Tag Archives: Girl Scouts

Unsung Hero #242

Today marks double honors for Judy Frey.

Girl Scouts of Connecticut honor her at Woodway Country Club in Darien, for over 30 years as a volunteer. She’s served in many capacities, including chair of their Southwestern Council.

She’s also “06880”‘s Unsung Hero of the Week, for all her work locally.

It’s hard to imagine any Westporter more associated with Girl Scouts than Judy Frey.

A Scout herself as a child in the 1950s — in many troops, because her father was in the military and moved often — “girls didn’t get to do a lot of things,” she says. That’s why the Scouts’ outdoor activities were so welcome.

Judy Frey

When she moved to Westport from Minnesota in 1978, she’d already had experience leading her daughter’s troop. She called Scout leaders, met “wonderful” people (including another famed leader, Betty Roberts), and began her long involvement here.

When her daughter was in 7th grade, Judy met Nancy Peach. They began bringing troops to Camp Aspetuck, in Weston. “Some of the girls were scared to go out at night,” Judy recalls. “It was great to take them out of their comfort zone. Making girls stretch is so important.”

Then it was on to the Appalachian Trail. “Nancy taught me so much about the outdoors,” she marvels. Judy also took adults on outdoor adventures, from the White Mountains to Corsica.

But she continued working with Girl Scouts, long after her daughter’s graduation from Staples in 1987. Judy was involved with the high school troop, 8 or 10 girls a year who enjoyed learning skills, camaraderie, and taking trips to places like London. The typical Girl Scout, she says, is “driven to achieve things.”

Judy also volunteered with the district office. A building at Camp Aspetuck now bears her name.

Thanks, Judy, for all you’ve done, for so many. Enjoy both honors today!

(Hat tip: Lynn Goldberg. To nominate an Unsung Hero, email 06880blog@gmail.com. A reminder: “06880” relies entirely on reader donations. To contribute, click here.) 

Judy Frey in 2012, with the plaque in her honor at Camp Aspetuck.

 

After 13 Years, Girl Scout Troop Stays Strong

When Kerry Liles registered her daughter Molly for kindergarten at Greens Farms Elementary, Marguerite Rossi encouraged signing up for Girl Scouts too. Remembering her own great 7 years as a Scout in Long Island, Kerry figured, Why not?

As she did, Marguerite said, “You’re on the wrong side of the table. We need volunteers!”

Thirteen years later, Molly is still a Girl Scout. Kerry is still the leader. And though other activities, moves away from Westport — and life — have whittled the numbers down from 21 to 7, that group is still very active. They’re very tight. And the tale of Troop 50048 is very, very cool.

An early Girl Scout cookies sale. Kerry Liles stands in back.

Those first years with Brownies were “like herding kittens,” Kerry recalls. The girls planted daffodils at GFS, did crafts, and — most importantly — became friends.

As they graduated to full Girl Scouts, their horizons widened. Their activities broadened.

“Anything you can think of, my girls have done,” Kerry says proudly. That includes volunteering at Homes for the Brave, Senior Center and Gillespie Center; helping clean up Long Island Sound; collecting items for women in need; sunrise hikes; weeks at Camp Jewell, and learning first aid and CPR.

Back in the day, at Camp Jewell.

One of the best connections has been with Norwalk’s Open Doors shelter. From 6th through 10th grade the girls hosted Halloween parties, brought holiday gifts, helped out on special occasions, and created bonds with young kids.

When COVID struck and indoor activities became impossible, the troop headed to Smith Richardson Preserve. In cold, windy weather they weeded, cut vines, mended fences — and grew even tighter.

During the pandemic, activities like these provided important outlets for energy, and a way to stay together. One day, they arrived at the preserve to find their tools had been stolen. They sat for an hour, just talking.

“It’s a very diverse group,” Kerry notes. “But they really take care of each other.”

They take special care of Olivia Ross. She’s in a wheelchair and non-verbal. But from a young age, the Scouts learned sign language to communicate. They’ve literally carried her up a mountain. They admire her, and she loves them.

Olivia’s mother Victoria says that Girl Scouts “opened up a world to her, with no judgments. No mountain would go unclimbed for Olivia.”

She calls Kerry “an extraordinary leader and friend.”

The troop’s relationship with the Open Door Shelter is long-lasting and strong. In this photo from last winter’s party Kerry Liles is in the back, 5th from left.

