“I felt this urge with giving back to the community that over 20 years ago gave to me.” – Clara Torres
At eight years old, Clara Torres’ mother enrolled her into Girl Scouts. The troop met weekly in a church rectory basement. She is still able to recall some of the faded memories of interacting with other girls on Saturdays. She remembers not only making crafts and selling cookies, but the activities that helped build the important character values of courage, creativity and confidence. Values that are very evident in her character to this day.
As a first generation Hispanic with hardworking humble parents, Clara rarely had the typical sleepover, let alone a camping trip with just girls at such a young age. Although her Mexican parents tended to be strict and protective, they allowed her to attend Girl Scouts camping trips at the ages of nine and ten, and the experiences of those trips still remain fond memories.
In 2008, Clara felt the urge to check-in with the local troop leaders and the status of the local Girl Scouts in the area. She made a few calls and found out that there had not been a troop in the Logan Square/Avondale neighborhoods for more than 15 years. Having lived and grown up in the neighborhoods, Clara felt it was time to give back to the community in the way that several women had done for her as a young girl.
Soon after she decided to look into the requirements to become a local Girl Scouts troop leader, and after a few training sessions, she was certified and ready to start a troop for second through fifth grade girls. Initially, the troop consisted of just three eight-year-olds. To date, her troop is steadily growing and currently has 17 girls thanks to the power of word of mouth and help from the entire St. Josephs Village Assisted Living Center community for providing a great meeting location and their overall support. It takes an entire village to lead the effort and it all comes together with small steps every Saturday for a few hours.
“I think with any organization you volunteer with, it is necessary to want to fully devote your time and energy to the cause, and to be truly invested emotionally,” said Clara.
She enjoys volunteering and has always had the interest to help kids in Chicago’s urban neighborhoods. Prior to the Girls Scouts, she worked with at-risk high school teenagers with the MGR Foundation, Team M3. The non-for-profit organization partners committed adult volunteers with Chicago Public High School students to mentor and train together for Chicago Marathon. Meeting every week, the program allowed the partnerships between the volunteers and students to help them complete the marathon and build their overall confidence of reaching any goal they set for themselves in life.
Now as a devoted Girl Scouts troop leader and mentor to young girls, Clara happily looks forward to her Saturdays when she can hang out with the little girls, and enjoys taking her troop on camping trips twice a year during the winter and fall. “Volunteering is not a job. It is a passion that must come from within. A passion that makes you want to instill courage, strength and creativity in the youth of tomorrow.”