Friday, February 27, 2015

Happy National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend!


Yes! It’s here. National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend—the perfect time to celebrate all the amazing things girls do with their cookie earnings every year, for their communities and beyond. On top of teaching five super-important life skills—including goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—the Girl Scout Cookie Program gives girls the opportunity to build their confidence, make friends, become rock-star social entrepreneurs, and have a ton of fun along the way.

This weekend, celebrate cookie bosses everywhere by visiting your local Girl Scout Cookie booth and showing your support. But don’t stop at the cookies! During your visit, ask girls about their cookie sale. What are their goals this year? What are they planning to do with their cookie earnings, and what is their favorite thing about the program? They are doing so much awesome stuff, and they’ll love to share their stories.


Join the fun. Get in the cookie spirit!


#GimmeFive and Let's Move!

In February 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let’s Move!, an initiative that encouraged kids all over the country to get out, get active, and create a healthier future for themselves and their families. To celebrate the fifth anniversary of Let’s Move! this month, the White House has kicked things up a notch with the #GimmieFive challenge.

To join in the fun, just share five ways you’re leading a healthier life and challenge your friends and family to do the same by posting photos or videos with #GimmeFive on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Facebook, or Tumblr. Looking for inspiration? Here are five ways you might get active—outdoors!—as a Girl Scout.
  • Do a “detective hike” and investigate leaves or tracks along the trail as part of the Brownie Hiker badge.
  • Play a nighttime game of flashlight tag while earning the Junior Camper badge.
  • Take part in a wacky relay race as part of the Cadette Field Day badge.
  • Explore a farm or orchard along the Senior Sow What? Journey.
  • Go snorkeling, surfing, or tubing as part of the Ambassador Water badge.
Of course there are plenty of opportunities for our littlest Girl Scouts, too! Daisies might create their own “pedal power” by riding bikes on the Between Earth and Sky Journey, or play Red Light, Green Light outdoors while earning their Lupe petal.

Questions about the #GimmieFive challenge? Learn more at LetsMove.gov.

Spotlight on a Brownie for National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend

National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend is a time for cookie lovers everywhere to learn more about the good the Girl Scouts do for their local community.  This year, we’re happy to share just a few of those exceptional stories with you.

Through the cookie program, our Girl Scouts are given an incredible opportunity to make a difference in lives of others and in their surrounding community.  A fabulous example is Emily, a 7-year old Brownie on a mission to honor her late father.

Emily’s father, Ethan, had previously battled cancer in his teenage years, but was in remission when he met Emily’s mother, Suzanne, in 2006.  After his cancer had tragically spread throughout his body, he passed away in 2009 at age 24, just one year after Emily was born.  While fighting cancer, he was treated at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and that’s where Emily decided to pay it forward.

Through the Gift of Caring option at Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania, Emily is able to give cookie customers the option to donate cookies to the children’s hospital.  Last season, Emily easily surpassed her original donation goal of 1,000 boxes, and worked with her troop to donate a whopping 4,000 boxes to the children.  “Her family told me they’d love nothing more than to see every children’s hospital across the country receive a cookie donation like this,” said Nancy Irwin, communications director for Western Pennsylvania.

Though Emily did not have much of a chance to know her father, it seems that she embodies a lot of qualities he possessed.  When asked by a local paper why Emily wanted to do this, her mother had a simple answer. “She’s just a very good-hearted kid who wants to do good,” Suzanne said.  “She’s him.”

So, when you head out to a cookie booth in your community this weekend, be sure to ask the girls what they do with their cookie money.  Because, oh, what a girl can do!
Thursday, February 26, 2015

Girl Scouts Honors Condoleezza Rice During Black History Month

 (Photo credit: Oprah.com)

Did you know that every female secretary of state in U.S. history is a former Girl Scout? This is just further proof of the power of the Girl Scout mission—to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place—as so many Girl Scout alumnae go on to achieve great things in the world, in the workplace, and in their personal lives. Today, we honor Condoleezza Rice, a fearless leader who started her leadership journey in Girl Scouting.

Condoleezza Rice was the second African American secretary of state and the first female African-American secretary of state, setting an amazing example for young girls of color who saw so few people like them in the world of government and politics. Like many women of color, Rice was met with doubt and discrimination despite her impressive resume and the wealth of knowledge she brought to the table, but she refused to be reduced by the obstacles she faced. She persevered, and ultimately landed the position of national security advisor to President George W. Bush during his first term, the first woman to serve in that position.


