First lady Michelle Obama recently asked moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents — or anyone else looking to help girls succeed — to become a Girl Scout volunteer.
“You can show girls that anything is possible,” the first lady said in a video she created for Girl Scouts’ National Recruitment Week, Sept. 30 through Oct. 6. “You can inspire them to dream bigger and go further than they ever imagined.”
For Jan Keating, Girl Scouts helped her entire family more than she could have imagined, but the White House didn’t launch her involvement with Girl Scouts —the U.S. military did.
New Places, Friendly Faces
The Keatings are a military family – both Jan and her husband Patrick retired from the Air Force shortly after moving to Indiana in 2005. Their careers required them to move to new cities often.
“We moved 23 times since we were married, staying only two to three years in each place,” recalled Jan Keating. “We moved our kids 10 times.”
Keating credits Girl Scouts for helping to make the transition to a new school easier for her daughter Casey. “I would find her a troop right away. Girl Scouts gave her instant friends that she already had something in common with.”
Volunteers, too, make new friends. “I have met the most wonderful people through Girl Scouts,” Keating said. She remains friends with many of the people she’s met as a Girl Scout volunteer.
Keating’s involvement in Girl Scouts gave her son opportunities as well.
“One time I called a Girl Scout leader to find out about her troop for my daughter,” she remembered. After getting the details on the Girl Scout troop meeting, the leader helped Keating find a Boy Scout troop for her son Liam, too. “It was perfect. I was so happy she helped me find that for him.”
Many Roles, One Girl Scouts
Keating would volunteer to be the “Cookie Mom” — the parent who helps organize the annual Cookie Program for a troop — or help at events since she knew she might not be in a city more than a couple of years.
After settling in Indiana, she served as assistant leader and, eventually, leader for her daughter Casey’s troop.
Keating didn’t stop being a Girl Scout volunteer after Casey graduated from high school.
Today, she is a member of the Service Unit Team, a group of volunteers responsible for organizing and delivering service to Girl Scouts in Indiana County. She serves as the team’s finance manager, and helps in a variety of other ways, including helping at events, recruiting other volunteers, and planning activities for girls.
“I help wherever I can,” Jan said. “It’s what I do.”
Sharing the Excitement
Casey Keating did more than make new friends through her years with Girl Scouts; she connected with a passion to share her experience with others.
She remained active in Girl Scouting through high school graduation, earning her Gold Award — the highest achievement in Girl Scouting — her senior year and becoming a lifetime Girl Scout member.
She joined the summer camp staff at Camp Conshatawba and also helped at her local day camp.
Today, Casey is a 22-year-old graduate student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
She is still an active volunteer with Girl Scouts in Indiana. She assists at local recruitment events, teaching girls games and songs while her mom talks to parents about volunteer opportunities.
Role Models Needed
Jan Keating and the rest of the Service Unit Team have been successful recruiting new volunteers for this Girl Scout year.
“We have two more girls in their 20s joining us this year as new assistant troop leaders,” she said.
“We are excited to have so many young people involved in leading girls in Girl Scouts.”
Many girls in Indiana are excited about what they can do in Girl Scouts, but more volunteers are needed to help guide them.
Visit girlscouts.org to see first lady Michelle Obama’s video about becoming a volunteer, and enter your zip code to find opportunities in your community.
Angie Stengel is chief operations officer for Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania (GSWPA).
In this role, she leads efforts in membership, programs, volunteer administration and data management. She also facilitates all aspects of the council’s strategic learning process.