Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mothers’ passion for Girl Scouts carries on through the work of their daughters

For many families, Girl Scouting is not just an extra curricular activity, it’s a way of life, a family tradition, a legacy left for the next generation. For Randi Lewis and the women in her family, which includes her grandmother, Ruby Allison and mother, Carol Dyson, the passion for Girl Scouting is carried on through the work of their daughters.

Carol Dyson was not aware of Girl Scouts until her family moved to Odessa, Texas. While attending school, Dyson said she encountered a girl in her class wearing “the most wonderful uniform with a big yellow tie and hat.” Dyson said she wanted that dress and hat and would do whatever it took to get them. 

“I joined Girl Scouts and immediately loved the structure and goals scouting offered girls in the 1950s,” said Dyson. “[My troop leader] introduced us to the magic of nature, how to understand and live with the environment and the importance of living the Girl Scout Promise and Law.”

Dyson recalled how her own mother, Ruby Allison, who was also a Girl Scout, gave up her time on weekends to drive her troop to many camping activities and Girl Scout events. Doing so demonstrated to Dyson the importance of guiding and inspiring girls to set and achieve goals, something she would later do for her own daughter and other girls at home and abroad.

When Dyson’s daughter, Randi, was old enough to join Girl Scouts, Dyson started a troop that included Randi and her classmates. The summer before Randi was to enter the 6th grade, the family had to relocate to Bethioua, Algeria due to Dyson’s husband’s job transfer.

“Once school began in Algeria, I met other mothers who wanted to make it possible for their daughters to continue being Girl Scouts, so I formed Troops on Foreign Soil (TOFS) Troop #1, with 6th grade girls who attended the International School of Bethioua, Algeria,” said Dyson. TOFS would later be called USA Girl Scouts Oversees.

A photo of Randi Lewis' Girl Scout membership card during her time spend in Algeria. A third generation Girl Scout, Randi's mother, Carol Dyson, started the first Girl Scout troop in Bethioua, Algeria, the area Randi's family moved to when her father received a job transfer.

Unfortunately, after the first successful year, TOFS Troop #1's co-leader moved away. Dyson had to recruit a new leader and during the recruitment process she found more mothers who wanted their daughters to join Girl Scout. That same year, TOFS Troop #1bridged to Cadettes and a Brownie troop and Junior troop were formed. Due to Dyson's enthusiasm, TOFS Troop #1 had grown into five troops — two Brownie troops, two junior troops and the original Cadette troop, in just a few years.

The TOFS Girl Scouts participated in many community service projects, organized parades, sold UNICEF greeting cards and donated money to charitable organizations. They even raised enough money to fund a spring break trip to Our Chalet in Switzerland and Olave House in London, two Girl Scout world centers at that time. The troops also continued to earn badges and awards just as Girl Scouts in the U.S. did. 

“If my actions inspire even one girl, as that girl in the glorious green uniform did for me, to love Girl Scouting as I do, then I have fulfilled my Girl Scout Promise,” said Dyson.

In 1980, Dyson and her family moved back to the U.S. and resided in Odessa, Texas. Randi continued her Girl Scout journey and joined a troop that was part of the Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest Council, formerly the Girl Scouts of the Permian Basin.   

Today, Dyson and her daughter Randi Lewis continue their Girl Scout journey through the work of Lewis’ two daughters – Halee a 7th grade Girl Scout Cadette and Hanna, a 5th grade Girl Scout Junior. Lewis credits Girl Scouts with giving her daughters opportunities to learn skills that they would never have learned without scouting.

“Halee learned to sail at the age of 10 at Camp Casa Mare,” said Lewis. “We live well over an hour from any major body of water, so that opportunity would have never been available to her without our Council’s Mariner program.”

As a mother, Girl Scouts has given Lewis the opportunity to be an integral part of her girls’ development. Although Randi was nervous about letting Halee go to camp for two weeks and knew the physical demands of sailing, seeing Halee persevere and achieve things during those two weeks were rewarding. It reminded Lewis of her own experience as a girl. Her daughters are learning the same leadership skills and gaining the same confidence, something Lewis believes they will carry into their adult lives and careers.

Lewis is not only a mother of two Girl Scouts, she is a troop leader who views scouting as a bridge between the lessons learned at school and church. “Our meetings are a place where my girls can learn things like patriotism, outdoor skills, self-reliance and entrepreneurship,” said Lewis. “I try to provide an environment where the girls feel safe enough to try new things, be silly, serve the community and learn to further their personal beliefs as they apply the values of the Girl Scout Law.”

She has also served as Fall Product Chairman for her Service Unit, Council delegate and even a dorm mom at camp. She believes Girl Scouting instilled in her a desire to serve and respect the world around her and she feels good to be able to give back to an organization that has given the women in her family so much.

“I’m certain that my mom’s legacy will be carried on for generations,” said Lewis. It makes me so proud to say that we really do bleed green.”