Saturday, March 8, 2014

Alverna B Coffey

My mom is an incredible genealogist. She's been pulling together family names and dates on both hers and my father's families for years now. She hasn't just done the - she's been digging in archives of multiple libraries and other resources and actually travels to various places where ancestors lived to learn more about them and their lives. It's fascinating work, reconstructing the stories.

There's one of my relatives I may have written about before, my aunt Vern. She's been on my mind so much these past months as I dig deep into the Girl Scout program to make plans for a major shift in the troop I started four years ago. 

Aunt Vern was a H.U.G.E. girl scout. I'm trying to put together enough information to see how much she did for the girl scouts during her lifetime. Mind, the Girl Scouts USA just turned 100 years old in 2012. Her career as the director of the Girl Scouts of Racine County (that's in Wisconsin) was in the 1950s, I think. At this early part of my research, I'm only gathering bits and pieces from search engines. And trying to compute her years in leadership. She died in 1979. Still trying to find out what year she retired.

Lifted these two clips from online obituaries of others
Obit #1 "The ABC Award, named after Alverna B. Coffey who was executive director of GSRC for 22 years and known for her love of Girl Scouting," (I am limited to 10 free articles, darned pay wall. So just because of that, I'm not citing the resource. so there!)

Obit #2 "....Two decades later she was presented the Alverna B. Coffey, the highest local award..."

Found this from the Racine Journal Times May 3, 1959: "Camping Groups Observe Week Racine County youth organizations this week are scheduled to join with other groups throughout the nation in observing American Camp Week, May 1-8. Miss Alverna B. Coffey, executive director of the Racine County Girl Scout Council, is in charge of the activities. Miss Coffey is president of the Wisconsin section of the American Camping Assn., which sponsors Camp Week. According to Miss Coffey, about 4,000 Racine County children will participate in organized camping this summer. This number does not include the weekend camping program for public school sixth graders nor family camping, she said. "Education for physical fitness and for learning to live with others is needed to prepare young people for the future," Miss Coffey said, The American Camping Assn. membership includes camps sponsored by such youth-serving organizations as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, YWCA. churches, voluntary agencies and schools. The association has a program of camping standards which must be met if camps are to qualify for its accreditation. " 

May 30, 1992 another article citing an awards ceremony in which another individual received the ABC, Alverna B. Coffey Award, Racine Council's highest recognition.

Sometime around 2009, the Girl Scout program merged individual counties into regions. Now, the Girl Scouts of South East Wisconsin serves over 33,000 girls in Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha, as well as the southern part of Ozaukee and eastern parts of Dodge and Jefferson Counties. This is a HUGE area. I can only assume the same kind of merger happened here in eastern Pennsylvania. 

Clearly, my aunt made an impact on the girl scout program in her community. I know she and my mother (as a teen and maybe a few college years) spent summers at Camp Singing Hills. Based on very light surface scratching, I wonder if she was part of building that camp site, which opened in 1953. It would have been great to visit that camp site. The camp site was sold by the Girl Scouts of Racine County in 2008 for $7.25 million, maybe around the same time as the council merger. From what I gathered, this sale was emotional. There was a lawsuit filed to save the camp. I'm not sure if I want to dig further into what happened to the camp. How much more drama would that rabbit hole lead to?

The whole reason I started the research is because of a Girl Scout Journey badge. All of the girls in the troop are to learn about a strong woman in their family. It can be someone alive, or dead. Of course, I'd pick my mom. I'm still hearing stories from her that fascinate me. But I encouraged Lady B to learn about the woman for whom she is named. The "B" in Alverna B. Coffey is for Bridget. There's a story behind the initial, but for now, we'll stick to learning about her as a girl scout.

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