Making a Difference One Girl at a Time


By: Susan Longest

As a Girl Scout troop leader, former Board Chair, and current Board Vice Chair, I have experienced first-hand the positive impact of all-girl programming in the lives of countless girls. At Girl Scouts, girls are in the company of friends in an inviting, girl-led space. I watched girls learn a simple truth – they are capable of accomplishing almost anything they set their minds to. In that all-girl space, they are free to be themselves, free to try new things, and free to take the lead.

Unsurprisingly, Girl Scouts knows that the secret to creating female leaders is starting young. The organization provides the best leadership experience for girls in the world, created specifically with and for girls. Most of a girl’s life is coed. Through Girl Scouts’ more than 100 years of experience giving girls the tools they need to empower themselves, girls find a safe haven free from the pressures and social anxieties that can come from a mixed-gender environment.

There is simply no other leadership experience in the world that can give girls the opportunities that Girl Scouts provides. More importantly, there is no other experience that fosters in girls those intangible qualities that are so endemic to personal development—courage, confidence, and character—and that also happen to be the cornerstone of the Girl Scout mission.

Simply put, Girl Scouts works.


2017 Girl Scout Highest Awards Recipients

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2017 Gold Award Recipients, left to right: Abigail Abernathy, Jennifer Cotton, Courtney Skinner, Olivia Kostbade

On Tuesday, April 25, GSSI was honored to recognize our 2017 Highest Awards Recipients and top cookie sellers at the Emerald Ball Highest Awards Dinner. The Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards represent the highest honors a Girl Scout can earn. As you earn a Highest Award, you’ll impact your corner of the world – and maybe even beyond. The possibilities are endless. GSSI, the community, and the world are fortunate to have visionaries like you changing the world for the better.

2017 Gold Award Recipients

Abigail Abernathy’s Gold Award Project, A Doggie Meet-and-Greet Area, benefited the Posey County Humane Society. She created a safe and distraction-free area for families to bond with their potential lifelong friends. Abigail worked with the community to organize this project, and she is now a stronger leader.

Jennifer Cotton’s  Gold Award Project, Kick for the Cure, addressed breast cancer awareness in the community. This project was very significant to Jennifer since her mother is a breast cancer survivor. Jennifer hosted a Kick for the Cure event at Castle High School where she worked with community organizations to educate others about the cause and to raise funds for more awareness in schools.

Olivia Kostbade’s Gold Award Project, Love 2 Learn, addressed the lack of hands-on learning in a suitable environment. She organized summer programs at her local library that promoted team building, practical life skills, and the necessary English skills that will be useful to participants for the rest of their lives.

Courtney Skinner’s Gold Award Project, Growing Something from Nothing, focused on creating inspirational art in the Evansville Downtown Arts District. She partnered with the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana, which helped her create a crosswalk mural.

Congratulations to the Gold Award Recipients, as well as our other award recipients! See full list of award recipients and top cookie sellers.


2017 GSUSA Adult Awards Recipients

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Girl Scout volunteers have the incredible responsibility of building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. They instill values and decision-making skills. They are simply the best at creating future leaders.

Girl Scout volunteers deserve to hear “thank you” for all they do every day, but we know how rare it can be to hear those two little words that mean so much. Sometimes work is done behind the scenes, and it goes largely unnoticed how vital that work is to our Movement.

That is why we are honored each year to present the GSUSA Adult Awards. They are one way to formally recognize the contributions of volunteers whose service has been exemplary. Award recipients are nominated by their peers, reviewed and endorsed by a council committee of staff and volunteers, and approved by the GSSI Board of Directors.

On April 18, 2017, we were honored to present the following awards:

Volunteer of Excellence

The Volunteer of Excellence award recognizes volunteers who have contributed outstanding service while partnering directly with girls, or who have contributed outstanding service in support of the council’s mission delivery to girl and adult members.

Heather Barnett is a perfect example of a Volunteer of Excellence living the Girl Scout Law. Her hard work, generosity, and dedication are well-known at Holy Rosary where she has a very large, multi-level troop of over 50 girls that has earned Golden Honor Troop status multiple years. Thank you for your dedication and service to Girl Scouting.

