published on June 22, 2012 - 7:58 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Cathy Ferguson
Girl Scouts of Central California South Council

What we do:
We help build girls of courage, confidence and character who will make the world a better place.
Your education:
I have a doctorate in education administration, master’s in physical education and health administration and bachelor’s in physical education.
Age: Old enough!!!
Family: Three daughters: Catie: married, two daughters, Sofia (5) and Saige (3). She is a schoolteacher in Placerville. Kellie: married, son, Kaden (3) and daughter, Lyla (1). She works for Chamberlain University. Allison: engaged, coaches swimming and diving in South Carolina. Husband Greg is a retired opera singer and is the choir director at our church — Trinity Lutheran Church.
We just lost Boo Boo Kitty, our cat of more than 22 years.  

How did you arrive at your position as CEO for Girl Scouts of Central California South Council, Cathy?
I was CEO for Girls Incorporated in Wilmington, Del. Being a California girl, I was ready to come home. So when the opportunity became available, I interviewed for the position. The day I interviewed in Fresno, I knew I wanted to make this community my home and I prayed that I would get the call, and I did. That was four years ago on June 17th.  

What are your primary responsibilities as CEO, Cathy?
My responsibilities include ensuring the delivery of Girl Scout programming to girls K-12 throughout Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties. Of course this means making sure the organization is viable and is meeting the needs of the community as well.  In addition to programming, I am charged with managing the finances/budget, staffing, volunteer development, fundraising, two retail stores and three office facilities including our headquarters here in Fresno. Girl Scouts of the USA also charges me with the challenge of recruiting both adult volunteers and girls. We want to grow the number of members every year and are pleased to report we have done so. In fact, last year we were one of 70 Girl Scout councils that increased its membership out of the 112 councils throughout the United States. I am fortunate to have the very best staff anyone could wish for and am so appreciative of their dedication and passion that they exhibit day in and day out. We have over 11,500 girls and 3,500 volunteers we serve during the year. These volunteers provide well over 700,000 hours of volunteer time each year as well. This of course takes lots of great customer service and training for both the staff and the volunteers. My job basically is to ensure that we continue to help build leaders of tomorrow, as Girl Scouts is the largest girl leadership program in the world.

What are some of the challenges your organization faces each year, Cathy?
The biggest challenge is to make sure we have enough adult leaders for our girls. With the current economic situation we continue to find it difficult to recruit women who are able to give the time required to train and to dedicate themselves to lead a Girl Scout troop for a minimum of a year. We need this type of help! As any community benefit organization (CBO) we are always in need of funding, as we do not retain the membership fee paid for joining Girl Scouts. That goes directly to the national organization. We have our Girl Scout Connect program designed for girls who have difficulty, whether it be financial or otherwise, accessing Girl Scouts. Our council provides membership and equipment funding for approximately 5,000 of these local girls. Therefore, we certainly can use financial assistance and rely on sponsorships, donors and grants to keep the organization going.

What is the most rewarding part of your job, Cathy? The most difficult?
The most rewarding part of my job is to see girls achieve great things. We had eight girls receive their Gold Award this last year but over 50 girls have signed up to learn about the Gold Award this year. It is the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. What upsets me is that no one seems to know about it. As an Olympic gold medalist myself, I want our girls to be given the accolades that are due them for the great achievements they have done earning their Gold Award. I am calling for all companies to make sure they interview those girls who apply for jobs who have achieved their Girl Scout Gold Award. The Boy Scouts have long heralded the coveted Eagle Award. It is now time for businesses to notice the work these young ladies have done from writing the history of Japanese Internment and the effect it had on those Japanese citizens right here in Fresno so this type of thing will never again happen, to corralling a group, teaching them to knit and making thousands of neonatal caps for tiny babies in the NICU’s across the country. Our girls are doing great things. Each Girl Scout Gold Awardee registers well over 80 hours of volunteer time in the year they work on their Gold Award. These are the leaders of tomorrow. We are in great hands because they care!

What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Cathy?
My first job was as a Christmas present wrapper at a small department store earning $1.10/hr. The thing I learned was customer service and that anything could be wrapped no matter the size or the shape, just like any problem can be solved if you have the right people and equipment.

What do you like to do in your spare time, Cathy?
I love to travel with my husband Greg Panten, spend time with my girls and their families, sing in the church choir, read and relax in my pool.  I also enjoy having friends over for dinner or going out to dinner.

Olympic experience, Cathy?
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to represent the United States at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. It was a whirlwind experience from the start as my training began as a little girl of 10 years old at the Burbank YMCA. After two years swimming with the YMCA AquaJets I watched the Olympic Games on TV and dreamed of being one of those athletes that stood on the first place award stand. My father and mother, knowing I had this dream, found the best coach in the world, Peter Daland who was coach of the University of Southern California Men’s Swimming Team and the Los Angeles Athletic Club swimming team. For the next four years my life and the life of my family was dedicated toward the goal of making the Olympic Team. The frosting on the cake was winning two gold medals.  I will never forget standing on the awards stand, seeing the American Flag being raised for me and hearing the National Anthem being played.  It was a dream fulfilled, and yet it was not what I thought it would be. I realized right then and there that it wasn’t just about me, but it was about me representing the greatest country in the world that provided the freedom for a 12 year-old little girl to dream big dreams.

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