Gladys Szabo (left) and Betty Bavor (right) outside of People Plus in Brunswick. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

Whether it was leading a troop, camping in the woods or selling cookies, Betty Bavor and Gladys Szabo have over 100 years of combined experience with the Girl Scouts.

The years of scouting have been a defining and meaningful part of life. Bavor, 89, and Szabo, 80, continue to volunteer with the organization here in Brunswick, serving as multigenerational mentors for today’s Girl Scouts in local Troop 1644.

Girl Scouts of the United States of America is a youth organization that was founded in 1912. Today the organization offers various leadership programs to girls aged 5-18 in STEM, the outdoors, life skills and entrepreneurship. In Maine, there are approximately 4,000 youth members.

“I think it’s just being able to watch these girls grow and learn,” said Szabo, a Brunswick resident, who has been involved with the scouts for a total of about 40 years. “It’s rewarding to see where they go, and how much they can do that they didn’t think they can do.”

Bavor, a Topsham resident, who is on year 66 with the scouts, agreed: “When you see a Girl Scout that is shying away and doesn’t feel like she can do some of these activities, and then all of a sudden she does it and realizes she can be successful, that’s really rewarding to the leader.”

Gladys Szabo (left) and Betty Bavor (right). Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Maine

Troop 1644 is one of 13 active troops under the Merrymeeting Service Unit, which serves Brunswick, Topsham, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Harpswell and Harpswell Islands. The Troop includes up to 10 scouts, and in total there are 115 girls in the unit.

In addition to camping, Troop 1644 has hosted dinners for veterans, performed community service and marched in parades. The troop also goes on trips to Boston, New York City and Washington D.C.

“Many girls think that Girl Scouts ends in childhood, and the girls see how it does not,” wrote Dawn Grimes, the leader of two troops in the Merrymeeting Service Unit, in an email. “These ladies have taught the girls real-life lessons, how to be strong and help build their confidence by letting the girls do it on their own with someone assisting as needed.”

According to Grimes, in addition to compassion and mentorship, Bavor and Szabo have brought practical knowledge to the troop on skills like camping and cooking, and teaching girls how certain task were accomplished outdoors before modern gadgets. The learning goes both ways, Grimes said, noting that the generational differences also allow Bavor and Szabo to learn from the girls.

Bavor started out with the Girl Scouts in 1939 in Massachusetts and in 1960 Bavor became a Troop Leader in Connecticut. Six years ago, after moving to Topsham and meeting Szabo, she decided to again get involved here on the Midcoast.

“I’m just a Girl Scout through and through — I guess it runs in my blood,” Bavor said.

Szabo started out with the Girl Scouts as a child as well, and then in 1969 coincidentally also became a Troop Leader in Connecticut. In 2000, when Szabo moved to Brunswick, she too found her way back to the organization.

Nationally, there are 1.7 million youth members and 750,000 adult members in the Girl Scouts. In Maine, there are 7,000 adult members, which includes both lifetime members as well as active volunteers.

“Our volunteers are truly invaluable, and that alongside the girls are what makes the program so successful,” said Laura Genese, the marketing and communications director for Girl Scouts of Maine. “We could not do it without our volunteers, we are so grateful for them”

For more information on Girl Scout opportunities for all ages, call (207) 772-1177.


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