Hadley woman wins top Girl Scout honor
Jean Baxter of Hadley, center, was presented with the highest honor the Girl Scouts give to volunteers. She is flanked by Girl Scout officials Pat Hallberg and Allison Lane. SUBMITTED PHOTO Purchase photo reprints »
HADLEY — For 31 years, Jean Baxter of Hadley has been a devoted leader and staunch advocate for girls and Girl Scouting in central and western Massachusetts. As a result, she has been awarded the Thanks Badge II, the organizations most prestigious volunteer honor.
Baxter received the award April 7 at a volunteer appreciation dinner at the Castle of Knights Banquet and Meeting House in Chicopee. At the ceremony, Pat Hallberg, CEO of Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts (GSCWM), said that Baxter never missed a chance to describe her experience working with scouts to inspire others to get involved.
“Jean’s work has always been to mentor girls and to make sure that girls in this big jurisdiction of ours are getting the support that they need,” said Mary Eichorn, Girl Scout volunteer development specialist. “That is a really big job.”
Baxter said she was surprised by the honor. “Receiving this award was very exciting and very satisfying,” Baxter said. “I knew that I was going to receive an award at the dinner, but I didn’t know that it was the Thanks Badge II. That is the biggie,” she said.
Baxter entered the scouting world as a leader for her daughter’s troop 30 years ago, and continued to serve as a leader for girls in Hadley long after her daughter grew up and out of the program.
Hallberg said that Baxter made it her calling to mentor older girls working toward the Girl Scout Gold Award, a national award that is the highest achievement a girl can earn in scouting. She remains an active member of the GSCWM Girl Scout Gold Award Committee.
“My focus has always been working with young women to help them find their voice and realize their passion,” Baxter said. “Doing this kind of work is incredibly rewarding in itself.”
When it was brought to her attention that the Girl Scouts did not have firearms courses as the Boy Scouts do, Baxter took it upon herself to create a Firearms Safety badge.
“They didn’t have to fire weapons to get the badge, but they did have to learn about safety procedures and the social implications of gun ownership,” Baxter said. “Then, if they wanted to shoot, they did have that opportunity as well.”
Baxter has worked as the production manager with the Five College dance department since 1976, and said that organizing and pulling people together has always been her specialty. In 2005, she received the Girls Scouts Thanks Badge, which is given to a volunteer whose ongoing commitment, leadership and service has had an exceptional impact on meeting Girl Scouts’ goals.
The Thanks Badge II is only awarded to previous Thanks Badge recipients who continued to provide exemplary service in leadership roles.
Baxter’s dedication to serving the Girl Scouts is illustrated by the work that she has done, but 10 years ago she took a step further to demonstrate her commitment.
“I challenged the girls in my troop to become lifetime members and said if they all did, I would get a tattoo. So, I now have a tattoo of the Girl Scout trefoil emblem on my leg,” she said.