Volunteer Spotlight: Jeanette Benedetto


Jeanette Benedetto has been volunteering with Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania ever since she signed her daughter up a little over three years ago. Although she didn’t plan to be a troop leader right away, it was a great way for her to make new friends after recently moving to the Pittsburgh area.

She thought she would be a committee volunteer and ease her way into larger roles. When she realized troop leaders were needed to form a new troop, she decided to go for it. As she saw other needs in her service unit, she decided to step in where she felt she could have the most impact for girls and families in her area. She wanted to be a big part of her daughter’s Girl Scout experience because she has great memories of spending time with her own mom when she was her troop leader.

Last year, Jeanette stepped into a service unit role as the communications volunteer and filled in for the vacant membership coordinator position as well. She currently continues to manage communications and logistics for her service unit.

Jeanette was a Girl Scout herself for about five years in West Virginia, where she enjoyed doing activities she may not have been able to do if it weren’t for Girl Scouts. Some of her best memories include horseback riding, crafts, learning life skills, making friends all over the region, and of course, summer camp. “I still remember the Camp White Rock song to this day, and vividly recall sleeping in a platform tent and swimming in the river! Overall, what sticks with me are all the times that I was nudged out of my comfort zone with support from my fellow Girl Scouts,” she says.

Seeing how the girls change year after year is Jeanette’s favorite aspect of volunteering. She recalls her first few troop meetings where Daisies were crawling around on the floor pretending to be animals and it seemed like chaos. “Now, the girls are in second and third grade and they have developed new friendships within Girl Scouts, they come up with their own ideas for helping their community, and they have confidence that they CAN help. They surprise me all the time, and supporting 16 girls as they grow into the people they are meant to be is really amazing,” she says.

Above all, Jeanette hopes to teach girls not to be afraid of trying new things and when they’re passionate about something, they should get involved. She hopes to encourage adults to do the same when it comes to volunteering—get involved despite the time or skills they think they possess. Many volunteers like herself also work full-time, but she says the more volunteers there are, the easier it is on everyone.

“Don’t wait for someone else to do it—just take the leap and bring some friends along for the ride with you, or do like I did and make new friends!” Her advice to new volunteers is to enlist help from other parents in the troop, play on your own strengths, and learn as you go.

Jeanette says that volunteering with Girl Scouts is more rewarding than she ever expected. “I love the girls in my troop, and I enjoy the company of my fellow volunteers. Even though I started this for my daughter, I get a lot out of it for myself.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Julie Smialowski


“My [Girl] Scouts are fantastic—they are strong, independent, compassionate young ladies. They are my favorite thing about scouting,” says volunteer Julie Smialowski.

For nine years, Julie was a Girl Scout in North East Ohio—she was even part of the first year of Daisy Girl Scouts in 1984! Her fond memories mixed with her desire for her daughter to share the Girl Scout experience are what led her to volunteer. She’s been a troop leader since 2013 and an events coordinator for her service unit since 2018.

As a volunteer, Julie has loved watching her girls grow from ages 5 to 14—and still going! She has especially enjoyed camping with them, taking trips, doing community outreach, and working on projects, especially their Bronze Award.

If the girls have learned anything from her, Julie hopes it’s that humans can impact the environment, both positively and negatively, and we need to be conscious of how we interact with wildlife and nature. Julie not only teaches Girl Scouts, she also teaches a classroom of kids. She is a social studies teacher and works for an online education company.

Julie’s advice for new volunteers is to avoid repeating activities girls don’t like just to check a box. “Read the room!” she says. For her personally, the biggest challenge she has faced as a volunteer is getting caught up in details and forgetting to ask for help. Despite challenges, Julie values the friendships she’s made and the relationships she’s built through Girl Scouts.

“My co-leader has become a dear friend outside of scouting and I’ve made meaningful connections and friendships with fellow leaders and my service unit manager,” she says. “They are a much-needed support system!”

