Monday, December 17, 2018

We’re a Girl Scout Family and I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way

Chris S. is a troop leader from Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore. A proud Eagle Scout growing up, he shared his volunteer experience with us and explained why he thinks Girl Scouts is the best leadership training for girls. 

Girl Scouts is a family affair for us. I'm one of six leaders in a multi-level troop of 27 girls; my wife is our troop treasurer; and my daughter, Luci, is a second-year Brownie. Our Girl Scout experience began when Luci joined as a Daisy in first grade. From our first parent meeting, I knew I wanted to get involved and be a resource for the energetic girls running around. In our troop, we’ve balanced fun activities with giving back—from cranberry picking in the fall to packing toiletries and personal items for “blessing bags” for those in need in our community.

Luci loves astronomy and science, so she’s excited about the new science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) badges. She’s even earned her Brownie Space Science Adventurer badge. She and her troop attended a council-wide cybersecurity event recently, and I love watching her eyes light up when she delves into a topic that excites her. I also love that she’s able to share her passion for STEM with her troop, because she might not talk about STEM as much when she’s with her school friends. Girl Scouts is definitely a platform for her interests.

I became an Eagle Scout in high school and consider that one of the most valuable experiences in my life, but from everything I see now as a troop leader at Girl Scouts, I feel strongly that it’s the best place for girls to develop character and confidence. It’s so important for them to have a space to themselves where they can grow their confidence and follow their passions. It's been amazing to watch the girls become comfortable with who they are, own their interests, and learn to rely on one another. In fact, it’s the most important thing for me to see as a dad and troop leader. For example, Luci hated bugs, but as she earned her Brownie Bugs badge, she looked for bugs under rocks and got close to them in a way I hadn’t seen before. If it were just the two of us hiking, she wouldn’t have done that; with her friends, she has more confidence and she pushes herself to do more.

For the dads out there, I think if you want to spend high-quality time with your daughter and make meaningful memories, Girl Scouts is the perfect way to do so. There are so many incredible activities you can take part in, and you shouldn’t feel intimidated or afraid to do them. Actually, a majority of volunteers in our council wish there were more actively involved dads. Don't get me wrong, many dads volunteer—one dad is a police officer who talked with the girls for their Brownie Safety Award pin—but I'm a delegate in my council, and I think it’s 95 percent women. I do a lot of our outreach to new members, and moms are usually surprised when they hear me on the phone. After they get to know me, however, they become more comfortable and they like the fact we have both male and female leaders.

Girl Scouts being just for moms and daughters is a stereotype that needs to get squashed. Being a Girl Scout troop leader opened my mind to different things, and it’s made me more aware of the need for girls to empower themselves and of the unique issues that women face today. I feel passionately that girls should never think of themselves as limited because they’re girls; they should always know they can do anything they want. And for Luci, knowing that her dad is there to support her as she does her part to make the world a better place is what matters to me most of all.

Unleash Your Cookie Entrepreneur Super Powers During the 2019 Cookie Pro Contest!

Every year, thousands of G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ superstars across the country become cookie CEOs, running their cookie booths like watch-out-world-here-we-come pros. That’s why the 2019 Cookie Pro™ contest is offering an exciting opportunity for girls to get even more creative with their cookie sale. How? Girl Scouts of the USA is teaming up with the bold and brave DC Super Hero Girls™ to treat 24 grand-prize winners to a trip to sunny California—wow! What awaits is an incredible behind-the-scenes VIP adventure at Warner Bros. Studios. It’s the Cookie Entrepreneur Experience of a lifetime, and it could be hers this summer!

Our young G.I.R.L. entrepreneurs will tell their own cookie story of heroic skill and strength by (1) answering a set of questions and (2) creating a mini graphic novel—fun! A mini graphic novel is a story told through pictures and words set up in a series of panels or sections. Girls can download a handy template with our pro tips on how to get started making their very own!

When you’re ready to start brainstorming how you’ll tell your inspiring cookie story, ask yourself these questions:
  • What did you/your troop learn from last year's cookie sale? What do you hope to learn from this year's cookie sale? 
  • What makes selling Girl Scout Cookies fun, unique, and beneficial to your community?
  • How did you/your troop use your cookie earnings, or what do you plan to use them for?
  • What innovative selling techniques did you/your troop incorporate to rock your cookie sale? What techniques do you hope to use this year?
  • How did you or will you unleash your G.I.R.L. potential to manage your cookie sale with the dedication and passion of a real-life super hero?

