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April 23, 2014

Girl Scouts volunteer wins national award

By Jessica Strachan
C & G Staff Writer

SOUTHFIELD — “You’re a ‘she-ro!’”

“You’re the heart of our troop.”

“Thank you.”

There are countless ways to show gratitude to a Scout leader on Girl Scout Leader Appreciation Day, held April 22 each year.

For Katrina Holmes, who was one of 48 recipients of the Girl Scouts of the USA National Volunteer Awards, the best way to be appreciated is to see it in the faces of her girls.

“As long as I know they had fun with something that we did, that’s enough for me,” said Holmes, a longtime Southfield resident and Girl Scout volunteer for five years.

This year, she earned more than that, though, and was awarded the Appreciation Pin at the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan’s Volunteer National Awards banquet April 6. The awards are presented to volunteers who have given “outstanding” service to the community at large while partnering directly with the girls.

As a leader support coordinator and troop leader, Holmes mentors and leads the girls in her troop and 120 troop leaders in the Southfield area. Previously, she was leader support coordinator for one district, and in 2013, she accepted the position for a second district.

She supports GSSEM’s recruitment and retention efforts, while supporting the community goals of building an active Girl Scouting community in her area.

“Although she is busy with her family and leading her troop, Katrina always goes above and beyond in supporting the leaders in her district. As a professional, our leaders are guaranteed to walk away from Katrina feeling supported and uplifted, and to be able to offer the best Girl Scout Leadership Experience possible,” said Mary Curmi-Herrera, troop support specialist, who nominated Holmes for the award.

According to Curmi-Herrera, Holmes has supported 120 troop leaders around the Southfield area to help create the best mentoring experience possible.

Holmes said she views her involvement as an opportunity to open girls’ eyes to the world.

“I believe very firmly in the development of girls and making sure that they stay on the right path,” she explained. “I want to see them developing socially, in the best way possible, making sure they are connected to their community and to know the importance and benefits of hard work.”

Holmes, who was once a Girl Scout herself, is one of 3,000 troop leaders within GSSEM’s eight-county service region to be honored this week for National Volunteer Week, according to Yavonkia Jenkins, GSSEM director of communications.

“During National Volunteer Week, we launched a contest on our Facebook page where girls, parents and other adult volunteers could nominate a Girl Scout volunteer to receive a special surprise delivery on our National Volunteer Appreciation Day. They had to, in 500 words or fewer, explain why the nominee deserved a special recognition,” Jenkins explained, adding that GSSEM CEO Denise Dalrymple personally delivers the awards.

All volunteers received specially designed “thank you” cards, along with a $10 gift card for the GSSEM’s council shops.

“This time of year, many of our leaders purchase certificates or pins and patches for girls in their troops who have completed awards, or who are bridging to their next Girl Scout level,” she added. “This is just a small token to say ‘thanks’ and help with anything they want to purchase.”

According to Jenkins, there are more than 8,000 volunteers active in the council, filling roles like troop leader, adult volunteer mentor, cookie sales runner, administrative worker, fundraiser or business consultant.

“Volunteers are the heart of the Girl Scouts organization,” she said. “We could not deliver the many programs and leadership development opportunities that Girl Scouts provides without volunteers.”

She added that it’s troop leaders — the role models, mentors and cheerleaders for the girls — who are at the core of the mission to help the Scouts discover new interests and abilities, guide them through memories, and shape the girls with character-building experiences.

Since the beginning of the Girl Scouts mission, over 100 years ago, volunteer support has been a driving force. According to Dalrymple, paying tribute to the gifts such volunteers give has never been more important.

“We honor these volunteers at a crucial time when women’s leadership and success are hot topics of conversation,” she said in a statement.  “Girl Scouts is focused on engaging society in supporting girls and helping girls develop leadership abilities, even before they enter the workforce as young adults. The volunteers we are honoring exemplify commitment to helping girls reach their full potential, and we are so pleased to have them as part of our organization.”

The ladies of local troops — both Scouts and leaders — can be seen around the community, selling cookies at local grocery markets and volunteering for a cause near to their heart. They’re often making headlines for positive achievements as leaders, too.

In the summer of 2012, 17-year-old Briana Ratchford, of Southfield, was among 23 girls from the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan to receive the organization’s most prestigious award — The Gold Award.

The Gold Award is presented to Senior and Ambassador-level Girl Scouts who display exemplary service to their communities and beyond, seeing through a successful yearlong project. Ratchford’s project, “On the Right Track: Preparing for College in High School,” prepared other youth for their journey to college through a three-hour workshop.

The Troop 43950 member was inspired to create a workshop based on her experience getting ready for college as a senior at The Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills.

Also in 2012, Senior Girl Scout of Troop 40393 Kyla Wright, 15, of Southfield, sold 5,419 boxes of cookies, earning the top spot out of more than 23,600 local Girl Scouts in southeastern Michigan. 

Wright, along with the other top four sellers in southeastern Michigan, collectively sold more than 17,000 boxes of cookies, helping to raise more than $8 million for GSSEM that year.

GSSEM is the local council chartered by Girl Scouts of the USA to facilitate the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, which is designed to help girls develop leadership skills in three key ways: discover, connect and take action.

Each element has a set of five outcomes, including developing a strong sense of self, developing healthy relationships and identifying community needs.

GSSEM serves more than 36,000 girls and adult volunteers in Oakland, Macomb, Genesee, St. Clair and Sanilac counties, as well as parts of Wayne, Monroe and Livingston counties. For more information, visit www.gssem.org.


 

Become a Girl Scout volunteer

According to Girl Scouts of the USA, only one in five girls believes she can be a leader.

Yavonkia Jenkins of the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan said new and veteran volunteers are appreciated year-round.

“We always welcome the support and participation of caring adults who want to mentor and support girls’ leadership and development.”

Service opportunities are flexible to fit a volunteer’s schedule, skills and interests. Volunteers must be 18 years or older and a positive role model. They must have a flexible attitude, must enroll as a member in Girl Scouts of the USA and fill out a volunteer application.

The application includes a $1.95 fee for the completion of a background check, and GSUSA membership dues are $15. For more information or to complete the application, visit www.gssem.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jessica Strachan at jstrachan@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1108.