Profile: Susan Chaney
Profile: Susan Fletcher Chaney
A Good Scout all her life and a leader today
In 1956, 5,000 youth from across the country came together for the first-ever Girl Scouts National Round-up in Milford, Mich. Among them was 15-year-old Susan Chaney of Arkansas.
The experience had a profound effect on her, as tears come to her eyes when she recalls the festivities from that gathering. Lessons learned there forever shaped Susan’s views on service and the importance of investing in others, which translated into all aspects of her life, including her family, her career and her passion for volunteering.
Susan, who grew up in Fayetteville, came to Fort Smith many years ago to work for the nursing program at what was then Westark Community College.
She was ahead of her time in a way, having chosen to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing.
Her career choice is in no way surprising, given Susan’s innate drive to care for those around her. In addition to raising her own children, one of whom had special needs, she also helped raised her grandchildren, eventually adopting one of them.
During many of those child-rearing years, Susan served as both a Boy Scout and Girl Scout mom, often leading troops and teaching the same skills she learned as a youth.
After taking a break for a few years when her children were older, Susan volunteered again for the privilege of introducing her grandchildren to Scouting.
It was after officially retiring that Susan began to become even more involved with her volunteer roles, particularly Scouting.
Drawing on her own experience and her medical background, she has become known for her informative babysitting and CPR trainings and often teaches courses at Kelley Cabin, the Girls Scouts’ Fort Smith headquarters. She is a Scout leader again, leading girls of all ages on exciting outdoor adventures and through the fundamentals of Girl Scouts.
“My favorite thing is seeing them discover,” said Susan. “Watching them set up their own tent, cook in an outdoor setting, and see that, ‘Hey, I can do this.’ It is great seeing them build that self-confidence.”
At 77, Susan continues to lead troops on outdoor camp outs and pass her love for the outdoors on to the next generation.
Fellow Scout leader Madeline Marquette has seen the effect that Susan has on kids.
“I first met her at a camp out at Camp Cahinnio Girl Scout Camp over 20 years ago. She was the main leader for 20-plus small Scouts,” Marquette said. “Over the last few decades, Susan has developed a reputation for being able to help mold young minds and make their Scouting experiences as memorable as her own. She is still doing that. She knows mountains of information to keep Scouts learning and having fun.”
“She has a fantastic skunk game she plays with the girls to learn team building skills,” Marquette said. “Sometimes they all dress like skunks, too!”
Part of Susan’s motivation for volunteering is the sense of fulfillment it gives her. “I still get a lot of joy out of it. You always get more out of it than you give,” she said.
She also has been able to achieve goals of her own through work with her church. Six years ago, she began participating in missions to Guatemala through First United Methodist Church in Fort Smith. She has traveled to the country to help with construction projects and medical missions, for which her training as a nurse came in handy.
“This was something I had wanted to do all my life,” she said.
“Being in contact with others is one of the real benefits from church, Scouts and other such,” said Susan. She supports other programs, such as Senior Nutrition Centers run by Area Agency for the Aging, which gives her company at lunch and helps promote a good cause.
“I eat lunch most days at Baker Center on North Albert Pike. If you are 60-plus, a $3 donation gets you a balanced meal and contact with a group of nice people – both important for healthy aging!”
Susan continues to apply the values instilled in her at that roundup more than 60 years ago. Her life of service, from patient care here and abroad, to teaching outdoor skills on camp outs, make this forever-Girl Scout the embodiment of the organization’s mission to build “girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.”
– Brittany Ransom
This article appears in the August 2017 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine.