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Dot Ponder to be recognized for 30-plus years in the Girl Scouts

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"Girl Scouting builds girls 
of courage, confidence, and character, who make
 the world a better place."

Dot Ponder remembers selling her first box of Girl Scout cookies for 30 cents. That was in Florida when she was a little girl. That first foray into the world of scouting morphed into a 30-plus year career in the Girl Scouts.

And, Dot can't help but smile and shake her head as she recalls three decades of scouting, not only as an eager participant, but also as a young mother and troop leader, and in the recent past, assistant leader for one her granddaughter's troops.

This wife, mother of four (three girls and one boy) and grandmother of eight is still fondly referred to as "Buzz." Dot got the moniker back in the day at Camp Tannissie, in Tullahoma. That summer as part of co-leading one of her daughter's troops, she taught canoeing and tennis.

"Well, we wanted to get the canoe into the water, but a limb was in the way," she said. "I ended up in the tree cutting down the limb. They looked up and saw me and said it sounded like a buzz saw."

Thus, the nickname hundreds of scouts of all ages called Dot, 82, for years. But, she's quick to say her grandchildren call her "Mammie," not "Buzz." And she's still pretty good with a saw. This past weekend she was out in the yard with her husband, Phil, sawing apart a big limb so he could mow. Phil is a former Metro Nashville councilman and renowned for his intricate Nashville scene paintings that tell the history of the city. They will celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary in June.

However, Dot won't be working in the yard with her husband Friday night. This Friday evening she's going to be honored at a Girl Scout fundraiser called Jewel of Juliette for her 30 years dedicated to scouting. The celebration will be at Saint Stephen Catholic Community in Mt. Juliet.

In addition to active and retired scouts, friends and church members, many of her family will be there except for one, who, how fitting, will be away on a scouting trip.

"We are excited to honor Dot at the Jewel of Juliette event," said Agenia Clark, President/CEO Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee. "Through Dot's tenure as a Girl Scout volunteer she has touched hundreds of Girl Scouts: from teaching them the Girl Scout Promise and Law, facilitating canoeing, organizing camping trips and more.

"As our mission states, Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and courage, who make the world a better place. We would not be able to live out this mission without the support and leadership of our volunteers."

Dot said scouting was integral throughout the years in their family. All three girls were scouts and son Robert was an Eagle Scout at age 13. He now helps out with his son's special needs troop. Stephanie was the "baby" of the children and loved hanging out with her big sister's troop her mom led. She became known as "Tadpole" which was an honor to her.

"Our years in scouting helped me appreciate being organized," she said this week. "Not only did we get badges, but we followed through with the skills we learned. I have a pure love of the outdoors and love helping people."

She said many of the girls Ponder led still think of her as a second mother.

"She treated everyone equally," Stephanie said. "She was wonderful as a leader, and I'm very blessed we all were a scouting family."

30 years of stories
She recalls one time her mom spent two days picking blackberries only for someone at the camp to use them in muffins that tasted so bad Dot secretly threw them away. The cook forgot to put in the sugar. It's stories like this that could go on for days. Dot said the most joy she got out of decades of leading scouts is "what they learned and carried into the adult world."

"I'm such a believer," Dot said. "Scouting prepares them for so much. They learn so much."

One summer camp her daughter Terrie learned about pottery.

"Her senior year in college she needed to take an elective and took a pottery course," Dot said.

"She remembered it from when she was younger. Now she owns a pottery place in Georgia."

Her pottery is also sold at Picture This in Mt. Juliet.

"I enjoyed seeing the young girls' expression when they discovered something," she said.

The definition of volunteering
Dot never considered herself a mentor, but those who know her say she helped shaped countless lives through her volunteerism in the scouts.

"There's self satisfaction when you enjoy doing something," Dot said. "You don't expect to get paid for it."

And Dot did a lot of dirty but necessary camping jobs through the years, ones she should have been paid for doing. Like when she had to check the latrines at the camps.

"A lot of snakes hang out around there," she quipped.

Another time when she co-led a troop to Cumberland Caverns she found herself on the "wild tour" of the cave.

"We literally were on our bellies crawling and were supposed to keep some distance between each other," Dot said. "My co-leader went before me and had to tell me to 'back off.' I whispered 'get me out of here.'"

Though retired from scouting for several years, Dot still loves to talk about all the badges she's helped scouts get. And through the years, not only was she devoted to the scouts, she was also a Sunday school teacher; softball and basketball coach and swim volunteer. She was a member of the Home Demonstration Club and Garden Club. Currently she devotes a lot of time to the Donelson/Hermitage Exchange Club where she goes to weekly meetings.

All the years of outdoor activities has kept Dot in shape. Though she's had two knee replacements (probably because of all that hiking) a few years ago she conquered Fiery Gizzard in the Smokey Mountains. As far as being recognized Friday, she's a little self-conscious.

"I'm just one of hundreds of amazing leaders," she said. "It's hard to say I'm outstanding. It's what I loved doing."

Her favorite Girl Scout cookie?

"Thin Mints, of course!"

The fundraiser is May 1 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Holy Family Center Hall at St. Stephen, 14544 Lebanon Road.

Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at

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