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CEO Spotlight – Leading Through a Pandemic

There’s no doubt the last few weeks have been the hardest I’ve experienced – as a leader of an organization, yes. Also as a Girl Scout troop leader (during cookie season no less), and a mom (now a home educator…) My heart hurts and it seems it may for some time to come.

I’m writing to you from my home as, like many parents, I am adjusting to juggling work, kids, and life all under one roof, all the time. During these difficult times, my mind has been on our members, our Girl Scouts, and our supporters.

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has sent the world spinning, and that includes here at Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa (GSGI). As a leader of an organization - one that serves volunteers and girls - the decisions placed in my hands haven’t been easy. Thankfully, the support of our leadership team and Board of Directors at GSGI has been incredible. Daily meetings and regular pivots have become the new normal.

Our GSGI staff has been working from home since mid-March and while it’s been an adjustment for everyone, our employees have adapted, and our organization continues on. We are committed to providing quality experiences for our girl members and adult volunteers and because of our resilient staff, we’re working on ways to do so.

Many aspects of Girl Scout programming are transitioning to accommodate social distancing. Troops are finding innovative ways to meet virtually, and our teams are hard at work preparing online badge programs- with more than 100 new activities loaded online this week on our new Girl Scouts at Home platform. Girl Scouts are doing what they do best – learning and adapting. They’re being courageous and strong. They’re continuing to help make the world a better and brighter place, despite the unknowns.

The unfortunate reality is that COVID-19 has tremendously changed the outlook of the Girl Scout Cookie Program. As a Girl Scout troop leader and Girl Scout mom, I’ve struggled with the same fears as our members. I understand what it feels like to have hundreds of cases of cookies stacked in the garage, and our new world doesn’t allow for the cookie program to go on as it has for 100 years with girls going door-to-door and holding cookie booths in local stores, greeting customers with a warm smile. Our girls and volunteers have thousands of boxes of cookies to sell or donate, or ultimately bring back to GSGI.

People are important to me. The lives of our staff, our members, and our Girl Scouts are important to me - the most important thing. “Right” and “easy” aren’t synonyms- never more apparent than when trying to support people, programs and budgets, simultaneously.  I’ve committed to leading with transparency and honesty throughout this entire situation. It’s scary. Nobody knows when this will end or how to maintain business amidst this pandemic. And there’s nowhere to turn for the right answer, no roadmap. Like a true Girl Scout, I do however have a compass. The true north in this situation is our mission statement, using that as the guidepost of decision making; building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a place. Knowing that the thousands of Girl Scouts across Iowa need our organization and need the life-changing experience of Girl Scouts, fuels me to keep pushing through this each day.

I’m thinking of you all during this time and hope if you have the time and resources to support Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa during this time, you’ll consider it. Organizations like Girl Scouts are built for this, but we need your help.

You can donate to our Cookie Relief Fund here.


Beth Shelton