Sarah Leinenbach is a Lifetime Member and longtime supporter of GSSI, who has served as an incredibly dedicated and organized cookie cupboard manager and cookie chair in Dubois County, even though she does not yet have a daughter in the program. Your selfless service is greatly appreciated.

Kim Mehringer is another Dubois County Lifetime Member, who instills the drive and innovative thinking she exhibited as a girl member in her troop members today. Kim goes above and beyond as a troop leader by helping her girls travel, plan events, and serve others. Thank you for sharing your passion for Girl Scouting with your girls, and with the council as a whole.

Melissa Ruschau continuously goes above and beyond the expectations of her role – as a troop leader, event planner, and day camp director. She is dedicated, resourceful, and passionate about Girl Scouting. Than you for sharing that passion with the girls and with the council.

Kaycie Bayer Oakley has greatly contributed to the Cookie Program in the Southwest Warrick Service Unit. Her passion and continual striving for improvement have ensured the success of that program and are apparent to anyone who has the pleasure of working with her. Thank you for all you do for our girls and volunteers.

Honor Pin

The Honor Pin recognizes an individual’s exemplary service in support of delivering the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, with impact in one, or two or more, geographical areas.

Tim Jones has been the GSSI treasurer for two years, and his contributions to GSSI go far beyond an efficient and competent treasurer for the corporation. He was instrumental in the CEO search and in developing a long-term financial plan for GSSI. He has truly embraced our Movement and worked hard to develop processes, guidelines, and plans to ensure that we have a strong future. Thank you Tim.

Thanks Badge

The Thanks Badge is among the highest awards available to adult Girl Scouts. It honors individuals whose ongoing commitment, leadership, and service have had an exceptional, measurable, impact on meeting the mission-delivery goals and priorities of the council or the entire movement.

Margaret Dennis has held several roles throughout the council, and she has approached each one with dedication, passion, and contagious enthusiasm. She has served as a troop leader, cluster chair, service unit chair, day camp director, and is now a staff member who is instrumental in supporting GSSI’s volunteers. Margaret has worked tirelessly to help girls and volunteers across our entire council, and we are thankful for her supportive and superior leadership.

Suzanne Hunter has been an exemplary Girl Scout volunteer for over a decade. She has consistently excelled, and has been recognized as an outstanding leader for her daughter’s troop. She has earned the Honor Pin for her impact on our Movement by organizing events, and now we are honored to recognize her continued service as a troop leader, event planner, and board member by presenting her with the Thanks Badge. It is because of generous volunteers like Suzanne that we can deliver a quality Girl Scout Leadership Experience. Thank you.

Susan M. Longest Leadership Award

Sometimes there are amazing people who go so far above and beyond in their leadership and performance that there are no existing awards that accurately represent their contributions. Thus, we present the Susan M. Longest Leadership Award, a brand new Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana Award.

Susan Longest is a Lifetime Member who has actively served our council for almost 20 years in many roles, including troop leader, service unit chair, event coordinator, and chair of the board of directors. The Susan M. Longest Leadership Award recognizes an active Girl Scout member for a minimum of five years who has received both the Thanks Badge and Thanks Badge II. This award recognizes furtherance of the entire Girl Scout Movement through public and highly visible community involvement and visionary leadership. Susan’s work in creating greater possibilities for girls shows extraordinary results, and her contributions are significantly above expectations. Thank you Susan, and we look forward to honoring Girl Scout adults who have emulated your superior level of leadership with this award.

Congratulations to all award recipients. See a list of past recipients here.




A Letter to GSSI Volunteers

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Dear Girl Scout Volunteers,

Every day, you make it possible for girls to enjoy and benefit from an adventure-having, skill-building, lead-taking, life-changing good time. It’s undeniable: without your commitment to unleashing the G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ in each and every one of the girls you touch, Girl Scouts couldn’t be the positive, powerful, and life-changing experience it is for our girls.

