By Susan Ennis, EnSpire Communications
When former Girl Scouts are asked to share their Scouting experience and its impact on their lives, a variety of stories emerge. Within these tales of camping, sing-alongs, and laughter, an underlying connection emerges, one that ties each of these women together, as they now serve to mold today’s girls into tomorrow’s leaders.
Girls and Women Making a Difference
The Girl Scout movement may best be known for its cookie sales. However, the impact girls have on their communities reaches wide and deep.
First-grade girls from Oviedo Daisy Troop 4031 are already veterans at community outreach. Their most recent project was assembling Birthday Boxes for Kids of HOPE, a program of Oviedo’s HOPE Foundation that aims to prevent and reduce homelessness. The girls filled boxes with supplies a family needs to celebrate a child’s birthday – cake mix and frosting, birthday hats and stuffed animals are just a few of the items included in each box.
Troop leader, denise Breen, fondly remembers her own days as a young girl, “Girl Scouting prepared me to achieve my personal and professional goals, to provide service in our community, and to organize and participate in outreach projects.” Today, Denise is proud of the accomplishments of the girls in Troop 4031. This year they have helped with several community outreach projects, including the Oviedo Kiwanis Stocking Project and a long sleeve shirt collection for Apopka farm workers. They are also planning a service project with Pets by Judy.
Mary Jo Martin of Geneva recalls her years in Girl Scouting, which began when she was a young Brownie. “As a girl, I was shy until I found Senior Scouting and felt accepted and learned I was capable of achieving great things. I came out of my shell and learned I could be a leader and make a difference in other people’s lives.” While in college, Mary Jo launched a troop at the Kentucky School for the Blind and recruited Senior Scouts to be the “eyes” on camping and hiking trips. Honored with the national volunteer Thanks Award, Mary Jo went on to major in social welfare and became a professional Girl Scout, working with the Kentuckiana Girl Scout Council for 14 years.
Service to the community continued to shape Mary Jo’s life, “It made me who I am today,” she says. She worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA) for 22 years, helping people recover from disasters. Her last FEMA assignment followed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as she was sent to help families of victims of one of the planes downed in the attack. Now, Mary Jo is a chairperson for the Museum of Geneva History where she enjoys helping young Scouts with badge work. This year, she plans to attend Camp Reunion in Kentucky, where Girl Scout alumnae from across the country gather to reminisce and raise money for camp scholarships.
2012 Marks 100 Years of Girl Scouting
While today’s Girl Scout has much in common with girls from yesteryear, the Girl Scout movement will enter its second century as a reinvigorated organization focused on helping girls develop to their full potential, have fun, and make meaningful friendships through girl-led programs in a safe, all-girl environment.
Former Girl Scout Sue Grosso, now in her seventh year as a troop leader, says Girl Scouting taught her the value of patience while letting girls realize their potential. She recalls the memory when she was a little girl of her troop’s investiture ceremony, when the leaders talk of a mysterious helper elf.
“It was my turn to go up to the ‘little pond,’ recalls Sue. “The leader spins you around three times, saying, ‘Twist me and turn me and show me the elf.’ I looked in the pond and I answered excitedly, ‘Myself!’ This was how I began to learn about helping others and service to community. It is one of the things I remember most fondly, and I loved performing that very same investiture ceremony for my Brownies.”
One Winter Springs family epitomizes the generational strength of Girl Scouting. Nancy Swalby serves as troop leader, cookie chairman, and service unit co-manager. Her mother was in Girl Scouts as a young girl and continues to maintain her membership. Nancy also has three sisters who are involved in Scouting. “We currently have three generations of Girl Scouts in my family with a history of well over 100 years of Scouting,” she says.
While adults who grew up in Scouting speak of the confidence and leadership skills they acquired, they are also proud of the opportunities available to today’s girls – programs that expose girls to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), opportunities to camp, hike, and swim with manatees, and programs that encourage girls to expand their horizons through travel. Beyond badge work, many girls go on to earn the Gold Award, Girl Scouting’s highest earned award.
“Scouting provides many programs at low fees, and scholarships where needed,” says Sue. “In a time when the economy is difficult and families are struggling, opportunities with Girl Scouts are immeasurable and invaluable.”
The Year of the Girl
As 2012 approaches, plans are underway for a year of celebration that will focus on the importance of instilling confidence in girls. Nationally and locally, individuals and corporations are being called to action and asked to commit resources to programs that meet girls’ needs.
Rosie Miller, chief development officer of Girl Scouts of Citrus, shared some of the plans, “Each of the six counties that make up Citrus Council are coordinating special events to celebrate the 100th anniversary. Seminole County is planning a sing-a-long at Camp Mah-Kah-Wee in Chuluota and we expect girls from all six counties will participate in the celebration and parade at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando on March 24.” Planning committees, including an alumnae committee, have been formed. Anyone interested in being on a committee or volunteering should contact the council office.
The Girl Scout movement has made a difference in the lives of the girls it’s served. But even more important, through those girls, the organization continues to make a difference in every community – everywhere – every day. To become involved contact: Zandra Washington, Girl Scouts of Citrus by email or 407-228-1621
For nearly a century, Girl Scouts have been inspiring girls to change the world by helping them develop skills in order to become strong women leaders. OWSL salutes these local girls and women who exemplify the culture, depth, diversity, and spirit of this organization.
Susan Ennis is a writer for Oviedo-Winter Springs Life. This article was originally published in the July/August 2011 edition.
Oviedo-Winter Springs Magazine is a popular, editorially-driven magazine that highlights local residents and businesses that impact the schools, neighborhoods and philanthropic organizations in the area. Oviedo-Winter Springs Magazine is a partner of GalTime Orlando.