Kerry downplays her role in the troop’s longevity and success. But, parent Stacie Curran says, “she has created  a sisterhood with these gals. They may not be best pals at school, but when they get together Kerry has guided them in building great bonds through different life experiences. They’ll carry those bonds through life.

“Kerry has taught them  kindness, care, toughness, watching out for each other, doing for others, being there for those in need, and life skills — it’s endless!”

Boy Scouts get plenty of publicity. Girl Scouts — not so much.

They have a reputation that they’re “all about crafts,” Kerry admits. “But I’m rugged. We do a lot more than crafts. And I’m all about volunteering too.”

Working last spring at Smith Richardson.

With all the options available to teenagers today, Girl Scouts may seem like a throwback. Molly’s friends sometimes can’t believe she’s still a Scout.

“I like the people,” she says simply. “And we have a lot of fun.”

In June, Molly and her six Girl Scout troopmates — Olivia Ross, Olivia Pace, Carly Curren, Zoe Kaye, Theresa Vandis  and Sofia Palumbo — will graduate. They can remain individual “ambassadors,” but that will be the end of their active Scouting careers.

Until, Kerry notes, they have kindergartners of their own. At which point — just like she did 13 years ago — they may sign up to be Girl Scout leaders too.

Happy 100th, Girl Scouts!

In 1962 — to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of the USA — officials asked Stevan Dohanos to paint a portrait.

The noted illustrator — a Westport resident — chose the most typical Girl Scout in town he could find to model. Her name was Betsy Beardsley.

Twenty-five years later — in honor of the 75th anniversary — Judy Frey tracked down both Betsy (in Florida) and the picture (in storage at national headquarters).

Because Judy was a longtime Scout leader, active in both Westport and Connecticut activities, she arranged for a permanent loan to the state’s Southwest Council.

Right now — to celebrate the Girl Scouts’ 100th anniversary — it’s hanging in Westport Town Hall.

Westport Girl Scouts Christina Meehan, Shanti Wimmer, Malini Wimmer and Sarah Sherts pose proudly in front of Steven Dohanos' painting, now hanging in Town Hall.

It’s hard to imagine any Westporter more associated with Girl Scouts than Judy Frey.

A Scout herself as a child in the 1950s — in many troops, because her father was in the military and moved often — “girls didn’t get to do a lot of things,” she says. That’s why the Scouts’ outdoor activities were so welcome.

When she moved to Westport from Minnesota in 1978, she’d already had experience leading her daughter’s troop. She called Scout leaders, met “wonderful” people (including another famed leader, Betty Roberts), and began her long involvement here.

Judy Frey, with the plaque in her honor at Camp Aspetuck.

When her daughter was in 7th grade, Judy met Nancy Peach. They began bringing troops to Camp Aspetuck, in Weston. “Some of the girls were scared to go out at night,” Judy recalls. “It was great to take them out of their comfort zone. Making girls stretch is so important.”

Then it was on to the Appalachian Trail. “Nancy taught me so much about the outdoors,” she marvels. Today, Judy takes adults on outdoor adventures, from the White Mountains to Corsica.

But she continued working with Girl Scouts, long after her daughter’s graduation from Staples in 1987. Judy was involved with the high school troop, 8 or 10 girls a year who enjoyed learning skills, camaraderie, and taking trips to places like London. The typical Girl Scout, she says, is “driven to achieve things.”

Judy also volunteered with the district office. A building at Camp Aspetuck now bears her name.

She calls the state of Girl Scouting in Westport “pretty good. There are some very enthusiastic people involved.” Earlier this month, 500 Scouts and adults met for a “Thinking Day” at Bedford Middle School.

Judy Frey, in her beloved outdoors.

Of course, she wishes more women were involved as leaders. “Not as many women stick around long-term as before,” she says. “We need help with camping events. There’s more to Scouting than just taking trips to the fire station.”

Over the years, Girl Scouts have changed. The cooking badge now emphasizes nutrition, and where service projects once were Westport-specific, now the Scouts make dresses for girls in Africa.

Today marks the actual 100th anniversary of the founding of Girl Scouts in America. A small display is set up at the Westport Library.There will be a low-key flag-raising at Town Hall. Second selectwoman Shelly Kassen will issue a proclamation.

No word on whether those delicious cookies will be served.