Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois’ CEO Villie M. AppooNamed “Most Intriguing” by Who’s Who Diversity in Color
Glen Carbon, Illinois – Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois (GSSI) is pleased to share that Villie M. Appoo, Chief Executive Officer, was recently honored by the Who’s Who Diversity in Color with the organization’s Most Intriguing award. For the past seven years, Ms. Appoo has been CEO of GSSI which serves over 13,000 girls and 4,800 adult volunteers in 40 ½ counties in southern Illinois.
“Girl Scouting is all about diversity and inclusion so this award reiterates all that we do and all that Girl Scouts stand for.” Appoo said she has personally gained far more than she could ever give back through her experience of working in diverse communities with such a dedicated group with varied interests. “But, all Girl Scout volunteers and supporters have one goal in common…to serve ALL girls, regardless of race, ethnic origin and to help them reach their full potential,” Appoo said.
Who’s Who Diversity in Color is an annual publication with the mission of documenting and celebrating the achievements of all people of color! Its goal is to highlight the best and brightest in all ethnic communities. WWDIC understands that our differences unite us. When we celebrate that which separates us from the norm, we add value to our cultural stance, both individually and collectively.
Villie M. Appoo, the first CEO of the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, (GSSI), was born in Mumbai, India. When she was in first grade, Villie followed in her mother’s footsteps and joined the Girl Guides, an organization similar to Girl Scouts. Villie first developed her passion for social service as a volunteer for the Society for the Education of the Crippled through Girl Guides. As a Girl Guide, she learned perseverance and gained self-confidence. As a member of the Zoroastrian community, an ethnic minority in India, the value of education and personal integrity were instilled in her at an early age. This early exposure to serving others laid the foundation for her chosen career in social services.
Villie worked in the slums of Mumbai for two years before moving to St. Louis to pursue her MSW at the Brown School of Social Work, Washington University. Villie applied for several scholarships and had to overcome numerous obstacles and biases against funding higher education for girls. Villie did her field practicum at Grace Hill Settlement House and was offered employment there upon graduation. During her 30 years at Grace Hill, Villie worked her way up to become the COO and Vice President of Grace Hill Neighborhood Health Centers. At Grace Hill, Villie procured numerous grants to implement innovative primary care and community health programs and increased access to affordable health care for the underserved. One of her most notable accomplishments was procuring federal funding to implement the Health Care for the Homeless program in St. Louis, expanding it over the years to include Respite Care and Mobile dental services with an annual budget of over 2 million dollars. Throughout her 30 years at Grace Hill, Villie did an outstanding job of identifying unmet needs, finding the needed resources and touching many lives along the way. She believed strongly in making a difference.
After leaving Grace Hill, Villie came full circle to become the first CEO of the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois in 2009. Through Girl Scouting, girls are helped to discover their full potential and are exposed to career opportunities in different fields including STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) – programs that lie very close to Appoo’s heart. Over the last 7 years, GSSI has grown from having one robotics team to over 30 robotics teams throughout GSSI’s service area of 40 counties in southern Illinois. Additionally, Villie ensures that GSSI also offers programs to develop financial literacy, leadership, provide community service and address issues such as bullying in schools by ensuring the emotional and physical well-being of young girls. Villie’s commitment to providing girl scouting to underserved girls resulted in the expansion of outreach services to girls in the East St. Louis school district, detention centers and in public housing. It is her mission to make sure that through Girl Scouts, girls grow up to be well rounded, informed, and confident women and leaders.
Villie brings many strengths to her work, including project design, program development and implementation, grant writing, and fund development. She is extremely analytical and enjoys tackling complex issues. These skills show through her life’s work. Villie successfully guided the merger of two Girl Scout councils to form a new organization, the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, addressed serious budget deficits and restructured programs and staff. Outside of her CEO responsibilities, she actively volunteers for GSUSA and other organizations, and serves as a consultant to North American Management. In 2013, Villie received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Brown School, Washington University, for the life changing work she has completed with her social work degree. She credits these successes to the dedicated colleagues, mentors and friends with whom she has had the privilege to work, and without whom she could not have helped all of the people she did. Like a good Girl Scout, Villie believes in looking for an opportunity to make a difference and to leave this world a better place. Villie will always be remembered as a passionate woman who succeeded in making a positive, lasting difference by touching the lives of many others.
The mission of Girl Scouting states: Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. Girl Scouts is the world’s pre-eminent organization dedicated solely to girls – all girls – where, in an accepting and nurturing environment, girls build character and skills for success in the real world. In partnership with committed adults, girls develop qualities that will serve them all their lives – like strong values, social conscience, and conviction about their own potential and self-worth.
Today’s Girl Scouts not only enjoy camping and crafts, but they also explore math and science and learn about diversity, good citizenship, leadership and teamwork. Girl Scouting is the place where girls experience the fun, friendship and power of girls together. Girl Scouting has inspired more than 59 million girls and women since its founding in 1912.
Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois is a not-for-profit organization supported by various United Ways throughout the region. Girl Scouts is a Proud Partner of United Way.