Dianne Belk: Girl Scouts “Removed a Barrier”
I am from modest beginnings. Growing up in rural Mississippi—where my chores included picking cotton, milking cows, and churning butter—not having the money to buy clothes was always something I was aware of. I loved the days when we had Girl Scout meetings because I got to wear my uniform. I found, even though I couldn’t have articulated it then, that it was a great social leveler. All of a sudden we were all the same. Even though some of my troop members had the cutest and most fashionable clothes, on uniform days they looked just like me. I learned a lot of lessons from that: clothing does not make the person. Popularity is not ensured by clothing.
On those days, I noticed we were all treated the same. Everything was equal. That was something I had never experienced before. Our troop leader, Grace Wofford, was truly a hero in my life. She helped set the standard that when we were together we were equal. She never said it, but it was clear from her actions.
That Girl Scout uniform removed a barrier. When I realized that I was just as good, my self-image shot up! To come from such a modest background and have such a realization when I was 10 or 11 years old was life changing.
It was at that point that I became aware that lack of money could be a barrier in life, and Girl Scouts helped me understand that education could remove that barrier. And that led me to ask my teachers, “How do people go to college?”; “What’s involved?”; and “What does it mean to be educated?” Girl Scouts opened many thought-paths for me and provided many powerful lessons.
I started as a Brownie and remained active all the way through high school, earning my Curved Bar (known today as the Gold Award), and I was well aware that at every level of Girl Scouts, when you wear a vest or a pin, you belong to the powerful sisterhood of Girl Scouts—and your last year’s shoes or baggy socks aren’t important.
Girl Scouts has been a big part of my life for 68 years, and today my personal mission is to knock down barriers that other young women face in achieving equality. To help accomplish this I chose to leave gifts to Girl Scouts in my will and estate plan. And in 2012 I helped create the Juliette Gordon Low Society to thank others who remember Girl Scouts in their wills. That money helps ensure the future of our Movement, which means that every girl who wants to can wear a vest or a pin, and that our future will include girls who have the courage and confidence to run the world.
San Diego, California
Dianne Belk is an honorary trustee and the founding chair of the Juliette Gordon Low Society, formed to honor those who make a gift to Girl Scouts in their wills or estate plans — a generous and lasting way to give back to the movement.