STRATHAM, NH | With her endless energy and cheerful attitude, Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is happy to name Leslie Blaney of Stratham its Volunteer of the Month for September. She is helping to build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.
“Leslie is a very special lady,” said Tracy Hall, who nominated Blaney, 57, for the honor. “She was a Girl Scout leader for her daughters all the way through. Even though her girls have graduated high school … Leslie still participates at our community level -- that's dedication.”
When her girls were younger, Blaney said, she wanted them to belong to a community organization, not just a social club. Blaney was already active with the Ladies Auxiliary of the Stratham Fire Department, and was willing to jump in as a troop leader when her girls were in kindergarten. “We had well over 110, 120 girls registered every year in Stratham,” she said.
The Girl Scout Sweetheart Dance, now 27 years old, has been a labor of love for Blaney for more than half of those years, and is a popular event in town. She gives credit to the DJ and photographer for their involvement with the dance since its inception. Originally a father-daughter dance, it’s now open to any Girl Scout and her “sweetheart,” which could be a father, mother, guardian, or any other special person in their lives. It’s a troop-led event, so older Girl Scouts choose each year’s theme, make invitation templates for other troops, and create the decorations.
“My second daughter, in her last year, the theme was ‘Nacho Average Sweetheart Dance’… they designed the patch, giant cacti, had a big photo scene with sombreros and sarapes,” she said. One father-daughter team, who plan well in advance what to wear each year based on the theme, were outstanding in his bolero costume and her ruffled skirt.
She’s also planned an annual mother-daughter tea each spring, which more than 100 people typically attend.
Cooking classes at the annual Girl Scout Camporee have let Blaney make good use of her professional cooking skills. She had owned a restaurant in town for 11 years, but now shows Girl Scouts how to cook over a campfire. Brownies in a box, which requires a foil-lined and covered cardboard box held over coals, is popular with the girls, as are peach cobbler in a can or omelets in a bag. You’ll have to take her classes to find out how they’re done!
The Camporee, a regional or local event that brings Girl Scout troops together to engage in camping and outdoor activities, takes place each year around Mother’s Day, and involves around 300 girls and adults, she said, not just learning to cook on a campfire, but also archery, canoeing, hiking, ropes courses and “all the outdoor things.”
Whether at a recruitment event or just one on one, Blaney encourages all to consider volunteering. “You volunteer and you get time with your kids. If you make the time to go to a camping trip or spend the hours making props for Thinking Day, you get more creative time with your kids.”
And you can make it work for your schedule.
“I would tell everyone, they all have the time,” she said. “I’ve owned my own restaurant, working seven days a week, was a room parent for school. Everybody can have some time to give. You set your own schedule now,” referring to troops who meet just once a month or online.
Blaney’s daughters are now in college, but have made lifelong friends through Girl Scouts, as well as learning useful life skills. “And the community involvement for me was great,” she said.
Guiding and inspiring girls in her community as they embrace new challenges, build important skills and take the lead – all in a no-limits place designed just for them, Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is proud of Leslie Blaney for embodying the G.I.R.L. (Go-Getter, Risk-Taker, Innovator, Leader)™ philosophy.