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From Cookies to Computers

: San Marino’s Roberta Gunderson, as a Girl Scout in a photo she believes was taken in 1950 or 1951.

Many young Girl Scouts may wonder why they are encouraged to sell cookies to complete strangers, outside the obvious goal of raising money for the program. Well, San Marino resident Roberta Gunderson might have another answer.

“I loved selling them,” said Gunderson, who said she frequently sold the highest number of boxes in her troop. “I had to be willing to go to doors where I didn’t know who was behind them. I figured out that going to the many large apartment buildings that had many individual apartments inside got me to more potential sales.”

Gunderson grew up in Glendale and her troop was associated with R.D. White Elementary School. She can’t quite recall the troop number but said the accompanying photo was taken around 1950-51.

“Selling Girl Scout cookies helped me present myself in many ways and I believe that experience led me to a variety of activities up to and including the San Marino Schools Foundation.”

Gunderson was on the ground floor of the Schools Foundation, which supports the San Marino Unified School District to the tune of about $2 million per year.

Gunderson, last month at a meeting of the Rotary Club of San Marino. The longtime San Marino resident said she believes her experience selling Girl Scout cookies as a youth led to her lifetime of volunteerism.

“We have two sons who attended school in San Marino,” Gunderson said. “Our eldest graduated in 1988 and our younger in 1992. I was very involved with volunteering in the district and my friendship with Barbara Bice goes way back to those days.”

A computer whiz, Gunderson was asked by then-Superintendent Dr. Dave Brown to assist with computer education. She taught parents the fledgling skill and donated her earnings back to the district to help with…purchasing new computers!

Brown so admired Gunderson’s work that he put her in charge of entertainment for a first-day program for teachers.

“Paulette Chapman, Diana Jehue and I wrote and performed a rap song, which was new at the time,” Gunderson recalls. “We performed in the Webb Theatre at the high school and it was very well received. I don’t remember all the words, but it started out ‘Dr. David E. Brown top man in town, Is renown for putting down best schools around, Boom, chicha, boom, chicka, boom chicka boom!’”

Another memory left a different impression.

“I was asked to go to a fellow volunteer’s house to update the Schools Foundation’s computer for donation receipts,” Gunderson recalled. “I was to walk in to side door, her husband would have left the door unlocked. I was to simply open the door and go in. In short, her husband forgot to leave the door unlocked. I innocently opened the door, planning to go in and complete my work. Instead, the house alarm blasted and I was frozen as to what to do. The police showed up. One of them had his gun trained on me. It all worked out after a bit, but I will say this was not a pleasant event.”

But aside form that little glitch, Gunderson—who these days volunteers for the Rotary Club of San Marino—fondly recalls her days with the Schools Foundation.

“I got involved with the Schools Foundation when it was being set up because I was asked to,” she said. And because the SMUSD needed the money.”

Sadly, it still does.

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