you to Alyeska Pipeline and United Way of Anchorage for helping make our Anchorage office a little brighter!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

United Way Grant Allows GSAK to Reach More Girls in Southeast Alaska

Alaskans know that that travel within the state can be more complicated and expensive than travel to the Lower 48. This is especially true in Southeast Alaska where only three towns – Haines, Skagway, and Hyder – are connected to a railway to the Lower 48. The two most populous cities, Juneau and Ketchikan, are accessible only by air or sea.   

Girl Scouts of Alaska (GSAK) serves 26 communities in Southeast Alaska. With the help of more than 200 volunteers, Member Service Specialists Taralee Ellis and Sheila Miller deliver Girl Scout troops, camp, and year-round events to more than 600 girls. 

Taralee serves Juneau and the upper Southeast region, while Sheila's efforts are concentrated on Ketchikan and the lower Southeast region. 

Outdoor education in Ketchikan

"Travel costs are a big issue for us," Sheila said. "In order to deliver our programs, we need to be able to physically reach remote communities.”     

Thanks to a Community Impact Grant from United Way of Southeast Alaska, GSAK will be able to deliver education and health initiatives to Southeast Alaska. These initiatives include:

  • Women of Science events in five major Southeast communities;
  • Friendship, fun, and age-appropriate activities through troop membership;
  • The Girl Scout Leadership Experience, which engages girls in discovering themselves, connecting with others, and taking action to make the world a better place; and 
  • Camps and outdoor education. 

Sitka day camp

“It’s great to be working with United Way of Southeast Alaska,” Taralee said. “They have been continually supportive of youth in this area. The grant will help us offset travel costs and deliver programs and activities in our region." 

Girls involved in Girl Scouts contribute to the improvement of their communities through their abilities, leadership skills, and cooperation with others while making friends and having lots of fun. 

Mary Becker, chair of United Way of Southeast Alaska, said, “We always have more demand and requests for funding than we are able to give, but in this competitive grant process Girl Scouts of Alaska ranked high in meeting targeted needs in the community. We are happy to partner with Girl Scouts to meet community needs.”

United Way of Southeast Alaska is an independently governed, non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening lives, helping people, and improving community conditions in Southeast Alaska. For information, visit