At 80 and 89, these Midcoast women mentor the latest generation of Girl Scouts
Whether it’s leading a troop, camping in the woods or selling cookies, Betty Bavor and Gladys Szabo have over 100 years of combined experience with Girl Scouts.
The years of Scouting have been a defining and meaningful part of life. Bavor, 89, and Szabo, 80, continue to volunteer for the organization here in Brunswick, serving as multigenerational mentors for today’s Girl Scouts in the local 1644 Troop.
Girl Scouts of the United States of America is a youth organization that was founded in 1912. Today, the organization offers various leadership programs for girls ages 5-18 in STEM, the outdoors, life skills and entrepreneurship. In Maine, there are approximately 4,000 young members.
âI think it’s fair to be able to watch these girls grow up and learn,â said Szabo, a resident of Brunswick, who has been involved with Boy Scouts for about 40 years in total. “It’s gratifying to see where they’re going and what they can do that they didn’t think they could do.”
Bavor, a Topsham resident, who is in her 66th year with the Boy Scouts, agrees: and realizes that she can be successful, it is truly rewarding for the leader.
Troop 1644 is one of 13 active troops in the Merrymeeting Service Unit, which serves Brunswick, Topsham, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Harpswell and Harpswell Islands. The troop consists of up to 10 scouts, and in total there are 115 girls in the unit.
In addition to camping, the 1644 Troop hosted dinners for veterans, performed community service, and participated in parades. The troop also makes trips to Boston, New York and Washington DC
âA lot of girls think Girl Scouts end in childhood, and girls see how it doesn’t,â Dawn Grimes, two-troop leader of the Merrymeeting service unit, wrote in an e- mail. “These ladies taught the girls real life lessons, how to be strong and help them build their confidence by letting the girls do it themselves with someone to help them when needed.”
According to Grimes, in addition to compassion and mentoring, Bavor and Szabo gave the troop practical knowledge on skills such as camping and cooking, and taught the girls how certain chores were accomplished outdoors before the modern gadgets. Learning goes both ways, Grimes said, noting that generational differences also allow Bavor and Szabo to learn from girls.
Bavor started with the Girl Scouts in 1939 in Massachusetts and in 1960 Bavor became a troop leader in Connecticut. Six years ago, after moving to Topsham and meeting Szabo, she decided to get involved again here on the Midcoast.
âI’m just a Girl Scout through and through – I guess it runs in my blood,â Bavor said.
Szabo also started with Girl Scouts as a child, then in 1969, coincidentally, she also became a troop leader in Connecticut. In 2000, when Szabo moved to Brunswick, she too found her way back to the organization.
Nationally, there are 1.7 million young members and 750,000 adult members in Girl Scouts. In Maine, there are 7,000 adult members, which include both life members and active volunteers.
âOur volunteers are truly invaluable, and it’s, alongside the girls, what makes the program so successful,â said Laura Genese, Director of Marketing and Communications for Girl Scouts of Maine. “We could not do it without our volunteers, we are very grateful to them”
For more information on Girl Scout opportunities for all ages, call (207) 772-1177.
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