Dorothy Schoenberner

Dorothy Schoenberner looks back on forty years of being a Girl Scout later, an accomplishment many don’t achieve. Halfway through the year when her daughter Lori was in Brownie Scouts, the current troop leader needed someone to help. Dorothy didn’t know much about the program, not having been a scout herself, but decided she would try to assist and learn along the way.

Her leadership continued for the next few years as Lori continued with the program. When Lori became a sixth grader, she moved to the Junior level and Dorothy continued to help. By this time, she had three boys in Boy Scouts, and she was a volunteer Den Mother for their troops. When Amy and Lisa were born nine years later, she decided to continue as a leader as they participated in Girl Scouts.

She laughs, “Forty years later here I am!’

Though there are different levels of Girl Scouts, Dorothy is a Brownie Leader. She explains the tiers to me, which have changed slightly over the years. The Daisy level is Kindergarten and first grade, Brownies are grades 2-3 and Juniors are grades 4 & 5. Cadettes are 6-8 grades, Seniors are grades 9-10 and Ambassadors are 11-12 grades. The girls also have the option to achieve Gold, Silver and Bronze awards by demonstrating leadership in a project to benefit their community.

She helps the girls realize their potential, leading them to become a true G.I.R.L. scout, a Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker and Leader.

Aside from helping the girls with their required book work, Dorothy has organized many projects to keep the troops busy: cooking, sewing,

making Barbie furniture and an array of craft projects. She quickly made a discovery on their first craft project, “One thing you learn, especially inside, you don’t use glitter!” Her forthright comment made me laugh.

She most enjoys their time sewing and cooking and recalls a large cake decorating activity. Before their lesson, she had baked 20 cakes and had homemade frosting ready to go so each girl would have her own cake to decorate.


She leads the girls in making their own homemade pizzas, each girl getting her own pan, dough, and ingredients. “It’s a mess but they enjoy it,” she smiles. One Mother’s Day, she hosted the girls’ moms, inviting them in for a special dinner made by the girls.

Special outings and camping trips are popular among the group. In the past, the Yankton Mall hosted overnight camping opportunities for a couple of years. The girls had many fun events going on during the night, which resulted in a challenge for Dorothy to rouse them awake the next morning. They have camped at various places in Nebraska, including Crofton’s city park, Bloomfield’s fair grounds and Niobrara State Park. The Niobrara camping trip requires walking up and down hills to get to the campsite and she laughs as she says that she reminds herself every year that she’s getting too old for this.

She has many stories of camping trips over the years. “It always rains when we’re camping, it never fails,” she begins. Though they practice storm warning drills routinely, performing the drill in a real situation is much different. As a storm blew through the campground late one night bringing strong winds and pouring rain, it was tricky to wake her troop, help them get dressed and follow the protocol. Though the girls are to break into their own group and find their leader’s car, many hopped into Dorothy’s car which was right outside the tent, the closest they could find to stay warm and dry.

She had a frightening storm experience when heading to Wayne, Nebraska, for a camping trip. Several tornado warnings were posted around the area and as they came up over a hill near Wynot, she could see the sky was black. She had driven right into torrential rains and strong winds. She tried to pull into a driveway to seek shelter as her daughter opened the car door slightly to guide her. The wind ripped by and whipped the door open, nearly pulling the girl from the car.

Fortunately, they were able to find shelter there, or they would have had to get out of the car and climb down in the ditch for cover. With no tornadoes spotted, the storm passed and skies began to clear. “We stayed there for a little bit and then we were on our way!” She laughs, “We went on to Wayne and had a good time!”

The biggest highlight for the girls, aside from the camping trips, is selling their famous girl scout cookies, a fundraiser that always works very well for them. They previously took orders by going door to door, customers tracking their orders on a large cardboard list. After the leader collected the lists and placed the orders, she would distribute the cookies to the girls when they came in. It was each scout’s responsibility to deliver them to the customers. They have revamped the ordering process since then. Now, the leaders pre-order cookies and the girls take them in hand and sell them, able to deliver the goods immediately.

Dorothy’s seen many changes in the program over the years. The girls’ attire went from uniformed dresses, jump suits and sashes to just wearing sashes now. So many girls in this generation are busy, wanting to be in 4-H, sports, cheer or dance, and having to compromise something to take part in these activities. Because of this compromise, Girl Scouts has seen a decline in participants. Like so many others, Dorothy is currently faced with the adaptations to the Caronavirus pandemic and social distancing guidelines. The scouts haven’t met for three months due to this and she’s trying to figure out what they need to do to catch up on lost time.

She explains that she would be getting a pin this year for the achievement of being a leader for 40 years.

The next pin is for reaching 50 years of being a leader.

“I don’t think I’m going to make 50,” she laughs.

“I’m getting tired.” Forty years is a rare achievement, she explains that most leaders help while their girls are involved and stop after the girls move on.

She smiles, “The rewarding thing about it is when a girl will come up to me and say ‘I’m (so and so).’ The girl has changed, I didn’t remember her until she told me. And she would say, ‘I was in your girl scout group!’

And now I’m starting to have mothers that were in my girl scout troop bring their daughters in. So that tells me I’ve been doing it a long time.”

She laughs. It’s a great feeling for her when former students enroll their own daughters in the program.

Though leadership can be a timeconsuming role, holding weekly meetings, planning projects, and gathering necessary items for the tasks, she continues to reap the rewards just as her students do. “It’s a gratifying thing. At the end of the day when they go home with their projects to show their parents, they are so proud. The most important thing, you know you changed the life of a girl.”