‘Nothing too difficult’ Girls Scouts teaches local teens valuable lessons

Washougal Girl Scouts Troop 45703 known for their volunteer work, community service

Contributed photo courtesy Tammy Mackey Members of the Washougal-based Girl Scout Troop 45703 pose for a photo earlier this year.

Contributed photo courtesy Tammy Mackey A member of Girl Scout Troop 45703 participates in a tree-planting event earlier this year. (Contriuted photo courtesy of Tammy Mackey)

Contributed photo courtesy Tammy Mackey Members of Girl Scout Troop 45703 served a local elderly couple by removing and chipping three trailers' worth of yard debris on Saturday, July 16. "This saved the couple money in disposal and helped them clean up a yard that had gotten away from them with the spring rains," troop leader Tammy Mackey said.

Contributed photo courtesy Tammy Mackey Members of the Washougal-based Girl Scout Troop 45703 hold pink Washougal Police Department patches, which were distrubuted as part of The Pink Patch Project, which raises to raise money and awareness for breast cancer charities.

Doug Flanagan/Post-Record Members of the Washougal-based Girl Scout Troop 45703 march during the Camas Days Grand Parade on Saturday, July 23.

When the girls of Girl Scouts Troop 45703 were much younger, troop leader Tammy Mackey took them to Hathaway Park in Washougal and asked them to walk on top of the rubber bumpers that surround the playground to keep wooden shavings out of the grass.

Some of them hesitated, struck by a fear that they wouldn’t be able to keep their balance or would look ungraceful in their attempts. But Mackey kept encouraging them, and they stuck with it and eventually succeeded. That success allowed the girls to gain more self-confidence, which led to more success in school and other aspects of their lives as they got older.

Perseverance is just one of the lessons Mackey hoped to instill in the girls — now teenagers who are earning rave reviews from east Clark County residents for their community spirit and work ethic.

“I really hope that they learn that there isn’t anything too difficult for them to try,” said Mackey, a Washougal resident and fish biologist. “The worst that could happen is that maybe they fail, but even that is a learning experience, so there’s no harm and trying. I also want them to learn conflict resolution skills because they can really practice in a safe place. Some of them don’t have big families, where maybe there’s conflict that they have to talk through, but with a Girl Scouts troop of 11 teenage girls, there’s definitely opportunities to work on conflict resolution skills.”

Mackey said she wants her Girl Scouts to “know they can pretty much … do anything.”

“You give them a task and tell them to plan something and they can figure it out,” Mackey said. “Even if they don’t do it themselves, they know who to go to to ask for help, And that’s really what I want them to have — that sense of independence, of, ‘I can do this. I may need help with it, but I can do it.'”

Troop 45703 includes 11 teens — four high school sophomores and seven high school juniors, most of whom attend Washougal High School.

The troop came into existence somewhat by chance in 2011, when Mackey was looking for a way to get her 5-year-old daughter, Buggy Eakin, involved in Girl Scouts, but was told every troop in the area was full.

Instead, Mackey decided to lead her own troop.

That first troop started with Eakin and three other kindergarteners, then grew to 29 girls before the Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington decided to create separate troops for younger girls.

The troop has “stayed pretty constant, around 10 to 15 girls, ever since,” Mackey said. “I think what makes this group of girls unique is that they’ve been together so long, so they’ve grown up kind of like siblings. They still fight and have disagreements and all of that, but they’ve found a way to really be honest and open with each other and just work through (their conflicts). And all of them have a very strong sense of adventure, and that’s kind of required when you hang out with me because who knows what’s going to happen? We may start off on a very mundane task and the next thing you know, we’re like, ‘Oh, where does this road lead?’, or ‘How about this trail? Let’s go explore,’ and then God only knows what happens after that.”

The road the troop is on now will soon take them to Europe, where they’ll spend 15 days in the summer of 2023, exploring London; Paris; Lucerne, Switzerland; and Florence and Rome in Italy.

“What I really want them to get out of this is that the world is so much bigger than Washougal, Clark County or even the Pacific Northwest,” Mackey said. “I want to expose them to so much more than what they will see if they stay here in Washougal. I want them to know there are so many opportunities and people and different cultures and ways of life that are out there for them to explore. I always tell them, ‘It’s fine if you come back and settle here, but please get out of Washougal, at least for a while, and experience the world.”

The girls have raised funds for the trip through a variety of activities and will continue to do so for the next several months.

“They worked really hard to earn money to pay for this trip,” Mackey said. “We’ve done ‘support nights’ with MOD Pizza, where a portion of the proceeds on a certain day go to the troop. The girls have done yard work and housekeeping. And we have a clothing drive, where the girls take clothes down to Value Village and are paid per pound. And we definitely (raise money) through cookie sales. That is how we fund a lot of what the troop does. I try very hard to make it so that there’s not a lot of out-of-pocket expenses for families.”

Over the past year, the girls have volunteered at several community events, including the Downtown Camas Association’s First Friday and Vintage Fair events; the city of Washougal’s Movie Nights at the Plaza and annual Pumpkin Harvest Festival; Clark Public Utilities’ Make A Difference Day and Earth Day events; and the Camas and Washougal school districts’ Stuff the Bus food collection event to benefit local food banks. The troop also planted trees at the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge and “adopted” Hamllik Park as part of the city of Washougal’s Adopt-a-Park program.

Three of the girls are on track to complete 250 hours of volunteer service for 2022-23, a feat which would qualify them for President’s Volunteer Service awards.

“They’ve really taken a lot of pride in their reputation in the community,” Mackey said. “Jan Carter of the Downtown Camas Association said, ‘When I see Troop 45703 on the signup sheet, I know things are going to get done.’ I relayed that sentiment to the girls, and they were really proud of that. I think that’s what keeps them going, because 5 a.m. is really early for most teenagers.”

Washougal Mayor David Stuebe recently presented Mackey with the Rose M. Jewell Volunteer of the Year award.

“I was definitely surprised to receive that, absolutely, because I know there’s a lot of people out in our community doing a lot of good work,” she said. “When I told the girls about the award, I let them know, ‘Yes, it has my name on the plaque, but really this is because all of us go out and do this work.’ I take them out there … but they’re the ones doing a lot of the work.”

Kathy Dering, a member of Washougal’s parks board, praised Mackey.

“I was at the meeting when she told the girls … the award was for all of them,” Dering said. “I wanted to say, ‘Tammy, without you and all the time that you give, who knows what the girls would be doing?’ But that’s her.”

For more information or to donate to the troop, email Mackey at troop45703@gmail.com.