Sarah Phalen, INB president and CEO, says her family’s involvement in the Girl Scouts goes back a couple generations and continues with her own daughter, Anna. Sarah’s grandmother formed a troop and was a leader. Sarah’s mom, Lora Murgatroyd, was both a scout as a young girl, and, later, an adult leader. The same can be said for Sarah.

Lora says she joined a troop around 4th grade. “My mother formed a troop and was my leader, so she decided I should join GS. I was a member until I reached junior high.” She later became a troop leader because there wasn’t a troop in her community, and she wanted Sarah to have the same experiences she remembered having.

“My favorite part by far was seeing the girls have fun and finding joy in what they were doing. Being crafty myself, I always liked the crafts we did; I’m sure their favorite parts were the outings,” Lora says. 

When Sarah was asked to name her favorite part of scouting, she shared her mom’s opinion. Photo of Anna Phalen“I enjoyed the crafts. Each meeting we generally did some sort of craft that corresponded to a lesson. At the end, if we had been good, we were allowed to play some games, and that was fun, too.” 

Sarah shared the Girl Scout experience with most of the girls in her class from 1st through 5th grades. “We would walk as a group from the elementary school to the church or firehouse for our meetings, and then the meetings lasted ‘til 5; it was good to have something to look forward to after school.”

When looking back, Sarah says the main things she learned weren’t part of the regularly scheduled programming. “I was very shy, and by being a part of the troop, it pushed me into an environment where I was around other girls from my class. I liked having those meetings to get together with other girls that I would not normally be comfortable starting a conversation with. I also liked the snacks… each meeting someone was responsible for snacks and brought them from home. That was always a highlight.” 

Yule Log Brings Girls Together

Sarah and her mom point to the Yule Log competition as their favorite Girl Scout activity . . . for different reasons. Lora says she liked it best because the girls liked it best. For Sarah, it was about being with others. She explains, “We would decorate a yule log as a troop each Christmas and take our troop’s yule log to a gathering of other local troops in Decatur.  We would stand out in the cold, drink hot chocolate and sing Girl Scout songs as we saw other troops’ yule logs and shared ours. It was a good way to get into the Christmas spirit.”

While some of the details of her own days as a scout are foggy, Sarah has vivid memories of serving as a Girl Scout leader for her daughter.  Like her own mom, Sarah’s joy came from seeing happy girls, not necessarily from a particular activity. “We did lots of field trips and crafts and even did a girl scout camp with the girls. I slept in a covered wagon with three other girls out in the wooded camping area.  We went kayaking; we made food over the fire; we went hiking . . . The girls had so much fun.”

Girl Scouts Teach Skills for a Lifetime

As a shy, young girl, Sarah says she appreciates how the scouts forced her to interact with all the girls from her class. “Girls can be mean and have their groups, but when we went to Girl Scouts we were all together and everyone was the same.  It allowed me to build some friendships with girls that never talked to me at school.  Each girl was given different responsibilities, and it helped foster leadership in those of us that didn’t see ourselves as leaders.

“People like to feel a part of something,” Sarah continues. “Whether it’s a movement, a company, a family or a team.  Sometimes all it takes is a person to be given a job and a way they can contribute and then they are ALL IN.  Sharing songs, values, history and getting together on a regular basis are all important parts of being a team.  The walk to and from Girl Scout meetings was just as important as the meeting.  The snack time after the meeting where we shared laughs were some of the best times, and working together on projects that we complained about brought everyone together.”

Sarah uses skills she learned as a Girl Scout everyday. When speaking to the INB team, she tries to work in stories of the bank’s values. “Telling stories to share history and purpose are important.” She adds: “And food days are definitely a must!” Sarah also makes an effort to meet and talk to everyone who will be offered a job at INB and hold quarterly meetings with each department, each quarter.  

Today, girls have opportunities they didn’t have before, says Sarah, making it more difficult for families to make time for the Girl Scouts. Sarah hopes parents will find a way. “When I lead Anna’s troop at St. Agnes Elementary, we worked around it.  It helped her have a group of friends who were not her usual friends.  One girl was accomplished Irish dancer and hosted a meeting where she taught the other girls some of the dance moves.  Anna was exposed to new people and new skills, and that is always a good thing.”

Giving the Gift of the Girl Scouts

Through Jan. 8, 2021, The Girls Scouts of Central Illinois is offering free $25 membership plus a $10 uniform credit to any girl who wants to join a troop or participate with her family. The scouts have worked hard to develop programming that helps develop girl power while keeping everyone as safe as possible. For details, visit the Girl Scout website.