That?s Our Girl

Gretchen Erickson celebrates 42 years of “girl” power. Photo by Scott Holstein
That’s Our GirlCareer Girl Scout Gretchen Erickson has dedicated her life to making the world a better placeBy Thomas J. Monigan

Gretchen Erickson remembers the exact day she became a Brownie, the step that would link her once and always with being part of the Girl Scouts of America.

It was Oct. 13, 1969, and she was 7 years old. Her four older brothers (Jim, John Jerry and Jeff) were all Eagle scouts and her father, Joseph, was their troop leader. Her mother, Johanna, was a Brownie leader. “This was the launch of something that was just for me, something I could be proud of,” says Erickson. Exactly 30 years later, on Oct. 13, 1999, Erickson would pass along that Brownie pin to her own daughter, Jessica.

Today, the Niceville resident handles payroll for her family business, Specialty Maintenance, and is a stalwart volunteer as the president of the Girl Scout Council of the Florida Panhandle. There are more than 8,500 girls, ages 5 through 17, and 2,500 adult volunteers in 19 counties, which stretch from Escambia County east to Lafayette County.

In honor of the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts, EC Magazine talked with Erickson about her lifetime commitment and what’s on the horizon for Girl Scouting.

EC: What brought you back to Girl Scouts as an adult?

GE: I never left it. I received my Gold Award  (equivalent to Eagle Scout) at age 14 as a freshman in high school. In college, I was an assistant troop leader. When I married into the military it was a given that I would lead my own troop, and I have  in Arizona, California and Boston.

EC: Is there a Girl Scout credo?

GE: Our motto is  “Be Prepared.” Our mission statement is: “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.”

EC: What is planned for the 100th anniversary?

GE: We are setting out to raise $1 billion through a five-year pledge plan. This initiative will ensure that every girl in this generation will have the opportunity and the tools and the access she needs to reach her full potential. In January 2012 the Florida Historic Capital Museum and Girl Scouts of the Florida Panhandle will host a three-month exhibit displaying the seven Florida Girl Scout Councils that will be hosted by Gov. Rick Scott’s wife, Ann.

EC: How has Scouting changed over the years, and are there still new horizons?

GE: Girl Scouts is undertaking movement-wide changes that will help the organization align its operations with its vision. Strategic learning has elevated and enriched the strategic thinking of Girl Scout executives, board members and staff in a manner that had us ask new questions, have new conversations, infuse new thinking, and we hope will accelerate the Girl Scouts’ journey from “good to great.”

EC: Other than selling cookies, which they are famous for, what do Girl Scouts do in our community?

GE: Girl Scouts in our area assess the needs around them and take action on improving their communities. This year one of our Gold Award Girl Scouts, a high school student, created and produced a televised public service announcement on texting and driving, which is currently airing on a Panama City station. Every fall and spring our local Girl Scout troops roll up their sleeves and clean up our coastlines in the Coastal Cleanups. During 2011, fundraising efforts of Niceville’s Girl Scout Troop 980 benefitted local food banks, Toys for Tots, the USO Freedom Lounge at the Northwest Florida Regional Airport, Vietnam Veterans and the Emerald Coast Advocacy Center, among others.

EC: What life lessons have you learned through Scouting?

GE: Girl Scouting provided me the foundation for all my leadership skills and developed the service-driven desire to help others. Even as an adult, Girl Scouting continues to help develop my courage, confidence and character. In November I will sit on the delegate floor at the Girl Scout National Convention and together with 2,000 sister Girl Scouts help to shape the direction of this movement for the next 100 years. My life-lesson learning continues as I continue to change the world one girl at a time and leave this place better than I found it.


The Goods on Girl Scouts

Founded by Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Ga., on March 12, 1912, Girl Scouts of the USA was chartered by the United States Congress on March 16, 1950.

Today, there are 3.3 million Girl Scouts — 2.4 million girl members and 900,000 adult members. Through membership in the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, Girl Scouts is part of a worldwide family of 10 million girls and adults in 145 countries.  

For more information on the Girl Scout Council of the Florida Panhandle, visit