TEWKSBURY/WILMINGTON — The Girl Scouts are an integral part of the fabric of Tewksbury and Wilmington, and Joyce Hamlyn has been the master weaver for over 20 years. The coordinator of the Baldwin Unit of Tewksbury and Wilmington, Hamlyn is retiring and will be departing for Arizona in the next few months to be near family.
“I got involved as a leader when my daughter Shannon joined scouts in 1996,” said Hamlyn, who slowly became more involved until she was asked to take over the service unit. “I wasn’t going to do it alone, and I’m grateful for the strong team we had.”
Hamlyn worked closely with Marie Normoyle of Wilmington, who was helping with recruitment, registration and training. For Hamlyn, the Girl Scouts represented a way for young girls to make decisions and have a say in what they did in their troops.
Whether it was raising money for a trip through cookie sales or brainstorming a community service project, Hamlyn made sure to put the girls front and center and have them guide the process.
Said Normoyle, “There aren't enough words to describe Joyce. No one is more caring, trustworthy, and tireless.”
Hamlyn oversaw 30-35 troops at the peak of involvement between the two towns. Hamlyn said that all troops are different, something that made the role fun and interesting. Some troops enjoyed camping and hiking, some stayed close to home and enjoyed cooking and crafts.
“I loved teaching the girls how to cook,” she said, “camping, not so much!”
Hamlyn noted that programming for the Girl Scouts has changed over the years.
“The activities are very STEM focused now,” she said, a trend away from some of the more traditional program offerings.
The Girl Scouts have also created flexibility for meeting badge requirements.
“Leaders could be creative in what they were able to achieve” with respect to activities and skills for the girls, said Hamlyn, explaining that tastes have changed over the years and the advent of technology has pushed scouting to evolve.
Some of the most memorable events for Hamlyn were all big endeavors but she is quick to say that it was always thanks to a huge group effort. Who didn’t love the Scavenger Hunt, where teams of girls, driven by parents in minivans, spread out over Wilmington and Tewksbury to ask Starbucks for a paper coffee cup or take photos of the pinball machine at Maverick’s?
Or the nighttime hikes, Halloween Dances, square dances and mystery trips?
“I have to thank Marie Normoyle, Christine Chesbrough, Jeanne Buck, Denise Farnsworth, Brenda Robertson, and Michelle Chase for their help over the years,” Hamlyn acknowledged.
Of Hamlyn, Michele Chase said, “Joyce’s dedication to Girl Scouts go far beyond being a troop leader or SU coordinator. As a leader, Joyce involved parents as much as possible in activities allowing us (to) share with our daughters’ experience as a Girl Scout. She put her heart and soul into giving girls opportunities, experiences and memories that will last for years to come.”
When asked her favorite event, Hamlyn said the mystery trips; girls were not told where they were going, just what they needed and where to board the bus. Trips were within a three-and-a-half hour drive of Tewksbury and Wilmington and spanned a weekend.
Hamlyn organized the event for six years and took the girls to Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and two trips to Western Massachusetts.
“We had a ball,” Hamlyn smiled.
However, she is confident that her successor, Tewksbury leader Sarah Leshay, will do an excellent job and keep Girl Scouts moving in a positive direction across the two towns.
Leshay said, “Joyce has given so much heart to Girl Scouts — she is constantly thinking about programs she can provide to the girls and ways to keep them engaged. She truly loves Girl Scouts and wants to make it the best program possible.”
Leshay will officially take over in late August.
Hamlyn will miss the parades, Powder Puff Derbys, and other events in town such as the 9/11 memorial recognition and Veterans Day ceremonies.
Christine Chesbrough helped with many events and said, “The Baldwin Service Unit was very lucky to have Joyce Hamlyn as a service unit coordinator. Our scouts had opportunities not found in other communities, I helped Joyce run a lot of events and she was great fun to work with. We will miss her!”
In addition to her community work through Girl Scouts, Hamlyn is also known for her extensive therapy dog work. Hamlyn has been part of the Barks & Books program at the Tewksbury Public library for years. Her certified therapy dog, Thor, sits patiently with young children as they read, a practice that has been a game changer for struggling and hesitant readers.
Hamlyn also visits nursing homes, assisted living facilities, colleges, and has been to Tewksbury Memorial High School for students to pet the dogs to reduce anxiety. Hamlyn works with the Plus Company, an organization that works with developmentally disabled and brain injured persons and is also a ceramics teacher.
We had to ask about her favorite Girl Scout cookie and Hamlyn said, “Thanks A Lots. They don’t make them anymore but they made the best s’mores!”
Hamlyn hopes that young families moving to town will get their girls involved in scouting. She also reminds everyone that Girl Scouts is an all-volunteer organization on the local level, and is grateful for all of the hours of planning and preparation that troop leaders and unit members gave for the girls.
We all thank you, Joyce, for all you gave to Tewksbury and Wilmington!