Thank you, Pam Saltenberger

Jeff vonKaenel

I am not a girl, nor have I ever been a Girl Scout. But for a while, I served on the board of the Girl Scouts Heart of Central California at the suggestion of my friend and CEO of the organization, Pam Saltenberger. While serving on the board, I discovered the coolness of the Girl Scouts.

The Girl Scouts Heart of Central California serves nearly 29,000 girls in 18 counties. The organization serves girls from rough urban situations as well as girls from affluent, but sometimes lonely, suburbs. But most of all, it’s about the enthusiastic energy of girls—girls finding themselves and girls becoming stronger.

When I first met Pam in 2004, SN&R was producing two annual high-school music events, the classical Jammies and the contemporary Jammies. We brainstormed about how the Girl Scouts could participate. The end result was a Jammies badge, and dozens of Girl Scouts came out to see the Jammies Classical Evening of Music held at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis.

A couple years later, Pam was able to secure buses to bring girls from the Girl Scouts Heart of Central California Outreach Program to the Jammies. There were quite a few girls from homeless families. The girls were wide-eyed as they walked into the beautiful and imposing Mondavi Center, a world-class music hall.

After fulfilling my duties as a host of the Jammies, I joined the Girl Scouts in the audience. It was a blast. When each local high-school student came out on stage to perform a piano solo or to sing opera, the young Scouts would collectively say, “Aah.” A fairy-tale-come-true “aah.”

And they, like the rest of the audience, were amazed by the quality of the performers. As one 8 or 9-year-old girl told me, with some surprise, “I really like this fancy music.”

And we sure liked the Girl Scouts. After the show, we brought them up on stage for a photo. And like our performers, their breath was taken away as they gazed out at that gigantic hall. Thanks to Pam, the girls had a wonderful experience. Pam later told me that on the bus ride from Sacramento to Davis, one of the girls had said, “I did not know that Sacramento had a river.”

Since 1996, Pam has led the Girl Scouts with incredible dedication and love for the girls. During her tenure, the annual budget increased from $2.6 million in 1998 to $7.6 million in 2013. Believing that Girl Scouts is for “every girl everywhere,” Pam has also secured $150,000 a year for financial assistance to help girls in need afford memberships, uniforms and such. And now, after 17 years, Pam has decided to retire. Pam deserves our thanks for making such a difference in so many girls’ lives. And I would like to thank her for making a difference in mine.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.