A group of retired women in Bend share a strong bond that formed four decades ago when they served together as leaders in the local Girl Scout troops.
The eight women, whose ages range from late 60s to late 80s, call themselves the Thin Mints — a playful nod to the popular mint chocolate Girl Scout cookie. But each agrees being in the Girl Scouts is more than just selling cookies.
Thin Mint member Helen Pruitt, 87, hosted a get-together last week, where the group reminisced about lively campouts, leading troops that included each other’s daughters and establishing a Girl Scout presence in Central Oregon.
“We all pitched in and did the work,” Pruitt said. “It was just the love of leading the girls.”
The Thin Mints are in awe of one of their members, Dory Delp, who is the only one still leading a troop.
Delp, a former elementary school teacher, became a Girl Scout leader 50 years ago and started leading troops in Bend in 1972. Today, she leads about a dozen girls, ages 6 to 8, in a Brownies troop.
“She is the Energizer Bunny,” Pruitt said.
Delp said seeing her troops gain confidence and outdoor skills is what keeps her motivated to return each year.
Recently, Delp said, she helped one of her Brownies have a successful family camping trip. At the campground, the girl’s dad was having trouble lighting a fire. He gave up, and his daughter gave it a try.
She built a foundation of firewood, took one match, struck it against the tinder and the fire started. The girl’s dad asked, “Where did you learn that?” She responded, “Ms. Dory taught me.”
“That’s why I stay in it,” Delp said. “I don’t have children. Those girls are my girls.”
Sue Christensen, director of volunteer support for the Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington, has known Delp for more than a decade and is amazed at her contributions.
In addition to leading troops, Delp maintains daily involvement in Girl Scouts by volunteering at events and training future leaders, Christensen said.
“She is very well-known and very well-revered,” Christensen said. “Her heart and soul has been for this organization.”
Bend has 285 girls in 33 troops within the regional Girl Scouts chapter. Those Bend troops have 224 adult volunteers and leaders, including Delp.
The other members of the Thin Mints stay involved with the local chapter though awarding an annual scholarship that helps fund an international or cross-country trip for a Central Oregon scout.
The scholarship, which is at least $300 each year, is in honor of Thin Mint member Becjka Rowe-Costello, who died in 1997. Following her death, money was donated for a special memorial and is now used for the scholarship.
Girl Scouts seeking the scholarship have to interview with the Thin Mints, who select the recipient each year.
“We as leaders want them to go through this so when they go to college they will have some idea of how to apply for scholarships,” Pruitt said. “It’s a learning experience for the girls.”
At Pruitt’s home last week, the Thin Mints shared a variety of stories from their time in the Girl Scouts.
They fondly remembered taking camping trips in the late 1970s to Camp Cleawox, a Girl Scouts camp near Florence on the Oregon Coast. The campout was only for the adults, and they referred to it as Hooky Weekend.
“It was a training event and a way to get to know people from throughout the council,” said Lynda Paznokas, a Thin Mint who retired 10 years ago after a long teaching career in Oregon, Arizona and Washington. “Whenever this group would go, then that was another bonding experience.”
Some of the Thin Mints’ daughters were in Girl Scouts and ask if they can join their mother’s group. The daughters joke they can just tag along, a wordplay off the peanut butter Girl Scout cookie called Tagalongs.
The Thin Mints politely decline their daughters’ request. They are a tight-knit group that is not looking for new members.
Pam Duncan, a Thin Mint who has been a Girl Scouts leader in Bend since 1976, calls her group a sisterhood, and one that is always there for each other.
“There’s a love with the group I don’t have with anybody else,” Duncan said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7820, firstname.lastname@example.org