Saturday, September 1, 2018

Meet Pickles!

A guest blog by Sydney DeLuca, marketing and communications intern for Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast

As the summer winds down, girls are gearing up for the start of a new school and Girl Scout year. For the past several weeks, the girls have been coming to Camp Outback to enhance their Girl Scout Leadership Experience by taking part in STEM related activities, life skill building programs and outdoor adventures. Many camp staff members pitched in this summer to make the girls’ experience memorable, including Camp Director Tesi Davis-Strickland, better known by her camp name, Pickles.

Her Girl Scout story goes back to when Pickles was a child and didn’t have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout. Fortunately, she had friends in her neighborhood who were. Every Wednesday they would meet in her driveway and they would teach her what they learned in their meetings. This started when the girls were Girl Scout Brownies and continued through their Girl Scout Junior level. A special moment Pickles recalled was the only Girl Scout outing she went on.

“I remember it very well, we went to the Botanical Gardens and we rode in glass bottom boats where you could see the fish,” she said.

Because of the sisterhood Girl Scouts creates, the girls in her neighborhood welcomed Pickles with open arms and considered her an honorary Girl Scout.

Not knowing she was able to volunteer even though she had never been a registered Girl Scout, Pickles waited to devote her time to the organization until she had a daughter.

“I have a Girl Scout,” she recalled shouting when she and her husband found out they were pregnant with a baby girl. Pickles knew she would be able to reconnect with the organization she grew to love so much as a kid.

Her daughter began her Girl Scout journey as a Girl Scout Brownie in a troop that mostly focused on arts, but Pickles quickly realized she and her daughter wanted to be outdoor adventurers. So, the two changed troops and set out on their outdoor excursions.

As an avid outdoor lover, it was only natural for Pickles to join GSCCC 30 years ago as a troop leader and later become a program specialist in 1992. Jackie Vigola, former program director, had another plan for Pickles though. Seen as a “pied piper” of sorts because of how the girls gravitated to her, Vigola knew Pickles would excel as a director.

Jackie contacted GSUSA and gave a recommendation that helped Pickles become the program director at GSCCC which allowed her to focus on the outdoor adventure opportunities available to girls.

“I will forever, be grateful for Jackie Vigola. She gave me that open door to allow me to explore what I consider to be the most exciting, and important job in the entire world,” Pickles said smiling with tears in her eyes.

After she retired from GSCCC in ‘99, Pickles rejoined her home away from home as a membership specialist in 2013. She served the city of Norfolk and Southampton County. A little more than year into her position, she was behind on her membership goal for new Girl Scouts. As a joke, the human resources director told her that if she met her goal before summer she could go and “play at camp.”

Pickles ended up meeting her goal and since then, she has led thousands of girls to explore the outdoors as the Outdoor Adventures Manager for GSCCC. It goes without saying that Pickles knows just how beneficial Girl Scout camp is for girls.

“I think one of the most important things is gaining the courage to try new things and at Girl Scout camp there’s no failure.The comradery and the peer-to-peer support that they get, I don’t know any other organization that offers that strength in an all-female setting. That’s why we’ve been doing it 105+ years. We know girls. Friendships and memories are made within these walls and that cannot be done without a good strong program, team and the young ladies that work with us during the summer,” she explained.

For more information on the outdoor adventures GSCCC offers, visit our website