The Women of Distinction Gala honors a leader in service and helps to give girls in need access to Scout programs.

The outpouring of support for Girl Scouts of Maine gave volunteer Devin Dukes goosebumps.

In a matter of minutes, some of the 370 people at the annual Women of Distinction Gala had raised their hands to pledge a total of $23,000. Add in the live and silent auctions, and the event brought in $125,000 for Girls Scouts of Maine.

“With this money, we make sure that girls who cannot afford to be Girl Scouts have the opportunity,” said Connie Goulatis, chief advancement officer. “This provides programming throughout the state, including camping and travel opportunities for girls in financial need.”

Many of those at the gala were there to support not only Girl Scouts but the 2015 Woman of Distinction, Gena Canning. As a managing partner of Pine State Trading Co., she’s behind all those green and yellow trucks distributing convenience products and beverages. In recent years, she has shifted focus to managing the human resources team that serves more than 1,000 employees and overseeing corporate giving.

“I am in awe of the hundreds of organizations across Maine and thousands of volunteers doing great work,” Canning said. “This award has inspired me to do more. I feel as though I’m just getting started.”

“I really admired the honesty that she spoke with,” said state Sen. Amy Volk of Scarborough. “She talked about her husband’s death and how that really changed her and made her think about the importance of living a meaningful life.”

In honor of her late husband, Steven Register, who died in 2011, Canning is actively involved in Maine Cancer Foundation’s Tri for a Cure. But she also works with Girls on the Run, the Kennebec Valley YMCA and the Gardiner Area Boys and Girls Club, among other community and business organizations.

“She is the epitome of Girl Scouts,” said Natalie Burns, chair of the board. “She’s the kind of leader that we want to see our girls grow up to be.”

“She runs a huge company,” said District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, a former Girl Scouts board member. “And she’s full of life, energy and gratitude.”

“She connects women to other women – whether it’s business, emotional, spiritual or just as a friend, she connects people,” said Canning’s longtime friend Diane Donaldson of Portland.

Past Women of Distinction include former Sen. Olympia Snowe, Dr. Christiane Northrup, Betsey Timm, Pam Hurley-Moser, and just last year, Meredith Strang Burgess. Nominations come in from all over the state, explained Joanne Crepeau, the new CEO of Girl Scouts of Maine. “Gena Canning really came to the top of the list,” Crepeau said.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer based in Scarborough, and a former Girl Scout. She can be contacted at:

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