A grandmother and her Girl Scouts

For Kathy Richardson, the best part of growing up was being a Girl Scout.

Her mom was the assistant leader of her troop, and her Scout sisters became her best friends.

They sold cookies. They crafted. They swam, rode horses, and camped.

“I always felt really good about being in Scouts,” says Kathy, 68, who grew up in San Francisco and now lives outside the city, in Pleasant Hill. “There was no peer pressure, there was none of that stuff. It was you achieving what you want to achieve. And I just learned a whole lot there.”

“I don’t know what I would have done without Girl Scouts.”

So when she heard that her seven-year-old granddaughter and some of her friends wanted to become Scouts but had been told that all the troops in town were full, Kathy was dismayed.

“I don’t believe in that,” Kathy says. “I believe no girl should get left behind.”

That’s when she founded—and started leading—Troop 33354.

Today, Ava and her friends are in sixth grade, their troop is thriving, and Kathy is still at its helm.

She would have liked to volunteer with Girls Scouts when her two daughters were in it, in the 1980s, but back then, she worked long and stressful hours as a critical care nurse. Now that she’s retired, she’s making up for lost time. From September to May, she runs the troop, which gathers for meetings and outings a few times a month; in the summer, she works at a Scouts day camp that Ava, her younger sister Nina, and their cousin Cecilia all attend.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she says.

Last year, when the girls in her troop were in fifth grade, they sold enough cookies to fund a rock-climbing expedition and a trip to a ropes course.

They also undertook a major project for a homeless services organization of which Kathy’s a board member. The girls were charged with supplying and packing a large gift basket to help a previously homeless family settle into a new apartment; afterwards, they made an instructional slideshow about their process for the organization to email to prospective volunteers.

And at the end of the school year, the girls joined thousands of other Scouts for a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge that marked their passage from “Juniors” to a higher scouting level, “Cadettes.”

Kathy isn’t sure what she’ll be doing with her Cadettes this year, but her focus will be on keeping the girls engaged, since Girl Scout participation tends to drop off in middle school.

“We can’t keep these kids involved if we don’t keep them doing activities that are important to them,” she says. “You have to be creative.”

Thousands of grandmothers around the world are volunteering with Girl Scouts. Are you interested? It doesn’t matter whether you have a granddaughter in the program. Details are here