Year of the Volunteer Profile: Dorothy Gehlhausen
By Mark Ray
Too many adults have low expectations of teenagers, says this longtime volunteer. That's why she believes in the Venturing program for young adults. 'You can expect excellence from them.'
At one of her son Jonathan’s pack meetings in Evansville, Ind., Dorothy Gehlhausen saw a table full of volunteer signup sheets. “I just happened to be at the pack meeting and thought, ‘I should put my name on one of these sheets, or I’ll look bad,’” she recalled recently.
That was 15 years ago, and Gehlhausen has spent the intervening years looking good. As a volunteer in Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, Sea Scouting, and Venturing, she has put her name on countless signup sheets, adult applications, and other Scouting forms.
Gehlhausen has served as a committee member for four units, a Venturing Advisor and Sea Scout Skipper, and a trainer at the district, council, regional, and national levels. She also worked on the National Scout Jamboree staff in 2005 and the Philmont Training Center faculty this past summer.
All of that service lay in the future, however, on the evening when she assisted with Pack 312’s blue and gold banquet, a task that seemed manageable for a woman with three young children. But Gehlhausen found herself being drawn deeper and deeper into the pack.
“The more I did, the more I found out how much I enjoyed it,” she said.
Gehlhausen’s gradual approach to service continued after Jonathan crossed over into Troop 312. She helped out in small ways before becoming advancement chair. In that role, she started working closely with Jonathan’s Scoutmaster.
At first, she said, “I didn’t pay one bit of attention to him.” Within several years, though, they were husband and wife.
With their 1999 marriage, Keith and Dorothy Gehlhausen became partners in life and in Scouting. In 2000 they formed Venturing Crew 312, whose members included Jonathan and other senior Scouts.
Two years later, they launched Sea Scout Ship 312, even though they knew nothing about sailing. Together they’ve led two Philmont treks, a Florida Sea Base expedition, and numerous sailing excursions, backpacking treks, whitewater rafting trips, and training courses.
“It’s wonderful that we’re both so involved,” Dorothy Gehlhausen said. “It helps so much to cut down on the friction that can be there.”
Of all her roles in Scouting, Gehlhausen has most enjoyed serving as an Advisor and Skipper. She said she loves watching 14- and 15-year-old youths gradually grow into responsible adults.
Dorothy Gehlhausen believes many adults have low expectations of teenagers — and that teens, in response, often meet those expectations.
“That’s what’s so great about the Venturing program,” she said. “You can expect excellence from them.”
Many Venturers, in turn, expect excellence from their leaders. If those leaders are anything like Dorothy Gehlhausen, they can be confident that their expectations will be met.
A frequent contributor to Scouting, Mark Ray is author of The Scoutmaster's Other Handbook.