Today, we’re proud to honor Condoleezza Rice. Because of leaders like her, girls can dream bigger than they ever imagined and envision themselves as movers, shakers, and policy makers. 
Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Countdown to National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend!

Starting Friday, February 27, Celebrate the Positive Impact Girls Make on Their Communities Through the Girl Scout Cookie Program

National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend, which has become a national holiday for Girl Scout Cookie fans, kicks off this Friday, February 27, and runs through March 1, 2015. Girls across the country will sell cookies at booths, door to door, and through Digital Cookie, the first national digital platform that enables girls to learn 21st-century skills while selling cookies through their own personalized cookie websites or face-to-face using a mobile transaction app. The 2015 Cookie Weekend will mark the 98th year of Girl Scouts selling cookies and learning the basic skills and acumen they need to be leaders in business and sales, manage their personal and family finances, and gain self-sufficiency and confidence handling money.

One hundred percent of the net revenue raised through Girl Scout Cookie sales stays with local councils, and girls decide how their troop cookie money is spent. This year’s National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend will celebrate girls across the country who use their cookie revenue to fund projects that impact their communities in amazing ways. It will also celebrate the essential “5 Skills” each #cookieboss learns through the cookie program: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.

In addition to classics like Thin Mints and Samoas/Caramel deLites, cookie lovers can seek out three new cookie varieties this cookie season. The two new gluten-free offerings include Toffee-tastic, buttery cookies with toffee bits, and Trios, made with real peanut butter, chocolate chips, and whole grain oats. The third new cookie, Rah-Rah Raisins, is an oatmeal raisin cookie with whole grain oats, plump, juicy raisins, and Greek yogurt–flavored chunks. Not all varieties are available in every market, so contact your local council to inquire about the cookies they will carry this season.

Consumers who celebrate National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend are encouraged to ask girls how they give back to their communities with cookie earnings, and what they learn by selling cookies. Those who want to share via social media the fun they’re having on Cookie Weekend are asked to use the hashtag #cookieboss and tag @girlscouts.

This season, Girl Scouts have experienced an unexpected spike in Girl Scout Cookie demand and are working to ensure every order is delivered in a timely manner. At this time, some councils are experiencing delays receiving their cookies, and those councils are exploring options, like extending the dates of their cookie sales, to both help consumers get their cookies and enable girls to reach their sales goals. ​


To learn more about the new cookie varieties and find Girl Scouts selling cookies near you, visit www.girlscoutcookies.org or use the newly enhanced official Girl Scout Cookie Finder app, free for your iOS or Android phone or mobile device. 
Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Decoding Digital Cookie: Facts vs. Fiction

As reported far and wide, Digital Cookie is a groundbreaking new addition to the Girl Scout Cookie Program that creates a fun, safe, interactive space for girls to sell cookies. Digital Cookie is the first national digital platform in the history of the iconic Girl Scout Cookie Program.

But many questions remain about Digital Cookie. Check out the below Q&A for answers to some of the most common Digital Cookie questions.

What exactly is Digital Cookie?

Digital Cookie is a digital layer to the traditional Girl Scout Cookie Sale, which puts girls in the driver’s seat of their own digital sales experience. Digital Cookie allows Girl Scouts nationally to sell cookies digitally for the first time in the program’s history, giving girls valuable twenty-first-century entrepreneurial skills.

How does it work—Do I just go online, order cookies and then they arrive?

No. Like the traditional sale, Digital Cookie is a girl-driven and girl-led business, designed with each girl's safety in mind, and therefore she must initiate contact with people she knows to sell cookies.

With Digital Cookie, you will be able to buy Girl Scout Cookies through two separate digital sales platforms, depending on where you live. Some girls will market their own online cookie business by inviting you via email to visit their personalized cookie websites. There, you can order cookies from the comfort of your living room.

Other girls will take in-person orders using a unique mobile app newly enhanced to allow for credit card processing and direct shipping, in addition to directing you to a website where cookies can be purchased.

What’s the point of all this and why should I buy Girl Scout Cookies digitally?

First and foremost, you are supporting girls. You are helping girls learn essential skills that they will utilize for the rest of their lives.

