The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 28, 2014

Girl Scouts celebrate service, character-building

JOHNSTOWN — More than 220 people helped Girls Scouts Western Pennsylvania honor one of its leaders during the 37th annual Awards of Distinction dinner on Monday at Sunnehanna Country Club in Westmont.

Stella Somiari, senior director at Windber Research Institute, was presented with the 2014 Community Service Award.

The event honors men and women from the Johnstown area for their efforts in the community.

“It’s overwhelming and humbling,” Somiari said about the award.

Somiari, who has served as the chairwoman of Girls Scouts Western Pennsylvania since 2011, said it is important to be involved with the organization because the organization is working to build better girls.

The organization does that by making the girls part of the building process, she said.

The keynote speaker for the event was Phebe Novakovic, chairwoman and chief executive officer of General Dynamics, an aerospace and defense company  based in West Falls Church, Va.

Novakovic said she is a believer in organizations that teach self-respect and values.

She said 50 percent of the staffers whom she brought with her are former Girls Scouts, with one of them being a Silver Award winner.

“I thought, here are senior women in this company and

50 percent of them had been Girl Scouts. Doesn’t that tell you something?”

Novakovic talked about what the Girls Scouts stand for and how everyone can manifest those values and represent them in their lives.

“It doesn’t matter really who you are or what your position is,” she said. “It’s important to be a good person.”

It also is important to be a person who serves and honors their country, she said.

Joyce Murtha, who again served as the event’s honorary chairwoman, said Novakovic has been at the dinner in the past  with a former CEO of General Dynamics and therefore knows its importance.

The event is important because it raises money to enable the organization to serve Girl Scouts, she said.

The Girls Scouts is a great organization because it builds integrity and character, she said.

Allison Wirfel and Emily Shero, both of Troop 40701 in Ebensburg, described the event as really cool.

“I loved meeting all the new people,” Allison said.

Emily said it was nice to see all the people who support the Girls Scouts.

Both girls said that the Girl Scouts is a great opportunity to conduct projects to help people and the environment.

Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ FrankNews10.

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