A team of four IBM volunteers have a strong history of volunteerism with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma (GSEOK) in the United States. The GSEOK council covers an area of 30,000 square miles with about 13,000 girls in troops spread across the region.
Monique Francois and Patricia Gough are long-standing volunteers with Girl Scout troops in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area. Tamika Paredes organized a team of IBM volunteers to make improvements at a Girl Scout camp. Gary Provine provides leadership on GSEOK’s board of directors, enabling him to influence efforts to impact the lives of girls who participate in Girl Scouts.
Developing future leaders, serving needs today
Monique, a database administrator at IBM, describes herself as an advisor to the girls in the two troops she leads, and believes that, “Giving the girls the ability to make decisions and to make mistakes will help them learn to be leaders outside of Girl Scouts.” She adds that scouting “provides a safe environment where girls can learn, make mistakes and pick themselves up—teaching leadership but also effective teamwork.”
In 2011, Monique also volunteered to become a service unit manager for the Girl Scouts. Her service unit is comprised of 40 troops with over 300 girls and duties that include distributing council information to all troop leaders, managing the annual cookie sales in her unit, and presenting annual recognition to troop leaders and volunteers.
Both Monique and Tricia Gough, a business controls professional at IBM and a fellow troop leader, have presented IBM Activity Kits to their scouts, such as the Recycling Machine and Eat Your Science presentations, as well as the Internet Safety presentation to the scouts’ parents.
Tricia, who has been a troop co-leader for seven years says, “I was a Girl Scout when I was young, so I already knew many of the core values and skills taught in the program. I wanted my daughter—who’s been a girl scout for seven years—to learn those same values while also learning to give back to the community through service and involvement.”
Through Monique and Tricia’s leadership, girls in their troops have been the top Girl Scout cookie sellers in GSEOK for 10 of the past 11 years—proceeds from their cookie sales enable community service to organizations such as the Salvation Army Angel Tree and Tulsa-area food banks.
Facilities and resources to help girls succeed
Tamika Paredes is a systems administrator for IBM in Oklahoma and says that some years ago she was a Girl Scout Brownie who “ate a lot of snacks and did arts and crafts. I got back involved when my daughter joined—I was a ‘troop mommy’ chaperoning and helping the troop leader as needed.”
Tamika’s daughter had enjoyed Camp Swannie—with its hiking trails, archery range and fishing pond—so it was a good opportunity when Tamika learned the camp was on a list of volunteer activities for United Way’s Day of Caring.
Tamika led and participated in the project with several other IBM volunteers to give the camp a thorough cleaning—clearing trails and fence lines, making improvements to the camp’s living facilities, including the bathrooms, and removing graffiti. “We had fun, the camp got cleaned, and we got Girl Scout cookies for dessert, so I'll call that a win-win,” she says.
In addition to relying on safe and clean facilities for their scouts, GSEOK relies on a dedicated board of directors to oversee operations. In 2011, Gary Province, a delivery project executive and location manager at IBM, was asked to join their board. He serves on the finance committee, which is a good fit given his financial responsibilities at IBM. Gary says, “I enjoy working with other board members to come up with creative ways to provide the maximum amount of resources to make girls of all ages successful.”
In 2012, with Gary’s assistance, and working with the local IBM corporate citizenship manager, IBM provided GSEOK with a Marketing Strategy Roadmap Services Grant workshop which identified a need to improve GSEOK’s website and the marketing of its services.
The IBM team has also helped GSEOK develop online leader training and enabled GSEOK’s service centers in outlying areas with technology to help those who do not have Internet access.
Leading by example
Through the efforts of the IBM volunteers, GSEOK has received IBM Community Grants for the past five years, collectively accruing more than 3,000 volunteer hours. At GSEOK’s annual meeting in April 2013, IBM received an Outstanding Community Service Award and the four IBM volunteers were presented with the IBM Volunteer Excellence Award.
“There are a lot of needs and never enough volunteers, so everyone helping even just a small amount makes a difference” says Tricia. Echoing the theme, Tamika says, “I firmly believe it takes a village to raise a child. Someone took time to make sure my child had a good experience at camp and I’d like to help some other little girl have the same chance.”
Monique adds, “You may do something that the girls remember forever or that makes them realize that they can do anything they put their minds to. You don't realize until later that even little things can make a big difference in someone's life—so many girls need a good role model, the impact you have can’t be calculated.”
For their volunteers efforts with the Girls Scout of Eastern Oklahoma, Monique Francois, Patricia Gough, Tamika Paredes and Gary Provine are winners of a 2012 IBM Volunteer Excellence Award which recognizes IBM employees and teams who best exemplify the IBM values of dedication, innovation and trust through their volunteer efforts.