The Scout way: Dubuque volunteer carves out time for Girl Scouts

Anna Schuster, of Dubuque, poses with her daughters Carmen (left), 14; and Audrey, 11, at Camp Little Cloud in Peosta, Iowa. Schuster is a troop leader with Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois. PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Kettering

For Dubuque resident Anna Schuster, finding the time to volunteer is part of a broader effort to strike the proper balance.

Schuster, a mother of two, already has her hands full with family and work obligations.

However, she finds the time to give back to an organization she has come to appreciate immensely as a parent.

Schuster plays multiple roles in her effort to support the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois. Despite her busy life, she knows the effort is worthwhile.

“Over the years, I have learned how important it is for the girls’ growth,” she said. “It gives the girls a voice and makes them feel more empowered.”

Schuster participated in Girl Scouts for a couple of years as a child. She said she was “reintroduced” to the organization as a parent.

Initially, she became involved when she began working with her daughter, Carmen’s, scout troop. Anna’s husband, Brian, already had been leading the troop and Anna decided she could assist.

She later took the role of co-leader for the troop of her younger daughter, Audrey, and holds that role today.

With those roles comes a wide range of responsibilities.

Schuster organizes troop meetings and sends details about these gatherings to the parents. She also informs the girls about various activities and trips they can take in conjunction with the group.

Troop leaders also serve as treasurers of the organization, collecting money and depositing it into the proper bank accounts.

The role takes on extra responsibility during what Schuster calls “cookie season.”

She said she takes orders from the girls in her troop, picks up supplies and distributes them to the proper individuals.

“Right now is probably the busiest time of year,” she said. “I am volunteering up to 10 hours a week.”

Schuster’s efforts do not go unnoticed.

Barb Smith serves as community engagement manager for Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.

She said Schuster is among a dedicated group of volunteers that make a major difference in the lives of the girls with whom they work.

“This work is truly a passion for them,” she said.

She said Schuster’s personality traits make her an ideal fit for the organization.

“She is always so optimistic and has such a positive outlook on life,” Schuster said. “That can-do attitude really shines and it makes her a great troop leader.”

Schuster balances her volunteer work with a demanding professional life.

She works at Heartland Financial and serves as senior deposit operations quality analyst.

Schsuster acknowledges that COVID-19 significantly altered operations for the local Girl Scouts.

“We were running like a full-speed locomotive and then, because of COVID, we hit a brick wall and everything stopped,” Schuster recalled. “There was this time when nothing happened.”

Slowly but surely, the group got back into the swing of things.

Initially, Schuster helped plan virtual meetings for the troops. In time, they began to gather for outdoor meetings. When the weather turned colder, they moved some of those troop meetings back indoors.

As the weather warms, Schuster hopes that the coming year will provide additional opportunities for the girls to spend time together.

At the end of the day, she believes the personal relationships forged through Girl Scouts are among the organization’s greatest attributes.

“That is one of the main things I really like about it, seeing the friendships that they forge and watching the girls grow up and become their own person as they transition into adulthood,” she said.

Jeff Montgomery writes for the Telegraph Herald.

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