Jefferson Awards: Girl Scout leader Roxanne Plater is a real trouper

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Eleven years ago, Roxanne Plater was just another Girl Scout mom -- her two daughters participated in a troop near their home in Penn Hills.

Then she found out that her church, Bidwell Presbyterian in Manchester, sponsored a Boy Scout troop but not a Girl Scout troop. So Ms. Plater, a former Girl Scout herself, decided to start one.

"Girls need to see and be educated by someone 'just like them,' " she said. "I want to make sure that all the girls that want to be Girl Scouts get a chance to be."

That troop has had up to 50 girls in it -- currently representing more than 4 percent of the female population attending local schools.

In the meantime, she had stepped up to be a co-leader of her daughters' troop in Penn Hills. When the troop leader stepped down and nobody else volunteered to lead it, Ms. Plater felt she had no choice but to lead the troop herself. "That would have meant that these girls who had been together since kindergarten wouldn't have a troop," she said. She's currently enlisted more than 100 adult volunteers to help with that troop of cadette and senior scouts.

As more volunteer opportunities became available, Ms. Plater, 47, kept stepping up. She's been a community service manager for nine years, a recruiter for 10 years and a facilitator for seven years, training other adult volunteers and other troop leaders. She attends national conferences. And she has gone through training to lead various Girl Scout activities, from camping to canoeing.

"She really does go above and beyond," said Jane Horetsky, director of volunteer management for Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania, who nominated Ms. Plater for the Jefferson Award from the more than 6,000 volunteers that she manages. "She's a great role model for the girls, and she really inspires others through all that she does."

Ms. Plater also is one of six finalists for Most Outstanding Volunteer among the 47 Jefferson Award of Public Services winners for 2012. An awards presentation will be held 7 to 8:30 p.m. April 29 at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland, where the winning finalist will be named. That person will represent Western Pennsylvania at the national Jefferson Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., this summer.

The Jefferson program is administered locally by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with sponsorship by Highmark, BNY Mellon, The Pittsburgh Foundation and the Heinz Endowments.

PNC will donate $1,000 to the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania on Ms. Plater's behalf.

Ms. Plater also works full time as a claims supervisor for Lehigh Hanson, a building materials manufacturer.

In addition she volunteers with Amachi Pittsburgh, an organization that mentors children who have at least one incarcerated parent. She has served as her church's group coordinator for Amachi for the past five years.

"She's a busy lady -- She does a great job of balancing life and work," said Ms. Horetsky. "She's somebody that you truly aspire to be like."

Ms. Plater got involved with the Girl Scouts more than a decade ago, when her daughters, now 14 and 15, became old enough to join.

She estimates that she spends at least 10 hours per week volunteering with the Girl Scouts, often more than 20.

Her favorite part is pushing them toward experiences such as camping that they wouldn't get in their everyday lives. "Before they try it, they don't want to do it," she said. "It's an experience that they find out they like after they try it."

Experienced Girl Scouts often request camping trips, said Mr. Plater, particularly to one campsite on a beach in New Jersey next to an amusement park.

For a mother, working full time, the volunteer commitment can seem overwhelming at times.

"I always think about quitting," she laughs, "and I just can't seem to do it. I would lose that benefit of being able to give girls these experiences, and it seems like new girls come on all the time."

And once those new girls start, Ms. Plater gets to watch them mature.

"These girls that started off as kids -- I'm looking at them and they're young ladies," she said. "Watching them grow is phenomenal."

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Anya Sostek: or 412-263-1308. First Published April 20, 2013 4:00 AM


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