Friday, April 10, 2015

Four women, one family, and nearly 80 years of Girl Scouting

For Vi Ahlquist, Becky Mickle, Jodi Holland and Natalie Holland, Girl Scouts is more than an afterschool activity. It’s as much of a family trait as eye color or freckles.

Vi Ahlquist, second from left, enjoying the outdoors 
with her Girl Scout sisters, circa 1937
It all started when 14-year-old Vi joined Girl Scouts in 1936, setting in motion a tradition that is still a part of her family nearly 80 years later.

Vi was a member of Girl Scout troop number three which met at Grace Methodist Church in Warren, Pa.

As a young Girl Scout, Vi enjoyed the outdoors with her friends—hiking, swimming and songs by the campfire. 

The troop did many activities at the church as well. Vi especially enjoyed the connection she had with her Girl Scout sisters. It’s that spirit of instant friendship that kept Vi involved in Girl Scouts throughout her life.

Vi’s lifelong interest in Girl Scouts went beyond the Warren area. On one of her husband Walt’s business trips, of course she wanted to meet some Girl Guides! She worked with Girl Scouts’ national headquarters in New York to connect with Girl Guides from Ring deutscher Pfadfinderverbände while she was in Germany in 1973.

“They sent an official letter of introduction,” Vi recalls. She has many souvenirs from that trip, including Girl Guide songbooks written in German.

When she purchased a vacation home in Findley Lake, New York, Vi became involved in Girl Scouts there, too. Her granddaughter Hillary Ahlquist—who lived right next door—was in a local troop.

“Word got around quickly that Vi Ahlquist had gone through the ranks,” Vi laughs.

Back in Warren, Vi served on the council’s board of directors, and participated in the 75th and 100th Girl Scouts anniversary celebrations with her family and fellow Girl Scouts by her side.
Vi stays in touch with the friends she’s met over the years through Girl Scouts.

“Make new friends, and keep the old,” Vi laughs, quoting a traditional Girl Scout song.

The women formed a group called the Trefoil Connection which still meets four times a year. At the December holiday party and business meeting, members vote to allocate the group’s annual donation. They’ve donated funds to help maintain GSWPA camps and often purchase Girl Scout Cookies from local troops.

Becky Mickle

Vi served as a Girl Scouts’ Neighborhood Chairman for many years, responsible for recruiting new Girl Scout troop leaders.

“That’s how I became involved as a troop leader,” laughs Becky Mickle, Vi’s daughter. “Mom recruited me and babysat Jodi, who was a baby at the time, while I went to meetings.”

Becky was only a Girl Scout leader in Warren for a year before her husband’s career in the Navy took them to new places to call home. For the next 26 years, the family lived in Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia, Mississippi, New Jersey, South Carolina and California.

Girl Scouts helped Becky throughout all the moves and transitions by connecting her daughter to the instant friendships her mom Vi always enjoyed in Girl Scouting.

“That’s why I wanted to get Jodi involved in Girl Scouts,” Becky says. “It was a way for her to make new friends every time we moved. And it worked.”

After her husband retired from the Navy in 2003, Becky’s family—including Jodi, her husband and son—returned from San Diego to Warren. Their cars and trucks full of belongings formed a cross-country caravan that went straight to Vi’s house.

“We came back for the weather,” laughs Becky.

Jodi and Natalie Holland

Jodi Holland made the most of her years as a Girl Scout in New Jersey, Mississippi and, lastly, San Diego. She has sashes full of badges and a pile of scrapbooks, documenting a happy childhood full of fun and friendship through Girl Scouting.

Jodi is overjoyed to pass that tradition on to her daughter Natalie, the family’s fourth generation Girl Scout who was born in 2004 after the family returned to Warren. Jodi co-leads her Junior Girl Scout troop.

Vi Ahlquist (seated), Natalie Holland, Jodi Holland 
and Becky Mickle
When Jodi asked Natalie why she became a Girl Scout, Natalie replied, “It’s a family tradition, and I want to keep the tradition going.”

Continuing traditions is very important to the girls in Jodi’s troop. For their Bronze Award project, the girls are creating a CD of Girl Scout songs. A few of the songs the troop is including in the project bring fond memories back for Natalie’s great-grandmother.

“We sang ‘Linger’ when we were Girl Scouts, too,” Vi remembers.

Girl Scouts for life

The tradition that Vi started in 1936 is one her family carries on with pride. In addition to Becky, Jodi and Natalie, several other women in Vi’s family have made the Girl Scout promise, including daughter Mary Hofer and granddaughters Emily Hofer Gausman and Hillary Ahlquist.

Vi has enjoyed the connections that Girl Scouts has provided her and her family over the years. “There’s an old hymn, ‘Blest Be the Tie that Binds,’ and I feel Girl Scouts does that,” Vi says. “Girl Scouts is the tie that binds us together.”

Through Girl Scouts, Vi feels that she’s had experiences she couldn’t get elsewhere.

“I’m just a regular, ordinary old grandma,” Vi laughs. “But I have had a lot of opportunities.”