Volunteer Spotlight: Kim Hockman


Cooking out, tie-dying shirts, camping, and enjoying the outdoors—it’s easy to see why exploring Camp Redwing with her girls is one of Kim Hockman’s favorite Girl Scout memories. “Being with the girls and learning new things with them,” she says, “is the best part about volunteering.”

Kim became a volunteer with Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania for her daughter and because a troop was needed in her area. Plus, she loved being a Girl Scout herself when she was younger. She has volunteered for four years now as a troop leader and finance manager for her service unit, along with roles such as troop cookie manager, troop MagNut manager, troop treasurer, council delegate, and day camp volunteer. Kim is a stay-at-home mom and a parent coach for her daughter who does homeschooling.

Kim says her biggest challenge as a volunteer has been getting girls to attend meetings. Knowing that the girl-led process is critically important to the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, she tried something new. “We started to change up what we were doing and getting the girls more involved by asking them what they wanted to do,” she says.

She hopes if the girls have learned anything from her as a volunteer, it’s to be respectful and have self-confidence in everything that they do.

The one thing she wishes everyone knew about being a Girl Scout volunteer is, “how much fun it is to volunteer! It is not always easy, but the joy on the girls’ faces makes it worth every minute of time spent.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Angela Deemer


Like many Girl Scout leaders, Angela Deemer decided to volunteer because she wanted to spend more time with her daughter and her friends. Plus, as a former Girl Scout herself, she was familiar with the organization. Little did she know at the time, her decision would lead her to a 20-year (and counting!) leadership journey.

Over the 20 years that she has been a Girl Scout volunteer, Angela has held a variety of positions. She has been a troop leader, service unit manager, service unit MagNut manager, troop cookie manager, troop MagNut manager, troop treasurer, and council delegate, and she has helped at a neighborhood summer camp. She is also a full-time office assistant.

When asked what she hopes girls have learned from her as a leader, Angela said, “that they are special, and they can achieve their goals by working for it.” She says her favorite Girl Scout memory is her troop’s trip to Washington, DC.

One thing she wishes everyone knew about being a Girl Scout volunteer is that you can make a difference in a girl’s life. Her advice to new volunteers is to have fun with the girls. “Don’t fret about earning badges or the paperwork—just have fun and enjoy your time with the girls,” she says.

Happy National Volunteer Month!

Check out this video message from the staff at Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania.

Looking for more ways to celebrate our volunteers?
👉 Volunteer Appreciation Resources

Volunteer Spotlight: Kelsey Marsh


“When I was a Girl Scout, I enjoyed it because of my amazing leader. I wanted to follow in her footsteps,” Kelsey Marsh says.

Kelsey fondly remembers the 11 years she spent as a Girl Scout, earning her Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards, the highest awards a girl can earn in Girl Scouts. These are awarded to Junior, Cadette, and Senior and Ambassador girls, respectively, who display leadership while engaging in projects that benefit their communities.

Along with earning her awards, Kelsey always enjoyed the camping trips—her favorite being a trip to the Smoky Mountains. Eventually, she knew she wanted to share her knowledge and teach girls the same skills she learned when she was a Girl Scout, so she decided to be a volunteer. She hopes the one thing girls have gained from her volunteer leadership is the understanding of how to be a sister to every Girl Scout.

Kelsey has held volunteer positions such as troop leader, day camp volunteer, events coordinator, service unit secretary, council delegate, and Girl Scout champion. She also works at an elementary school as a paraprofessional.

Kelsey’s advice to new volunteers is to find badges that match the girls’ interests. Her greatest challenge as a Girl Scout volunteer was going virtual during the start of the pandemic, but she found ways for her troop to earn badges virtually.

 “It’s a lot of work and time consuming, but worth it in the end,” she says.

Happy National Volunteer Month!

Check out this video message from the staff at Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania.

Looking for more ways to celebrate our volunteers?
👉 Volunteer Appreciation Resources

Volunteer Spotlight: Jo Ann Messett


As a Girl Scout volunteer, Jo Ann Messett remembers a specific girl in her troop who lacked self-esteem. The young girl doubted her intelligence and insisted that she would never attend college. Jo Ann mentored her in Girl Scouts over the years and like most volunteers, she enjoyed watching her learn and grow while building up her confidence. When that same girl won homecoming queen and enrolled in college, Jo Ann says there was one word to describe it: PRICELESS.

