A girl scout family
By NINA LARAMORE / Santa Rosa Correspondent
Girl Scouts have been a part of Deborah Holden’s life for 50 years, and there’s no end in sight. From her late mother, who led Holden’s sister’s first Girl Scout troop, to granddaughters Isabel Onate and Kiana Moran, scouting has been a four-generation pursuit for Holden.
They’ve all shared the experience of earning badges, selling cookies and serving their communities. And on March 12, they will join scores of other scouts in downtown Santa Rosa to celebrate the Girls Scouts’ 100th anniversary.
Holden, her daughters Elizabeth Onate, 30, and Justine Holden, 27, and their daughters represent three of the four generations in her Girl Scout family. Her mother, Lorraine Shaw, has passed on.
When Holden was a Brownie, “we were being primed to be moms, learning to cook and sew and be good homemakers,” she said. “Today’s Girl Scouts learn that the world is full of opportunities and they can seize any of them with confidence and courage.”
When Holden first arrived in SantaRosa as a single parent, she attended a Girl Scout recruiting meeting with the hope of finding new friends for her children.
“My daughter was in kindergarten,” she says. “When they asked for Daisy leaders, I volunteered.”
As she and her daughters moved up in the scout ranks, she was impressed with what scouting taught them.
“I learned leadership, public speaking, courage and confidence as a leader,” Holden says. “I gained those things along with my daughters. I also realized I liked women who were ‘giving’ people.”
Holden began to notice that scouting wasn’t available to girls in all areas. She wanted them girls to have same kinds of the leadership opportunities and life skills her daughters had experienced, so she started troops at Burbank Elementary, Valley of the Moon Children’s Home and the South Park Youth Center.
“My pride and joy was the scouting troop I started in the Sierra Youth Center,” Holden says, a facility for juvenile female offenders. “I’ve seen girls leave that program as responsible adults with jobs.”
At her busiest, Holden had a full-time job, was a foster mother (over the years she fostered 11 children), led her daughters’ troop, ran four other troops and worked for the Northern California Girl Scout office in Santa Rosa.
She now works full-time for the Girl Scouts as a senior director, with responsibility for outreach in towns that range from Petaluma to Crescent City.
Scouting seems to be in the Holden family DNA. Granddaughter Isabelle, 12, is working on her Girl Scout Silver Project by collecting books for the Boys and Girls Clubs. Granddaughter Kiana, 5, is a Daisy, and Samantha Collins, 2, already has a “Future Girl Scout” shirt.
Both of Holden’s daughters credit Girl Scouts with teaching them leadership, community involvement, self confidence, organization and communication skills.
Onate is still involved in a program she started eight years ago that provides holiday bags for Goodwill families. Her husband and their four children have planned their family vacation around the 100th anniversary celebration.
“I love being a Girl Scout leader to my daughter,” she says.
As a pregnant teenager, she was the inspiration for her sister Justine’s Girl Scout Gold Project.
Justine wanted to help other girls learn about teen pregnancy and perhaps make a different choice. She raised the money for dolls that imitate living babies, and because Gold projects have to be sustainable, chose dolls, strollers, diaper bags and lesson plans that could used again and again.
Justine still volunteers for Girl Scout projects and at the Lady Bug Camp her mother started for underprivileged girls. She plans to be a Daisy Leader when her daughter Sammy turns 5.
“You don’t just do fun things in scouts,” Justine says. “It takes you out of self involvement and teaches you about giving back to others.”
During her Girl Scout career, Justine collected as many badges as it was possible to earn, and she lists her Girl Scout honors on her resume. She says she is confident that has helped her get jobs.
“I love Girl Scouts and what it did for me,” she says. “Sometimes my mother and I fought about it, but I am grateful that my mother pushed me to stay with it.
“What I learned helps me every day in my job, at home, and in my whole life.”
The Girl Scouts of Northern California 100th Anniversary Celebration is on Monday, March 12 at Santa Rosa Courthouse Square, between Third andFourth streets. The hour-long event starts at 6:30 p.m. and includes a countdown celebration, KZST’s Brent Farris and other special guests, and songs. Attendees are encouraged to bring canned goods as a donation to the Redwood Empire Food Bank. Some downtown merchants have special offers in honor of the celebration.