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Published March 10 2012

Scout's honor: As Girl Scouts celebrates 100 years, locals share memories

LISBON, N.D. - Back when Mary Madsen of Lisbon was a Brownie in New Jersey 50 years ago, a box of Girl Scout cookies sold for around 45 cents a box.

At that price, you could maybe buy a few crumbs now.

But to Madsen and many other local Girl Scouts, every crumb is worth the experiences they’ve been given, and deserving of celebrating as the organization marks its 100th year.

Though Madsen only participated in Scouts for one year as a child, she was thrilled when her daughter, Sara, was old enough for Scouts and happily signed her up.

“That was more than 30 years ago,” said Madsen, who now co-leads a troop of fifth-grade juniors that includes her granddaughter, Lydia.

One of her greatest moments in Scouting came when she attended a training event at the Edith Macy Girl Scout Center in upstate New York years ago. While there, she had a chance to interact with leaders from across the country.

“It finally hit me that I was part of a worldwide organization and that I really could make a difference in girls’ lives.”

On the last evening of the event, the group walked from their meeting center through the woods to a campfire to participate in a closing ceremony, then silently processed back through the woods with lighted candles in hand – a symbol of carrying the light of Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low to the world and beyond.

The next morning, they returned to the site to gather ashes to be added to the campfires of their respective troops back home; a long-standing tradition in Scouting.

Madsen named watching girls grow and develop into leaders as her favorite part of Scouting.

“It feels really good when you hear the girls planning and actually thinking of someone else before they think of themselves,” she said.

“It’s also rewarding to have a former Girl Scout tell you as an adult that something you said or did when they were a child made a difference in their life and the way in which they now lead their life.”

Being a Girl Scout has made Madsen more confident, a better leader, more service-minded, more compassionate, more ecologically aware and more fun to be around.

“What more can I say? I am a lifelong Girl Scout and proud of it!” Madsen said. “Happy 100th Birthday Girl Scouts!”

To honor these past 100 years of Girl Scouting, we’re sharing sentiments of several local Girl Scouts – current and former – on how Scouting has impacted them and their lives’ directions.

Micki Kociemba, 23, works as a local marketing consultant, but years before she got her first real-world job, she was a Girl Scout, and her mother was her favorite leader.

“We developed a bond during my teenage years that very few mothers and daughters actually have. She was someone I looked up to as a mother and a role model,” she said. “The other girls in my troop always said I had the best mom in the world. I 100 percent agree.”

Kociemba achieved something only 5 percent of Girl Scouts do when, along with a fellow troop member, she earned her Gold Award. She’s still in awe over all the projects she completed during that time. “I was a young girl doing very grown-up tasks that involved a huge amount of responsibility, motivation and creativity,” she said.

The project consumed more than 250 hours of community service and was dedicated to a battered women’s center in St. Cloud, Minn.

Her Scouting experience also gave her the chance to visit such places as Washington D.C., Wisconsin Dells and Itasca State Park, along with shopping trips, visits to the library and “everything in between.”

“Girl Scouts aren’t just a bunch of cute little cookie-sellers,” she said. “We’re go-getters. We’re leaders.”

Shaleen Wieland, Dakota Horizons Northeast district director, said her mother was the troop leader during her Brownie days, and that Girl Scouts offered her “building blocks for a healthy foundation.”

She especially loved weekly visits to the nursing home during her Scouting years.

“We would play bingo, sing songs and make crafts with the residents,” she said. “I learned about respect for the elderly and how we were making a difference in someone’s life. I still remember the smiles we would get as we saw our adopted grandparents each week.”

Today, as an adult woman with a grandmother in a nursing home, she said she’s grateful for the Girl Scouts that visit her grandmother each week and give her something to look forward when she’s unable to be there.

Lexie Stebleton, a seventh-grade Cadette Scout from local Troop 30544 in Dilworth, said achieving the Bronze Award has been a highlight of her time in Scouting so far. As part of this effort, her troop collected donations from community to be given to children who are in the hospital.

“We asked for toiletries and craft items,” she said. “It was awesome to see that if you just let people know you are trying to accomplish something, they are willing to help.”

Stebleton said being a Girl Scout “is pretty cool because you get to do things that make people feel good and then it makes me feel good, too.”

Vanessa J. Veflin, 37, currently works as a sales and marketing assistant in Fargo. She’s been involved in Girl Scouts since first grade, and remains a member to this day. “Yes, I am a card-carrying Girl Scout of 30-plus years.”

As a child, Veflin was very shy. Girl Scouts helped her come out of her shell, meet new people and explore her interests.

