Guest Blogger: Jan Verhage, Executive Director – Girl Scouts Nations Capital 1985-2010
A word from our CEO:
We are as good as the leaders we follow. When we lost two longtime devoted employees it felt only appropriate that Jan Verhage our former Executive Director writer a remembrance of these two remarkable women who dedicated more than two decades to our council. We are stronger because of their leadership. Thank you Jan.
Lidia Soto-Harmon, CEO Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital
I was overwhelmed by memories with recent news of the passing of Sandra King-Shaw, former Deputy Director and Charlene Meidlinger, former Assistant Executive Director. We were colleagues for many years, working side-by-side, making sure that Girl Scouting reached every girl possible.
Sandra was on the staff of Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital when I arrived and almost immediately became the champion for membership. Under her leadership, enrollment grew by leaps and bounds, making the Council the largest in the country. Reaching underserved populations was her passion, and regardless of the request, she could always find the funds to insure that all girls had access to the full Girl Scout Experience. From Membership Director, to Assistant Executive Director, to Deputy Director – her focus never wavered. Her determination to provide exceptional program enrichment for girls and consistent training for volunteers continues today along with the Council’s unwavering commitment to serve all girls. This is her legacy.
Charlene was her daughter, Ruth’s troop leader. I think she officially joined the staff within days of Ruth’s graduation from High School. She brought her volunteer passion for the Cookie Sale and Annual Giving to the staff and just like Sandra, broke every record imaginable. Annual Giving went through the roof and the Cookie Sale became the largest in the County. When she became Assistant Executive Director, her portfolio expanded to include outdoor program, properties, the Girl Scout Shop, and lots more. She was the creative genius behind the Girl Scout Sing Along (not once – but three times), Camp CEO, a full range of camp improvements and expansions, and much more.
From the outside, Sandra and Charlene couldn’t have been more different, but in many ways they were exactly the same. This is what matters…
#1. They never lost sight of the fact, first and foremost, that Girl Scouting was “about the girls”.
#2. They believed in volunteers and understood that without volunteers, nothing was possible.
#3. When faced with a challenge, they brought only positive energy to the table. If it needed to be done, they could do it.
#4. Finally, they were an inspiration to countless staff members, whose successful careers continue today.
Some people say that leadership is a lonely job. Not with Sandra and Charlene around. Their constant presence, day or night. Their unwavering commitment to the Movement. Their willingness to challenge conventional thought. Their sheer joy whenever good things were happening for girls…made all leadership jobs less lonely and much more fun!
As we say goodbye to these two dear souls, I celebrate their exceptional talent, am grateful for their friendship, and know that Girl Scouting in the Nation’s Capital is stronger because these two women chose to share their many gifts with all of us.