MILTON – For keeping her girls engaged and volunteers involved in Girl Scouts, Heather Preuss was named Volunteer of the Month for April by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.
Preuss, 41, of Milton, leads multi-level Troop 30393, a group of 11 Girl Scout Juniors and Cadettes, girls in grades 5 and 6, along with co-leader Kendra Gorton. Preuss is a lifetime member of Girl Scouts, having been a girl member herself for ten years and was a troop leader in South Burlington in the early 2000’s and now again in Milton.
Helping girls develop into young women of courage, confidence and character is just part of her DNA.
“I’m super proud of all the girls in our Service Unit,” she said. “Twenty girls earned their Bronze Award in 2020, and they all came back in 2021.”
The Bronze Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout Junior, those in fourth and fifth grade, may earn. At a time when some girls have had to pause their Girl Scout experience due to the pandemic, Preuss has worked hard to keep them coming back, giving them a lot to look forward to.
“Vermont had a lot of restrictions on being able to meet, so we had to be creative,” she said. “They all talked about how they want to come back. Making plans kept them involved. They want to eventually go to New York City.”
Her girls had earlier enjoyed a trip to Zoo New England, and she explained to them how they have to wait to be older to do a bigger trip and how they can plan and save for it. She said they love to do projects, especially if they help animals.
Their Bronze Award project involved bringing birds into Milton recreational areas. Her troop researched birds, met with the select board to discuss their plan, made 32 bird houses, and installed them along the Lamoille River Walk and in the Milton Town Forest.
Preuss has also taken her girls camping and hiking every year they’ve been together as a troop.
“They love to be outdoors!” she said.
As an engineer with Superior Technical Ceramics, she’s used her knowledge to get her girls involved in STEM exploration, making “oobleck,” spaghetti and marshmallow bridges, and even Coke and Mentos explosions. They care for their community, too, sending packages and messages to a local senior home so those cut off during the pandemic don’t feel forgotten or lonely.
Girl Scout Cookies are funding those service projects, trips and outings.
“We sold a lot of cookies,” she said of the season that just wrapped up. “We couldn’t keep them in stock!”
That is an achievement considering the restrictions the COVID-19 pandemic put on cookie sales. They used Digital Cookie for about half their sales, and held several drive-through/parking lot cookie booths.
“Support in town was great,” she said.
Plus it is teaching girls valuable life skills.
“I see that girls who participate in the cookie sale year after year tend to have more confidence in front of customers,” she said. “Some girls will sign up for every cookie booth. Those girls tend to be very approachable with customers. They know how to make a sale and have even figured out the art of upselling.”
She shows the girls how they can use those proceeds in ways they choose. When they were Daisies, their big outing was a hike and pizza. A few years later was an overnight at the zoo. Since the pandemic hit, they have been banking their earnings for the future.
Preuss is also a volunteer service coordinator and cookie coordinator for the council. Her partner is Melissa George, who takes charge of getting cookies to the girls, while Preuss is the “paperwork person.”
“I like helping troop leaders,” she said. “It’s always nice to see what the troops in our community are doing and help them out. A lot of our local troop leaders are really creative.”
She has found that being a Girl Scout, a troop leader, and mentor is a fulfilling experience, and encourages others to consider volunteering.
“Be ready to have fun!” she said. “And be ready to do what the girls want to do.” Then find people who will help you – parents who like to go camping, experts to teach the girls. “It’s OK to need help or make mistakes. It’s a great lesson for the girls.”
She relies on co-leader Gorton for that help.
“She’s awesome! I wouldn’t have been able to have a troop without her,” Gorton said. “She’s been with me for the last six years and been a great support every step of the way.”
Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is grateful for all Heather Preuss has given to Girl Scouts over the years and is proud to call her Volunteer of the Month.