Paving the way

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A new all-girls troop of Scouts BSA (Boy Scouts) launched in Monona in August, becoming the first of its kind in the county since the 109-year-old organization began allowing girls ages 11 to 17 to join on Feb. 1. Troop 138 meets every Monday night at the Monona Community Center. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

For its latest fundraiser, Troop 138 helped out at Birdnow Chevrolet of Monona’s annual customer appreciation breakfast and open house. Pictured with Justin Birdnow are (front, left to right) Jerica Wille, Emma Koether, Isabella Torkelson, Karish Kluth; (back) Marlene Franzen, Marie Richard, Alena Toberman, Janie Wille and Magen Richard. (Submitted photo)

Isabella Torkelson (left) and Marlene Franzen practice their knot-tying skills at a recent meeting. The hands-on activities and fundraisers are what the girls say drew them to Scouts BSA. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

Monona has county’s first all-girl Scouts BSA troop

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

A new all-girls troop of Scouts BSA (Boy Scouts) launched in Monona in August, becoming the first of its kind in the county since the 109-year-old organization began allowing girls ages 11 to 17 to join on Feb. 1.

“We just started,” said Alena Toberman, scoutmaster of Troop 138, “but we’ve been fairly busy.”

The girls recently participated in the fall camporee, a district-wide event held at Backbone State Park, where they camped, visited a variety of skills stations and completed a service project.

“We did some activities like rock climbing and hiking and making fires,” added one of the scouts, Marie Richard.

“It was the first time I went camping not in my backyard,” noted Isabella Torkelson.

Another event was Merit Badge University in Guttenberg, where Scouts received instruction on a number of merit badges.

“The girls got to pick one and they completed their merit badge in a day,” Toberman said.

The Scouts were busy practicing some of the skills they’ve picked up, like tying knots and properly folding a flag, on Monday, Nov. 18, at their weekly meeting. It was also “join night” for the troop, and some of the girls had invited friends to the meeting, to see what the group is all about.

“Right now, we have six [Scouts],” said Toberman, “but the girls have been talking to their friends, and some have shown an interest.”

Manchester is the other nearest all-girl Scouts BSA troop, and Lansing is also in the process of creating one. Toberman said Troop 138 in Monona offers a good in between point.

“Waukon, Postville, McGregor, Elkader—any of the girls in those areas have been invited to join,” she shared.

Since Troop 138 is so new, many of the girls’ activities so far have included fundraising. They held a car wash at Birdnow Chevrolet in Monona, which allowed them to raise money for troop shirts and uniforms, and have also sold candy bars. The Troop was back at Birdnow in early November, to help make pancakes at the dealership’s annual customer appreciation breakfast and open house.

“We served nearly 400 people, and we couldn’t have done it without the help of our Scouts,” said Justin Birdnow.

The girls not only earned valuable experience and boosted their teamwork skills, but they received a generous $500 check from Birdnow Chevrolet.

“Birdnow Chevrolet is very committed to helping raise money for local organizations, especially our youth,” Birdnow stated.

The troop will use the funds for camps, equipment, supplies, merit badges and general operations.

The hands-on activities and fundraisers are what the girls say drew them to Scouts BSA. Many tried Girl Scouts when they were younger, but were left unfulfilled. They wanted to go camping and spend time outdoors like their brothers in Boy Scouts.

“I’d always wished they had a Boy Scouts, but for girls,” Torkelson said.

Even before Boy Scouts began admitting girls, Toberman said many of her troop’s members tagged along on boys activities.

“Now they’re getting the badges for all the things they’ve been doing or have been watching get done for a long time,” she quipped. “The girls like to be outside and doing things, and we hope to provide the opportunity to do that and learn a lot of cool skills.”

High schooler Marlene Franzen, who’s the oldest in Troop 138, said she’s enjoyed camping most, but also values learning how to improvise and problem solve. A recent activity tasked the girls with creating a food dish using one can of pumpkin. They decided on pancakes and, according to Franzen, the results were delicious.

“That’s the fun stuff,” she said. “You learn what you need and when you need it.”

“It’s a fun way to learn new things,” noted Emma Koether. “It’s not just sitting in a classroom and someone’s telling you how to do things. You learn how to do it.”

Toberman said the decision to create separate all-girl Scouts BSA troops, rather than mingling boys and girls, was made at the national level. She and her Scouts are OK with it, though.

“I think it’s really important that they all get to do the skills, learn the skills,” she said, “but there are times when boys need the opportunity to be boys and girls need the opportunity to be girls.”

“It’s nice to not always be doing the same things as them,” agreed Richard.

But that doesn’t mean the girls will approach activities any differently.

“Not all girls are girly-girls,” Torkelson said. “We want to be just as active and have fun.”

If your daughter is interested in joining Monona’s Troop 138, contact Toberman at (608) 412-2498.

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