Windham woman has been indispensable to Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains
WINDHAM, NH | If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it – especially if that person is Deborah (Debbie) Drake of Windham. It’s hard to imagine how the fulltime systems engineer has time to do everything she does, but Drake has been one of the strongest volunteers for Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains for decades. She is now recognized as the Volunteer of the Month for November.
Drake’s been honored with the Torchbearer award, Thanks Badge, and Honor Pin, some of the highest awards available to Girl Scout volunteers. Many New Hampshire and Vermont Girl Scouts will know her as the coordinator of Farnsworth Weekend, a camping opportunity for adult Girl Scout volunteers and older Girl Scouts, at which she personally checks everyone in. She’s been a National Council Delegate, attending the Girl Scouts’ National Convention in Houston in 2011 and Salt Lake City in 2014. She’s been a Girl Scout trainer/facilitator, a service unit manager, community product sale manager, and, of course, a Girl Scout troop leader.
“She’s a real advocate for girls,” said Linda Trust, of the GSGWM Alumnae Association. “She’s an engineer, and that was in an era when that was uncommon. She’s an advocate for girls’ leadership.”
Trust gives Drake credit for organizing Farnsworth Weekend. “Farnsworth is such a huge thing every year. I think people don’t understand she does it for no pay!” Drake coordinates dozens of workshops for the weekend, including creating the content for a multi-page brochure of all the classes, as well as coordinating volunteers for the weekend for necessities like parking. And she’s been doing this for over a decade, six years as committee chair.
“I’m pretty proud of the extent of workshops we can offer,” said Drake. “It’s been more in the last five or six years we’ve had that many workshops. People like to share their talents. We’ve been pretty active at bringing in outside presenters.”
Drake said the pie-iron workshops are one of the most popular. Participants learn to cook over an open fire with a device that’s like a sandwich press on a long iron pole. The sewing line of workshops has also taken off in recent years, she said. “The other one that’s popular is the Airsoft (rifles). I think it’s because it’s an activity Girl Scouts didn’t do (in the past).”
Of course Drake was a Girl Scout as a child, and became a First Class Girl Scout, the equivalent of today’s Gold Award Girl Scout, the highest award a girl can earn. She’s a lifetime member of Girl Scouts, and was a co-leader with Joanne Dickie in the late 1990s to early 2000s. She served on the Gold Award committee for many years.
Dickie said she and Deb got together when their daughters were Junior Girl Scouts. “Deb and I (worked) together through senior year. We took a group of girls to Iceland in 1999. After our troop went on to college, she was still mentoring and helping girls get their Gold Award. We had four girls out of 10 get the Gold Award.” They stayed co-leaders for those girls through their senior year in high school
Drake said this is one of the highlights of her time with Girl Scouts. “The best part was a year later when we had a mini troop reunion and talked about how much their Girl Scout experience made a difference for them in college, how active they could get in planning in events. They knew how to exist on their own, and were mature enough to be on their own in school.”
Dickie praised Drake for her happy, positive attitude. “The one thing I remember is that we were always there to encourage girls to do their best, in an age where everything was starting to change. She told them a lot about girls all around the world who couldn’t get educations, and showed them how special they are.”
Dee Dee Rice, of the GSGWM council, agreed. “She finds a way to work things out,” she said. “Always with a smile.” Rice also credits Drake with mentoring skills, that she’s willing to travel and help troop leaders with training and advice as a master trainer for Girl Scouts.
Drake is known for being part of the team that runs Novemberfest, handling the behind-the-scenes administrative work. It’s an opportunity for Junior Girl Scouts to work on a badge or Journey, while adults this year have the opportunity to take craft workshops in addition to the option of learning how to take advantage of the assistance offered by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains in running troops. The event brings girls and leaders together from southern New Hamphshire. The event is attended by about 80-100 girls.
Girl Scouts has brought much to Drake’s life, at first something to do with her daughter, Jessie, but it became so much more.
“It’s been the camaraderie, the women I meet, the people I meet,” she said. “It’s amazing how much I’ve learned through Girl Scout training that I bring back to my workplace. Some of the teamwork, building teams of people with different skills. I get that from Girl Scouts.”
Drake’s not only hosted Girl Scout trips like the Jamboree in Iceland, she’s been to Our Chalet, one of five world centers for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and the birthplace of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Georgia.
With two master’s degrees, Drake really is a role model for the girls to look up to, co-leader Dickie said. And when she’s not helping Girl Scouts, she’s involved in her town, helping with Windham’s 275th anniversary celebration last year, running the town’s scavenger hunt and helping with the town’s art book, as well as being treasurer of the Windham Garden Club.
Her daughter, Jessie Schweiss, has followed in her mother’s footsteps, now working for the council in the Marketing Department. Schweiss is also a Gold Award Girl Scout and works closely with her mother on Farnsworth Weekend.
“She taught me how to be strong and independent,” said Schweiss. “I love her!”
Drake encourages anyone thinking of volunteering for Girl Scouts to do it.
“There’s no better investment they can make in a girl, in a girl program, plus what they get out of it.”
Delivering a proven, one-of-a-kind leadership development program, and the largest in the world for girls, Girl Scouts provides girls with unlimited girl-led adventures and a lifetime of skills found nowhere else. Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is proud to call Deborah Drake our November Volunteer of the Month.