Digital Cookie adds a fun, digital layer that expands and strengthens the ways girls learn the essential 5 Skills of goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. Digital Cookie will expand girls' knowledge of and hands-on experience with online marketing, app use, website customization, and e-commerce.

Why are you taking away traditional door-to-door sales?

We are not taking away traditional sales. Booth sales and door-to-door sales are here to stay!

Digital Cookie expands and enhances girls' experience by giving them a fun new way to learn 21st century skills while providing another channel through which to sell cookies. So this cookie season, depending on your location, a Girl Scout could approach you through a door-to-door sale or booth sale with a digital device, or send an email invitation to visit her Digital Cookie website or stop by her local cookie booth.

Why is shipping so expensive?!

Shipping rates are optimal for folks who buy the maximum amount of cookies available for a set rate. Ordering one box online is possible, but the best value is to order a minimum of 6.

All shipping costs associated with Digital Cookie are in line with industry standards set by many reputable delivery services. The cost associated is comparable to what a customer would pay when buying Girl Scout Cookies at a booth sale and shipping the cookies themselves.

We don’t make any money from shipping and handling charges through Digital Cookie or booth sales. GSUSA has worked closely with our councils to ensure all cookie revenue—every penny after paying the bakers—stays with the local Girl Scouts and their council, and is reinvested into programming and activities that benefit girls.

In fact, Digital Cookie has been set up so that shipping and handling fees, often absorbed by corporations, do not burden Girl Scouts or their local councils and are paid directly to the vendor.

What are the shipping charges?

Nationally, customers will pay tiered flat-rate shipping and handling costs for orders between 6 and 12 packages. Customers who would prefer to avoid shipping charges and still support local Girl Scouts can always visit www.girlscoutcookies.org and use the council finder to learn more about potential local booth sales.

How safe is Digital Cookie?

Digital Cookie emphasizes the safety of both girls and customers. Girls and their parents/caregivers take an Internet safety pledge before using the web-based platform, and parents/caregivers must approve all updates and changes girls make when customizing their Digital Cookie site. Girls using the mobile platform will adhere to the same safety standards as those participating in traditional Girl Scout Cookie sales.

As a customer, your personal information will not be shared outside of the Girl Scout organization.

Both Digital Cookie systems are fully Payment Card Industry compliant and consumers can feel absolutely confident that their financial information is not stored. Both the online and mobile platforms of Digital Cookie transmit financial data to the respective credit card processors and "scrub" credit card and other identifiable information from the systems.

Digital Cookie is not available where I live. What’s up with that?

The majority of Girl Scout councils nationwide are participating in Digital Cookie during the 2014–2015 cookie season. While it did not make sense for some councils to opt-in this year, many additional councils are expected to be on board by the end of 2015, using an updated "version 2.0."

What’s next for Digital Cookie?

The launch of Digital Cookie represents an initial phase that will progress over time. Future versions of Digital Cookie will see improved user experiences for girls and customers alike and a more robust customer interface.
Thursday, February 19, 2015

Guest Post: A Message from Anna Maria Chávez

Anna Maria Chávez, CEO, Girl Scouts of the USA, has some exciting news to share about our commitment to ensuring all girls have access to the outdoors.


Today, I had the incredible opportunity to join President Obama, Interior Secretary Sally Jewel, and other federal park officials in announcing a major new White House initiative to ensure every fourth grader in America has access to a national park. The “Every Kid in a Park” program, which is part of a buildup to the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, will give every fourth-grade student and their family free access to national parks and other public lands for a year.

With more than 80 percent of American families living in urban areas, the program will ensure that every child in America has an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature and the educational opportunities offered by our National Park System. It is truly amazing for Girl Scouts, as a leader in the outdoor space, to have the opportunity to partner with the White House on this important initiative.

For over a century, providing girls with access to the outdoors, fostering resiliency, helping girls build vital skills such as problem solving, and encouraging a healthy, active lifestyle, have been cornerstone elements of the Girl Scout mission. To stand with the President to announce this initiative is a truly awesome recognition of the power of our Movement to help girls develop the skills they need to be the leaders of tomorrow.

Girl Scouts is committed to continuing to provide girls with outdoor opportunities, a commitment we renewed for our new triennium as we prepare to roll out new outdoor badges and programs.  This recognition as a leading authority on youth and the outdoors is all thanks to the work you do every day to provide girls with unique outdoor adventures, from camping, to community recycling activities, to Gold Award projects centered on sustainable energy.

