| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:50

There are 33,795 Girl Scouts throughout northern New Jersey, and one of their leaders is Betty Garger of Sparta. She is embarking on her 24th year with the organization and is the chief operating officer of the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey. Considered a council of the national organization Girls Scouts of the USA, it is composed of Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Northern Warren and Sussex counties. “I am responsible for the day-to-day operations including four offices, 68 staff and three camps. The strength of our organization is our volunteers who we rely on,” said Garger. “Every day is a different day. You deal with so many aspects — I like the challenge and the opportunity.” Garger started her Girl Scout career when she was in second grade as a Brownie. But in middle school, she developed other interests and dropped out of the Girl Scouts. After graduating from Rowan College with a bachelor’s degree in communications, she pursued radio broadcasting. “I was a news director at a local radio station in Salem, N.J., but when I got married we relocated to Sussex County and began looking for a marketing job,” she said. It was this turn of events that led her back to the Girl Scouts. Originally hired as the public relations director and membership manager for what was formerly known as the Lenni-Lenape Council, Garger has held almost every position in the organization. When three councils merged in 2007 to form the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, Garger was in the right place at the right time and was promoted to chief operating officer. “Girl scouting is a wonderful program that gives every girl the chance to be a leader and look at the world in a different way. We like to say when a choice comes, make a good one.” Started in 1912 as a non-profit organization, the Girl Scouts will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. It has become known for its annual cookie sale which funds over half of the annual budgets. “Eighty-four percent of the money we raise goes back into programs for the girls. We serve one out of every five girls in these areas — we are the third highest council in New Jersey,” said Garger. Fifth- and sixth-grade Girl Scouts are the most likely to drop out of the organization. “Girls are not the same today as they were in 1912. There are a lot of other choices for the girls and their parents — we understand that. Our challenge is getting people to understand what we have to offer,” said Garger. “We always say people know who the Girl Scouts are, but they don’t know what we do.” The Girl Scouts use the cookie sale as an exercise for goal setting. With revenue raised, they decide where they are going to go and what they are going to do with the money. They also learn life skills like good nutrition, and they demonstrate these achievements to earn badges. “Some girls just want to do service like collecting food for local food pantries,” she said. And Garger feels the same way. When she is not working, her free time is devoted to the Paterson Rotary Club where she has been a member for eight years and was recently elected president. “The Rotary has a similar message to the Girl Scouts: service above self.” She credits her successful career to two people — her former boss, Mitzi Golbak, and her husband, Andy. “Twenty years ago I had my first child Amanda. Mitzi told me I could work at home two days a week and bring in my newborn daughter the other three days. Working out of the house wasn’t so common back then. All I had was my fax and my telephone. But my former boss believed in me.” Betty Garger is a very happy camper. “I am passionate about what I do — I love the summer. I get to see the girls in the camps and hear them laugh and splash around — it’s great.” Warm Broccoli and Cheddar Dip 1 envelope vegetable soup mix 1 16-oz container sour cream 1 10-oz package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and squeezed dry 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese In casserole dish, combine soup mix, sour cream, broccoli and half cup of cheese until smooth. Top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite crackers or toast points.