Melissa Tacconi is a long-time volunteer who started volunteering with Girl Scouts before she even had kids. She volunteered because she felt that the experiences she had growing up as a Girl Scout helped her develop the life skills that have been critical to her success as an adult. Thank you for all that you do Melissa!
Read on to learn more about Melissa...
How did you join Girl Scouts as a volunteer?
I actually joined many years ago before I had kids - I volunteered as co-leader for a Cadette/Senior troop in Arlington. I volunteered because I felt that my experiences growing up as a Girl Scout helped me develop leadership skills, life skills and perseverance that have been critical to my success as an adult. When my daughter was old enough to become a Daisy, I volunteered as Cookie Mom in her troop so that I could help support Girl Scouting again.
What is your favorite Girl Scout volunteer memory?
My favorite memory was the "No Stress Fest" our service unit held last fall. That was the first event I'd ever planned, and we threw it together in 4 weeks because we felt our girls needed it. We had way more girls sign up than we expected, and I have to admit I had a moment at the event thinking "What did I get myself into?"! It was crazy fun, though, and the girls had a blast.
It really hit home several weeks later when I was at a recruitment event at an elementary school. I was telling the girls about all the fun things we do in Girl Scouts and mentioned that event. One girl surprised me by telling me that her sister went and she had so much fun that she told her all about it. This girl wanted to know when she could go, too, and it just made my day.
How have you been able to use your own experience as a volunteer to help others who may be timid to get involved?
I tell people who are hesitant to volunteer that I felt the same way. I'm an engineer and was not used to being around kids, so I did not feel comfortable taking on a leader role. But I realized that I could use my skills to manage our troop's cookie sales, so I signed up to be Troop Cookie Chair and did that for four years. It can be a big job, but it was worth it to help the girls earn money for their troop.
And over time I've gained enough experience supporting the troop that I now feel comfortable stepping in to lead the girls. So, I think that even if you can't volunteer as a troop leader, start small and help out your troop or service unit in whatever capacity you can.
One thing that I also keep in mind is how my mom (who was a Girl Scout leader) really made a difference in the life of one of my sister's friends. This particular girl had lots of instability in her life and spent lots of time around us. She moved around and we lost touch with her, but several years ago she reached out to my mom on Facebook. She had grown into a wonderful woman with two beautiful girls and a wonderful career in nursing. She told my mom that she had always looked up to her as a role model and may not have become the success she is without her influence. My mom had no idea she'd had such an impact - so you never know how small things can really have a huge positive impact on these girls' lives!
Any advice to those who aren’t sure they “fit the mold” of a Girl Scout volunteer?
I obviously didn't think I fit the mold of a troop leader! But don't let that stop you from volunteering. Sometimes it's okay to do something that seems a little out of your comfort zone. Although I have a passion for scouts, I was hesitant to take on the role of Service Unit Manager especially since I haven't been a troop leader lately. But when no one else stepped up, I decided to give it a try. I have had so much fun, I absolutely don't regret it!
What do you know now that you wish you knew before getting involved as a volunteer?
I wish I had been more willing to take on a larger role earlier. It has been sooooo much fun. I was worried that I wouldn't be good at my role, but everything has worked out well. Our service unit has an amazing and talented group of volunteers that help each other put on fantastic programs for our girls. Other volunteers can be so supportive and helpful and my experiences have helped me build more skills as a leader. The best part is knowing I am giving girls opportunities to grow into incredible, confident young women who can change the world!