To many, the end of October means Halloween and the beginning of the holiday season, but this time of the year holds a vivid memory for Ellen Zetmeir. As most of Ellen’s friends and family know, she is actively involved with the Girl Scouts. What many may not know, however, is that 2019 marks her 50th Anniversary of being involved with the Girl Scout organization!
Ellen frequently mentions how growing up as a Girl Scout and her ongoing involvement with the organization has made her into the strong, independent woman she is today. We wanted to take the time to interview Ellen to find out more about her Girl Scout passion.
Q: What are your first memories of becoming a Brownie?
A: “I became a Brownie in 1969! It was the first time I’d ever worn a uniform and I remember every detail. I had my whole outfit with my little pins and an orange tie that my dad taught me how to correctly tie – it was so special. Girl Scout day was on Tuesdays, so we got to wear our uniforms to school. That was a really big deal as well!
In my hometown, Parsons, Kansas, we had what was called The Girl Scout Little House – a house that had been donated to the Parsons’ Girl Scouts and was used for events and storage. There was a big hill at the house that we used for ingathering. Ingathering was a big city-wide event and sing-along for Girl Scouts in celebration of Juliette Low’s (the founder of the Girl Scouts) birthday on Halloween. At this event, all of the troops would donate money benefiting the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund – funding international travel for Girl Scouts. The coolest part of the event was if someone had been on an international Girl Scout trip, they would bring home ashes from the final fire and add them to the fire at the ingathering. We were a bunch of wide-eyed little girls watching all of this happen – it was so cool!
For me, being a Brownie was a really big deal! In my hometown, that’s just what you did – everyone was a Girl Scout. You went to church on Wednesday nights and Girl Scouts on Tuesday nights.”
Q: What are some of your most memorable experiences as a Girl Scout?
A: “The first really cool thing I remember doing was going primitive camping off horseback in Wyoming for a week or two when I was in 9th grade. We got to ride through the mountains with an elevation map and a compass – no grown-ups around! We would ride our horses, find a place to eat dinner, sleep on the ground and then pack everything back on our horses. It was a truly amazing experience!
The following year, I got to be a delegate to a national convention in 1978. This was the year the Girl Scout logo was changed from the original logo with the eagle on the trefoil to the three faces on the envelope – showing girls of all ages and backgrounds. It was a huge deal to be there as a voting delegate!
On the way home from the convention, I began filling out paperwork to go on an International Wider Opportunity. After going through the interview process, I was selected as one of three Girl Scouts from the United States to go to South Africa. This was a game-changer for me! South Africa was in such turmoil at the time that we were even briefed by the State Department prior to our trip to be certain we knew what to expect upon arrival. We were representing the United States as Girl Scouts. It was a once in a lifetime experience.”
Q: How did being a Girl Scout change you? What life lessons did you learn?
A: “Girl Scouts empowered me, gave me confidence and taught me that I could be a smart woman. I also gained leadership skills, how to run a meeting and brainstorming skills. We learned important life skills including how to go to a fancy restaurant, how to tip and make reservations. Because of Girl Scouts, I had no fear and I still have no fear to this day. It was just even more amazing as a young girl. Plus, we didn’t have the distraction of boys at a young age!”
Q: Why should girls join Girl Scouts today?
A: “Girl Scouts has STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and a number of other opportunities that are truly amazing. Girl Scouts has lots of travel available for girls in small and large groups that teach girls life skills they wouldn’t have without travel. It’s an all-girl environment and that’s so important today!”
Q: What have you done as an adult with Girl Scouts and what are you currently doing?
A: “For 14 years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I was an advisor for the Youth Leadership Council with GSWISE (Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast.) It gave me the opportunity to advise over 400 girls and share my skills and confidence, preparing them for
life as an adult. To advise them and lead by example was probably the best work I’ve done with the Girl Scouts, period! It was just amazing and life-changing for not only the girls, but for me as well.
Today, I’m currently involved as an assistant troop leader with a cadet group at St. Peter’s School. I would LOVE to start doing some older girl leadership training here in Kansas City!”
Want to hear even more great stories about Ellen’s Girl Scout history? Stop by her store-front office and ask her anything! Plus, you can find out how to get involved with Girl Scouts yourself. It’s another way to get involved with a special program in the community of Brookside and Waldo.