Considering 200 million Girl Scout Cookie packages are distributed each year across the country, the opportunities to tell unique stories are endless! So if you’re a master of the cookie sale, mark your calendar for January 2, 2019, when the Cookie Pro contest officially starts. Also be sure to bookmark the Cooke Pro web page so you can easily submit your entry.

Last thing: don’t forget to follow us on social media to get the latest updates about the Cookie Pro contest or to just pop in to say hi! We’re all over Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Come join us!

Monday, December 10, 2018

5 Human Rights We Can't Believe Are Still Abused--And How Girl Scouts Are Tackling Them Head On

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.”- Eleanor Roosevelt

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Human Rights Day, a milestone day in this country where we declared that everyone—regardless of race, religion, sex, political affiliation, or any other status—is entitled to fair and equal universal rights. While this declaration marked a monumental change in how we view and appreciate diversity in the United States and around the world, this promise has yet to be fulfilled in its entirety.

The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable, yes, but that just begins the endless list of our human rights, and rights that many of us unfortunately take for granted. Millions around the world live without the right to an education, the right to safety, the right to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, and the right to religion. Thankfully, these Girl Scouts are stepping in to create real change on scales large and small.

The Right to an Education 

Observations that Liza Villanueva made as a seven-year-old visiting the Philippines stayed with her throughout her Girl Scout career. Those memories inspired her Gold Award project, the iDREAM (imagination, discovery, research, education, art, and music) Express. Loaded with school supplies, instruments, books, tablets, and a team of volunteer teachers, the iDREAM Express van holds classes twice a week for homeless children in the Philippines and also provides free hygiene supplies, medical care, and hot meals.

The Right to Safety 

While spending a month in India, Pooja Nagpal took her passions for practicing martial arts and preventing violence against women from advocacy to action. After developing a two-part curriculum that combines physical self-defense methods with discussions and activities, she created For a Change, Defend, a nonprofit that teaches teenage girls how to stand up for themselves and work to eliminate gender violence. From rural villages in India to women’s shelters in Los Angeles, Pooja’s organization is saving lives and empowering girls and women across the globe.

The Right to Sanitation & Hygiene

Josephine’s Girl Scout Gold Award project was inspired by a trip to Costa Rica, where she contracted a waterborne illness. Thankfully after a few months of battling the parasitic illness, she recovered—though the experience made her think of all the people who aren’t as lucky. So Josephine took action, joining with Hands Up for Haiti, a medical humanitarian organization that helps people in northern Haiti, to put together and distribute hygiene/maternity care packages. The donation drive she held was a hit! In two days she collected all of the items she needed, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap for the hygiene packages, and baby wash, washcloths, onesies, and blankets and diapers that she and her team sewed using cloth from a local Goodwill for the maternity packages. (They made over 120 cloth diapers and 30 blankets for newborns!) Josephine is encouraging other girls to take up similar projects in hopes of keeping the effort going.

The Right to Religion 

Inclusivity matters, and using your voice to speak up and raise awareness about important issues is what Gold Award Girl Scouts do to create change in their communities. Aliza’s Girl Scout Gold Award project, A Muslim American, reflects this—she sought to educate community members about the Islamic faith, debunking misconceptions and the stigma that surrounds it. She created and distributed Ramadan and Eid baskets filled with fruits, candies, and informational pamphlets about each occasion to churches and police stations in her community; she also delivered presentations on Islam and how the community could band together and be more inclusive with regard to ethnicity and religion. Additionally, she participated in an event called Open Door Day, where she distributed information to over 500 attendees about two organizations she’s working with: one that helps orphan children in Gaza and another that circulates accurate information about Islam. And to make this information available to teens, she created a youth group blog about Islam, with posts written by girls in the community. 

The Right to Clean Water 

Brownie Troop #71729 from Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan heard about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, they knew they had to jump in and take action. Their venture began when they discovered the mom of one troop member was deeply involved in solving the problems caused by the water crisis. That mom, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at Hurley Medical Center in Flint and leader of the pediatric public health initiative to battle the crisis, spoke at a troop meeting. 

After some discussion and brainstorming, the girls decided they would write letters to Michigan governor Rick Snyder advocating for the people of Flint, especially the children. In their letters, some girls expressed their anger and disappointment about the water crisis and its effect on their peers, while others urged the governor to take action and find solutions.

Dianne Belk and Lawrence Calder Activate Entire Girl Scout Movement with a Historical Planned Giving Challenge

When my husband and I wanted to leave a gift in our wills to Girl Scouts, we learned that most Girl Scout councils were not actively promoting planned giving as a way for annual donors, volunteers, and alums to show their support of Girl Scouts. We decided to let some of our Girl Scouts friends know that they, too, could leave a gift to Girl Scouts in their will, and I offered to spread the word about this concept.