Jo Ann has been a Girl Scout volunteer for over 16 years and has held positions such as troop leader, troop cookie manager, troop MagNut manager, day camp volunteer, troop treasurer, and Girl Scout champion. She is also certified in archery and CPR and works at Penn State University – Shenango Valley. She became a volunteer because she was a Girl Scout herself and wanted that same experience for her daughters.

One of her favorite Girl Scout memories is the Night at the History Museum council event that was held at the Heinz History Center—the girls explored the History Center after hours and spent the night there. “The girls still talk about it!” she says. Exploring Camp Redwing for the first time is also one of her fondest memories with Girl Scouts.

Her one piece of advice to new volunteers is to stay the course and reach out to more experienced troop leaders. “Don’t try to figure it all out yourself. Being a leader is also a learning progression,” she says.

When asked what she hopes girls have learned from her, Jo Ann says, “to make lemonade out of lemons!  Where there is a will, there is a way! AND when you hit a brick wall, there is going to be a way to figure out which direction you can move from there. It’s not always going to be the easiest, but you will have learned from the experience and that will take you far in your life.”

Happy National Volunteer Month!

Check out this video message from the staff at Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania.

Looking for more ways to celebrate our volunteers?
👉 Volunteer Appreciation Resources

Volunteer Spotlight: Alecia Sherbondy


Alecia Sherbondy became a volunteer with Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania because of the wonderful experiences her troop leaders provided her as a Girl Scout growing up. She remembers the volunteers who worked hard to create memories that would last her a lifetime, and she wishes more people realized how much time so many great people in their communities invest in teaching and providing opportunities to girls.

Alecia has been a volunteer with the Valley Hills Service Unit for nine years. She started out helping with troop meetings as a parent volunteer. The following year, she started a Daisy troop of 25 girls with another parent she became friends with at a Girl Scout meeting. She has held positions including service unit manager, MagNut manager, and cookie manager, and has also helped with service unit finances and served as a delegate. Her family also volunteers with Norwin’s service unit camp every summer at Camp Skymeadow.

Without a doubt, Alecia’s favorite part about volunteering with Girl Scouts is the girls and watching them grow into wonderful young women. She added, “I hope the girls have learned great leadership skills, to be caring and kind to others, and I hope some of my organizational skills rubbed off on a few!”

As a girl, Alecia’s favorite Girl Scout memory is traveling to the Pantages Theater in Toronto, Canada, to see Phantom of the Opera. “It was amazing to travel with my friends to another country and experience such a wonderful performance,” she said. Other highlights of that same trip were visiting Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays, and a large shopping mall. As a troop leader, Alecia’s favorite memory is a troop outing to Phipps Conservatory and Schenley Park, followed by lunch at the Porch. She said, “it was a beautiful afternoon, and I will cherish that memory forever.”

Happy National Volunteer Month!

Check out this video message from the staff at Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania.

Looking for more ways to celebrate our volunteers?
👉 Volunteer Appreciation Resources

Volunteer Spotlight: Melanie Hansen


It’s important for volunteer Melanie Hansen to instill in girls the idea that they are part of a larger community and that it is their responsibility to help make the world a better place. “By living the Girl Scout Law throughout their lives, they can make a difference,” she says.

Melanie became a volunteer with Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania because she enjoyed being a Girl Scout when she was younger and wanted to share that same experience with her daughter, and eventually, her granddaughter. She said, “that joy I found while participating in Girl Scouts has never left me. The bonding and memories with my daughter and granddaughter are priceless.” 

It’s difficult for Melanie to choose just one Girl Scout memory as her favorite, but she says her favorite times include camping, singing around the campfire, scavenger hunt hiking, and the funniest – picking camp names! Her favorite service project was collecting pennies for the replacement of the Abraham Lincoln statue in Wilkinsburg.