That’s why it has been the biggest honor this April, National Volunteers Month, to celebrate the powerful and inspiring contributions you make all year long. And today, Girl Scout Leader’s Day, we want to extend an extra special thank you for all you do for our future leaders.

We know it is all about the girls. You  embrace this not-so-glamorous job so you can help today’s girls grow up to be women of courage, confidence, and character. You know all about making the world a better place because you do that every day for your girls. So today, we want it to be all about you. Sit back, relax, and know that you are appreciated. Know that you are making a difference.

We couldn’t do it without you. Thank you.

Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana

Meet the Staff: Recruitment, Placement, Customer Care, and Retail

DSC_1404 Spring has sprung here at GSSI! As the days get longer and flowers begin to bloom, we are dreaming of Bridging Ceremonies, carefree afternoons at camp, and the pride of recognizing our Highest Awards Recipients after their months of hard work.

We have three new faces who are excited to join GSSI just in time to experience it all!

If you visit or call the council office, you will probably meet Megan Leavitt first. She will be at the front desk as the new Customer Care and Retail Specialist. She brings over 15 years of  customer service experience with her, as well as a background in theater, cosmetology, makeup, and of course Girl Scouts! She loved camping, cooking over a fire, and badge earning with her Girl Scout troop.

Next up is Weston Whitehouse, who will take care of membership placement. He is responsible for placing girls and adults in troops and making sure volunteers are background checked and ready to go! He also has a weakness for Girl Scout Cookies….but who doesn’t?

Last but not least is April Hicks, our newest Membership Recruiter. April will be out in the community in the East River, North Warrick, Daviess-Martin, North Dubois, South Dubois, Spencer, and Perry Service Units telling girls and adults about Girl Scouts. It is near and dear to her heart since she loved being a Girl Scout and having her mom as her troop leader. Make sure to say hi to April if you see her in your community!

We are so excited to have Megan, Weston, and April on board! To contact GSSI, call 812-421-4970 or email


Want Stronger Leaders Tomorrow? Invest in Girls Today


What is the mark of a strong leader?

Is it the ability to inspire and transform? The ability think strategically and possess a peerless view of the future?  The ability to calm, listen and unite during challenging times? Ample reserves of confidence, integrity, fearlessness and grit? These are all important qualities to consider when assessing one’s capacity for leadership.

One factor that should not be in consideration? The gender of the leader.

At Girl Scouts, we are building the next generation of visionaries prepared to boldly assume the mantle of leadership. We must unite in the quest to expand leadership development for girls and young women—across race, class, and beyond. Indeed, providing even more girls with comprehensive, relevant leadership development opportunities will prove crucial to the vibrancy of tomorrow.

We see talented women who contribute their intelligence, passion, and expertise across the spectrum—and we need more. Girls represent a vital resource of remarkable potential that can―and must―be harnessed to the full benefit of humanity. At Girl Scouts, we approach this responsibility with the dedication it deserves, offering girls a foundation for leadership development.

Thank you – leaders, parents, volunteers, and champions for girls of all kinds for all you do to instill leadership qualities in our girls. We know your work with the leaders of tomorrow is vital and life-changing, not only for the girls as they grow into successful women of vision, but also for society as a whole as they go forth and make the world a better place. Thank you for investing in girls and in all of our future.



Meet the Staff: Our Newest Membership Recruiter



As we usher in a new year, it is fitting to take a moment to welcome our newest Membership Recruiter, Tiffany. Although Tiffany is new to the job of recruiting girls and adults in Posey, North West, North Central, North Warrick, Gibson, Pike, and Knox, she is a familiar face around the council.

Before she became a Membership Recruiter, Tiffany was an After School Program Intern. She assisted with the planning and implementation of various Girl Scout programs. Now, she is excited to help make more girls and adults aware of the wonderful opportunities at Girl Scouts they can be involved in.

Tiffany is excited to meet new people and give them opportunities they would not have without Girl Scouts. She looks forward to meeting you!

With questions, please contact, or 812-421-4970.