What a change in seven years! As GSUSA and all councils embraced the concept of planned giving, the number of planned giving donors has grown by more than 1000 percent! We have all worked diligently to tell our Girl Scout sisters and brothers that leaving a gift in a will or estate plan is simple and doable, with no minimum requirement. It can be as easy as making Girl Scouts the partial beneficiary of a retirement fund or a life insurance policy.

When Girl Scouts established the Juliette Gordon Low Society to thank and honor those who remember Girl Scouts in their wills and estate plans and named me its founding chair, I felt so very honored.

From this volunteer position, I have had the privilege to speak with thousands of Girl Scout supporters, including volunteers, troop leaders, donors, and alums from nearly every Girl Scout council, about how simple it is to make a planned gift. I have been humbled by the hundreds of people who have responded to my asking them to make a planned gift and who have shared their joy in being able to do so. I have pinned hundreds with the Juliette Gordon Low Society lapel pin.
I’m often asked why I want to do this. My response is simple:
As a farm girl from very limited means and even fewer options, Girl Scouts was my ticket to exploring the world’s opportunities. One memorable exploration was a trip down the Mississippi River on an old steamboat with 500 Girl Scouts from the Mississippi/Arkansas/Tennessee area. So many “firsts”—all of them made even more special by the camaraderie with Girl Scout sisters.I was forever changed.

Such memories and experiences remind me that I owe so much of my success in life to my 12 years in Girl Scouts and the impact that it had on my goals, values, and character. I am so grateful. Such gratitude has led my husband and me to commit our resources to helping knock down barriers that young women face in achieving equality in today’s world. We are so proud to support Girl Scouts, because we recognize that they are the best organization in the world to help young women become the leaders of tomorrow. It’s the Girl Scout way for us to want to give back!

The groundbreaking Dianne Belk and Lawrence Calder Girl Scout Movement-wide Planned Giving Challenge inspired 843 new planned gifts to benefit Girl Scout councils across the country, with a total impact exceeding $30 million.

Eight Ways Girl Scouts Give Back this Holiday Season

'Tis the season for giving back, but we all know Girl Scouts give back all year-round! There are so many ways her G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ energy and caring make a difference in her community—whether she and her Girl Scout friends are working on a Take Action Project after a Girl Scout Journey, working towards one of their Girl Scout Highest Awards, or giving back simply because they want to!

If you’re looking for how your Girl Scout troop can give back during the holidays, here are just a few of the ways Girl Scouts give back across the country:

1. Organize a food drive 

These Girl Scouts collected over 100 cans and goods for
Chavelyta’s Pink Hood Foundation for patients and families
who have been affected by cancer.
Troop 40772 donated food, made sandwiches and packaged food and served it to those in need.
They also sponsored a family and purchased gifts and necessities to make this season bright!
Junior Troop 2966 collected Thanksgiving dinners for the Salvation Army.
They decorated the boxes and included cards for the families that would receive them.
GSGLA Ambassador Troop 3913 donated over 20 bags of groceries to the Women’s Shelter of Long Beach.

2. Send care packages to Armed Forces or combat veterans 

Troop 40116 from Iowa donated t-shirts, socks, puzzle books, cologne to Combat Veterans.
They will donate to all the Veterans that live in our retirement homes.

3. Organize a toy drive 

Troop 42905 from Kansas set out Girl Scout trees to collect 500 gifts for our local foster kids!
They also collected donations for a local animal shelter.

4. Spread cheer by caroling at your local nursing home 

5. Collect or make warm clothing to donate

6. Volunteer at a local food pantry or soup kitchen

Troop 30766 helped out at the local food bank! They
also did Halloween caroling at a nursing home this year.
Last year they organized a toy drive for a an organization that helps the homeless.
Community service is a big focus for this troop!

7. Organize a drive for children in foster care or children in your local hospital 

8. Find a local issue directly affecting your community 

Troop 3029 from Florida had a wonderful giving back to Kids Fest,
even though many of the girls in the troop did not have lights or water, and
some girls are without homes. 

Junior Troop 1990 put together Boxes of Love to send to children in Port au Prince, Haiti.
They will also be taking holiday goodies and singing carols at a nursing home in a couple weeks,
and laying wreaths at the National Cemetery in Titusville, FL.

Some Girl Scout troops give back in many different ways not just during the holiday season, but all throughout the year. 

For more inspiration and ideas, check out how other Girl Scout troops are giving back this holiday season. Don't forget to share your stories on social media using #GirlScoutsGiveBack or email to