“I really believe in the mission of the Girls Scouts,” Kari said. “I believe there’s a lot of benefit to that girl-led environment for young girls. And this troop became something that was clearly good for these girls, and along the way, I started to realize it was good for me, too.”
Kat and the original five girls are now in middle school – they’re still part of the troop, and Kari is still leading the way. But they’ve all grown. Kari built a leadership team for her troop and sits on the Delaware County Girl Scouts Service Unit leadership team.
“I’m really proud to work for a company that encourages me to give back to others – in fact, our commitment to the communities we serve is a big reason I joined First Merchants. In just over a year, I’ve been encouraged to join the board of a local nonprofit and continue my support of the United Way and my children’s school parent-teacher organization. I’ve even used vacation to volunteer at a Girl Scouts summer camp,” Kari shared. “I spent the whole week washing dishes, but it was a wonderful experience and I think allowed me to set a good example for the next generation. I love that the bank’s mission to invest in our communities aligns so closely with the Girl Scouts’ mission to help others.”
And, Kari also works to instill sound financial skills and to foster an environment where the girls make decisions about activities and ways to give back.
“They pitch business ideas during meetings, they choose what badges they want to earn and fund their activities by being incredibly successful in the annual Girl Scout Cookie Program. They’ve become passionate about community service – which came entirely from them,” Kari said. “So we try to get out of their way and let them lead. And it feels good to see that. It feels like we’ve done something right.”
The troop recently wrapped up a two-year project, which involved collecting recyclable plastic which was used to make a bench that the girls donated to a local domestic violence shelter.
“It makes me feel so hopeful,” Kari said. “Because I can see how much of this goodwill comes from them – the desire to lead, the desire to make a change, the desire to help people. I see it as our job as leaders to nourish that and to provide a place where they can exercise that.”
Girl Scouts is all about helping communities and building bridges – and Kari sees that play out day by day in her troop.
“When you have kids, it’s easy to exist within a bubble of them interacting with the same people, who likely have a similar background,” Kari said. “But in a Girl Scout troop, kids come from all over. None of the girls in our troop are each other’s best friends – but they all get along, they work together, support each other, and they figure out how to problem-solve as a team. And that’s what it’s all about – in Girl Scouts we’re working together to bring this experience to all the girls in our community.”
When Kat eventually graduates from Girl Scouts, Kari said she still plans to stay involved in some way.
“I really believe in the Girl Scouts mission – to be accessible and inclusive to all girls and to inspire them to be leaders,” she said. “And that’s something I want to be a part of growing in my own community for a long time – whether I’m doing that through Girl Scouts or through my role with First Merchants.”