The Enduring Girl Scout Sisterhood

In the 1980s, Renée Sack and Dr. Celia Schulhoff were colleagues working in the Lexington Public Schools, where Celia was the school psychologist and Renee was a 4th grade teacher. But it wasn’t until they attended a Mariner Girl Scout reunion together when the Tall Ships came to Boston in 1992, that they realized they were also connected through the Girl Scout sisterhood.

Born in 1932, Celia was six years older than Renée. However, they had many parallel experiences, including the fact that they had both been Mariner Girl Scouts: Celia in her hometown of Athol, MA and Renée in Ithaca, NY. The Mariner Girl Scout program, officially launched in 1934, was designed for Senior Girl Scouts who were interested in nautical activities. It became an instant success and continued until 1963, with members participating throughout the country. Celia and Renée had loved their Girl Scout Mariner experiences, so when they realized that, in addition to both being Girl Scouts, they were also Girl Scout Mariners, a lasting friendship was born.

Celia_1941

Celia (bottom left) at Girl Scout camp, 1941.

The parallels didn’t stop there, as Celia and Renée soon discovered that camp was another mutual passion. As a girl, Celia attended Girl Scout camp where she had experiences that she felt solidified her values in accepting people of all backgrounds and nurtured her love of the outdoors, especially in relationship to waterfront skills and activities. No doubt it was through Girl Scouts that Celia also honed her leadership skills. Celia’s childhood friends remember her as “astute, capable and likeable,” as well as, “patient, wise, a good friend, and forceful — a person who knew how to get it done!” In fact, in 1949, while still in high school, Celia single-handedly directed her own 2-week, day camp, recruiting her sister and friends to help out. Later, during her college years, Celia became a Water Safety Instructor and Director at Girl Scout Camp Collier on Lake Ellis in Athol.

As a senior in high school, Renée attended the first Girl Scout Round-Up held in Michigan in 1956. Thousands of girls from all over the world pitched tents for two weeks of group living, friendship, songs, and adventure. And just like Celia, as an adult Renée took on leadership roles, serving as Director of Camp Sherwood Forest, in Jaffrey, NH, from 1967 to 1971 and Camp Little Notch near Lake George, NY from 1937 to 1976. Later, she helped start and lead a Cadette troop while pursuing her Master in Education at Harvard University.

Renee_Cadette_Troop

Renée Sack (center) with her Girl Scout Cadette troop in the 1970s.

Renée went on to run council-wide and Woburn Service unit encampments for 27 years. Additionally, Renée was on the Board of the former Mistick Side Girl Scout Council, including serving as vice president. She is still an active member of the American Camp Association, serving as a “standards” visitor. Renée served on a myriad of committees over the years, and continues her involvement with Girl Scouts to this day as a volunteer docent at GSEMA’s Girl Scout Museum at Cedar Hill in Waltham, where she sometimes portrays founder, Juliette Gordon Low to the delight of the girls.

celia_renee

L-R: Celia and Renée share memories.

Renée and Celia bonded over their shared Girl Scout experiences, and remained friends for decades. During one of their many conversations about the value of Girls Scouts in their lives, Renée noted that she was member of the Juliette Gordon Low Society, GSEMA’s society for planned giving donors. Renee says, “the Girl Scout motto is ‘Be Prepared’ and I knew that managing my finances and planning for the future, including my estate, would be the key to my ability to enjoy retirement, especially to fuel my love of travelling.” Renee reminisces, “as friends, Celia and I could have those sorts of conversations, share knowledge and face the reality that we were not getting any younger! We had to plan!”

When asked about why she joined the Society, Renée explains, “in 1912, soon after founding Girl Scouts, Juliette converted the carriage house of her Savannah, Georgia home into the first Girl Scout national headquarters, and then gifted the property to Girl Scouts in her will. Juliette’s bequest was the beginning, and together with a lot of other people’s gifts, they made Girl Scouts possible for girls in the future—in fact, they made it possible for us. If we all do a little, that’s all it takes. Any size gift is an investment in the future of our organization.”

Celia passed away in 2019, at the age of 87, and like her friend Renée, she provided for GSEMA in her estate. Today, Celia’s legacy is helping the council forge ahead in these uncertain times. “Celia and I shared the ethos of Girl Scouting as we experienced it: service, respect, resourcefulness, collaboration, camaraderie, and love of the outdoors,” says Renée. “That is the Girl Scout sisterhood, and I feel fortunate to have had such a wonderful Girl Scout sister in Celia.”

 

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