“It gave me an opportunity to achieve by earning badges and even selling nuts and cookies. I had opportunities to go places such as Girl Scout camp, which was something I looked forward to every year and was eventually a camp counselor.”

In high school, through Scouts, she traveled to Washington D.C., and New York, as well as Tennessee, Florida and Georgia – home of the founder of Girl Scouts.

While still in high school, she led a Brownie troop for two years and achieved the coveted Gold Award.

“I think in part due to the Girl Scouts, I never felt like I couldn’t achieve a goal I had for myself,” she said. “It gave me the belief that I had the inner strength to do whatever.”

Marjorie Laney, a freshman at North Dakota State University, was involved in Girl Scouts for a decade, and last fall, completed requirements for the Gold Award – the highest honor in Girl Scouting.

Laney said through Girl Scouts, she became more confident, and because of that, was better able to recognize her own talents and help others through them.

Though she nearly quit Scouts several times due to peer pressure, she’s grateful for having stuck it out.

“Girl Scouts allowed me to become involved with my community at a fairly young age and help set in the values I have today,” Laney said. “There is way more to Girl Scouts than just the cookies.”

Hilary Woods, 31, was a Girl Scout from second grade until she graduated high school. She earned many badges and got as high as the Silver Award. As a young Scout, she was always inspired to be the “top cookie seller” in her troop.

“Even though I am no longer in it, I still ask my friends when it’s Girl Scout cookie time if they want any cookies,” said Woods, whose sisters, 12 and 15, are currently Girl Scouts, and her mother, a troop leader.

Woods said she started Girl Scouts in California while her dad was in the military and was grateful to find a troop in Casselton when the family relocated there. “The one thing about Girl Scouts is that no matter where you move or live, the program stays the same.”

Nicki Pedeliski, 24, leader of local Troop 30017, said some people give her a funny look when she mentions that she’s a Girl Scout leader but doesn’t have any daughters of her own.

In fact, she hadn’t had any prior experience with Scouting when she submitted an email to a random Girl Scout employee several years ago to see about getting involved.

“Within a week, I heard back from the Fargo office saying how they would love to have me join them on a remarkable journey,” she said.

Pedeliski said she volunteers simply to make a difference “in not only our community but in the lives of our future leaders. Being a volunteer brings much happiness and fulfillment to my life.”

A proud member of the Girl Scouts Dakota Horizons, Pedeliski said Girl Scouts gives girls of all ages an opportunity to be something or be someone special.

“Every day, I wake up knowing that this large and everlasting organization empowers women and girls alike to actually live the Girl Scout Law,” she said. “It is a privilege to be associated with such a promising and meaningful organization.”


1912: Juliette Gordon Low organizes first Girl Scout meeting with 18 girls in Savannah, Ga., on March 12. She sells her collection of rare pearls to fund the organization.

1920: Girl Scouts reaches 70,000 members and offers more than 25 badges.

1930s: During the Great Depression, the Girl Scouts lead community relief efforts by gathering food for the poor.

1941: Girl Scouts collects and ships 1.5 million articles of clothing overseas to war victims. By 1948, a total of 29 bakers in the nation are licensed to bake Girl Scout cookies.

1952: Including adult volunteers, Girl Scouts are 1.5 million strong with a special effort made to include the daughters of migrant agricultural workers, Native Americans, and the physically challenged. Troops of color in the South make the cover of “Ebony” magazine.

1963: Girl Scout Speakout conferences are held nationwide to overcome prejudice. The “Senior Girl Scout Handbook” is translated into Spanish. By 1966, multiple cookie varieties are available. Bestsellers are chocolate mint and peanut butter sandwich cookies.

1975: Girl Scout members elect the first African-American National Girl Scout President, Gloria D. Scott. “Eco-Action,” a national environmental program, is launched.

1980s: A new Daisy Girl Scout age-level for kindergartners is introduced. New badges include Computer Fun, Aerospace, and Business-Wise.

1990: Girl Scouts receive federal funding for P.A.V.E. The Way (Project Anti-Violence Education). Four million Girl Scouts and adult leaders tackle illiteracy alongside first lady Barbara Bush in the Right to Read service project. Low fat and sugar-free cookies come onto the scene.

2000: Grants from Fortune 500 companies such as Intel support science and technology exploration programs for Girl Scouts. New badges include Global Awareness, Adventure Sports, Stress Less, and Environmental Health.

2012: Girl Scouts turns 100 years old.

Source: Girlscouts.org and McClatchy Newspapers