Conn. Woman Marks 70 Years Dedicated to Girl Scouts

STAFFORD, Conn. -- Since the age of seven, Alice Sprowles has been dedicated to Girl Scouts of America.

Now, 70 years later, she's been honored for her outstanding commitment to the organization with a 70-year membership pin.

Sprowles, 77, joined the Girl Scouts in 1940. For the next 27 years she served as a Scout in Massachusetts, then spent 22 years as a Girl Scout professional in Rhode Island. From there she moved on briefly to New Hampshire with her husband before finally settling down in Stafford.

She's currently a member of Girls Scouts of Connecticut Council.

"I became a leader and was a camp director," Sprowles said. "I did it for fun, and then it became my income."

Sprowles discovered her love for the program as a Brownie.

"I really liked the programs and then I became a director. When I was alone I needed to find full-time work, and they gave me a job," she said.

Becky Tanner, membership and marketing manager of the North Windham Girl Scouts Council, acknowledged that Sprowles is among a select few in the organization to have seven decades of membership and support.

"Very few get this pin," Tanner said. "I would say she was one of two who got it in Connecticut this year."

Sprowles received her 70-year membership pin last month during an awards ceremony at Girl Scouts of Connecticut's annual meeting at the Rocky Hill Marriott.

Sprowles' daughter, Kathryn Cairns, 54, enjoyed the Girl Scouts with her in Massachusetts, and Cairns' daughter, Ariel, 17, went on to join the Girl Scouts in Maine.

Sprowles' six other grandchildren -- three girls and three boys -- were also involved in Scouting at some point.

Sprowles involved her own three children early when she would take them on cross-country camping trips while camp director for the Girl Scouts.

"We camped during the 10-week summer to California and back," she said. "They really enjoyed that."

Her dedication to the Girl Scouts stems from the core values the organization teaches young girls: building courage, confidence, and character.

"The program gives girls a place to learn to be independent. Someone isn't doing something for you; you learn to do it yourself," she said.

As years passed, her responsibilities grew, and she left working with a troop to join the Girl Scouts Council, which helps to pass policies and procedures for the area it covers.

She was even chosen as a representative of the Girl Scouts of America for a Jamboree in Australia in 1951.

"She's so upbeat," Tanner said. "I wish I had a hundred of her. Most of the women do it when their daughters are Scouts and once their daughters leave, those women say, 'I'm done."'

Sprowles cites her favorite activities with the Girl Scouts as the games and camping adventures she would attend with the girls, although she's spent most of her service conducting orientations, training new leaders, and helping new members gain their footing in the program.

"I enjoy watching them have enough skills to do well in the program," Sprowles said. "They learn to go out and do things on their own."

But 70 years of commitment to the Girl Scouts has not come without major shifts in how things are run.

"The girls haven't changed, but the rules have," Sprowles said. "We had rules in the beginning because families weren't willing to let their daughters go out in the woods, but now the legal ramifications have grown."

As opportunities for young women continue to grow, working women are also drawn away from the program.

"A great deal of women used to have time to do this and they don't now," she said. "It's hard for people to find time, but you have to want to make time."

She added that when after-school programs were limited years ago, the Girl Scouts program was the most viable option. Now, opportunities have vastly expanded and dependence on Scouting activities as a source of entertainment has waned.

Despite the morphing image of an 88-year-old organization, Sprowles still believes the Girl Scouts helps young women to grow and succeed.