Melanie says one of her favorite aspects about volunteering is watching the progression of girls over the years, especially Brownies, who are so excited about becoming a Girl Scout and earning badges. “When you create an environment of inclusion, encouragement to try a new skill or learn something new, and championing each girl, you start to see their newfound confidence and leadership skills begin to emerge.”

Her advice for new volunteers is to plan ahead and leave extra room in your planning schedule. She says creating a two-year plan in the summer prevents repeating badges as new girls enter a troop. Melanie tries to hold a learning meeting followed by a fun event. Above all, her best piece of advice is this: “Mostly, have fun!”

Happy National Volunteer Month!

Check out this video message from the staff at Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania.

Looking for more ways to celebrate our volunteers?
👉 Volunteer Appreciation Resources

Volunteer Spotlight: Lillian Marquez


When Lillian Marquez and her daughter saw information about Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania posted at their local library, they both decided to join. Now, nine years later, Lillian is thankful for the decision they made and for the opportunities they have both experienced through Girl Scouts. She enjoys seeing girls explore their potential while learning alongside them herself. 

Lillian has worn many hats when it comes to volunteering with Girl Scouts. She has held positions such as troop leader, day camp leader, day camp director, service unit delegate, troop MagNut and cookie manager, and travel troop leader. It is evident that Lillian enjoys being a leader because when she’s not volunteering, she is a family coach and mentor for students at a cyber school. 

One of Lillian’s favorite aspects of volunteering is being able to give girls the experience of setting goals and achieving those goals through determination and perseverance. Her troop reached their goals of funding troop trips to destinations such as Great Wolf Lodge and Niagara Falls. She hopes they’ve learned that if they put their minds to something, they can achieve it.  

To allow a troop to function smoothly and continue to grow, Lillian’s piece of advice to new volunteers would be to not be afraid of asking for help and delegating tasks. She says, “open communication, asking for help, and delegating the job responsibilities will all help develop a rapport for the continued success of the troop in the future.” 

Lillian says that Girl Scouts is a very rewarding experience, and she plans to continue volunteering even after her daughter graduates.  

Happy National Volunteer Month!

Check out this video message from the staff at Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania.

Looking for more ways to celebrate our volunteers?
👉 Volunteer Appreciation Resources

Volunteer Spotlight: Amy Dobbins


When Amy Dobbins became aware that her local area needed a leader, she volunteered to lead a troop of girls, many who were her daughter’s friends. She recalled a similar experience she had when she was a Girl Scout. “I wanted them to build the skills of leadership and service that I learned in Girl Scouts with my mother years ago,” she said. Amy was a Girl Scout in what was then known as the Talus Rock Council, and even earned her Girl Scout Gold Award.

Amy has been a Girl Scout leader for 13 years, holding roles such as day camp volunteer, service unit manager, service unit finance manager, and service team member. In addition to her volunteer roles, Amy is also a U.S. history teacher.

Some of Amy’s favorite Girl Scout memories include a rafting trip, a Gettysburg battlefield tour, and tours of the White House and Capitol Building in Washington, DC. She said that watching the girls plan for the trips was the best part. She loves seeing them experience new things they may not have had the chance to experience if it were not for Girl Scouts.

Amy says that her favorite thing about volunteering is watching the progression of girls as they grow from one age level to the next. “Girl Scout leadership is a labor of love guiding the girls to experience what they want, and it is very rewarding to see the girls grow and become their unique selves,” she says.

For Amy, the biggest challenge she has faced as a volunteer has been the shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Transitioning to virtual meetings presented its challenges, but it was nothing she could not handle.

If Amy could give a piece of advice to new volunteers, it would be this: “There is no cookie-cutter troop. The troop is what the girls want to make of it. Each troop is unique, and the troop experiences should guide girls into becoming leaders and developing leadership skills through the badges, journeys, and the troop experiences.”

Happy National Volunteer Month!

Check out this video message from the staff at Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania.

Looking for more ways to celebrate our volunteers?
👉 Volunteer Appreciation Resources