Enjoy this moment and please share with your colleagues and community partners as we continue to work together to make sure every girl has a chance to experience everything that nature has to offer!


"Love is the most durable power in the world." 
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



In the midst of the racial segregation era, two 10-year-old Girl Scouts in Montebello, California show the proper way to cross a street. (circa 1955)



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Honoring Josephine Holloway during Black History Month





Meet Josephine Holloway, a champion of diversity within the Girl Scout Movement and one of the first African American Girl Scout troop leaders.

Josephine developed her passion for serving girls early on when she held a position at Nashville’s Bethlehem Center, a shelter for at-risk women and children. No stranger to the work Girl Scouts did in the community, Josephine dreamed of bringing that kind of programming to girls at the center, and in 1924, she had the opportunity to do just that. By the end of the year, more than 300 girls there were engaged in Girl Scout-inspired activities.

Nearly 10 years later, in 1933, Josephine made her first attempt to form an official troop for African American girls, but the Nashville Girl Scout Council denied her request. Of course, giving up is hardly the Girl Scout way, so Josephine pressed on, and in 1942, after much perseverance, the region’s first African American Girl Scout troop was established.

With decades of experience serving girls under her belt (she even attended a training conducted by Juliette Gordon Low herself!), Josephine had become a well-respected member of the community and an expert on girls’ issues. She was eventually hired by Girl Scouts as a field advisor for black troops, and she remained in that position until her retirement in 1963. She reportedly supervised over 2,000 African American girls and adults.

Today, girls of all races, religions, and backgrounds gather at Camp Holloway, a historic camp established in her honor, to discover fun and friendship, and the power of girls working, learning, and exploring their world together.

We thank you, Josephine Holloway, for your vision, courage, and passion for bringing Girl Scouting to all girls. 


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Girl Scout Alumna Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee Makes the World a Better Place through Service



Sheila Jackson Lee has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1995. Considered by many as a "Voice of Reason" in the halls of Congress, Sheila is dedicated to upholding the Constitutional rights of all people. Like the Girl Scouts, she has made it part of her mission to eradicate bullying—she even sponsored an act that provides grant funding to states for programs to prevent and address occurrences of bullying. So how has being a Girl Scout impacted Lee's life and work?

“Being a Girl Scout meant a lot to me when I was growing up because it equipped me with an extremely strong and solid foundation and the necessary skills and values to be a public servant,” she says. “As a Girl Scout, my biggest desire was to make the world a better place through service. Through enriching experiences such as educational field trips, sports, skill-building clinics, community service projects, cultural exchanges, and environmental stewardship projects, Girl Scouts helped me develop the confidence I needed to excel in school and to realize my dream of becoming a lawyer. I learned how to make sound decisions, lead others, and serve my community. I think it is safe to say that had it not been for my experience as a Girl Scout, I would not have earned the privilege and honor of serving the people of the 18th Congressional District of Texas in the United States House of Representatives."


We couldn't be prouder to have a Girl Scout alumna who is not just making history, but also making black history! Girl Scouts rock! 

Honoring Congresswoman Barbara Lee During Black History Month



Here at Girl Scouts, we firmly believe that girls can’t be what they can’t see. That’s especially true for young girls of color, who don’t always have the opportunity to see women of color taking on leadership positions on a larger scale. Today, we’re honoring Congresswoman Barbara Lee: a lawmaker, defender of the poor, and Girl Scout alumna.

Though Lee and her younger sister were the only two African American girls in their El Paso, Texas Girl Scout troop, this didn’t stop them from building strong friendships within their community and having truly rewarding and fulfilling experiences in Girl Scouting. During her time in Girl Scouts, Lee began cultivating her passion for community engagement, and she gained a greater appreciation for and love of the outdoors. The Girl Scout values instilled in Lee at the tender age of 11—and the essential life skills she learned— help inform her current work in the US Congress.

“The Girl Scouts emphasizes first and foremost community engagement,” Lee says. “This value has resonated with me throughout my entire life. I took this spirit to college, where I received my degree in social work, and I have taken it with me to Congress as I work to protect and help the most vulnerable. The Girl Scouts also taught me a lot about respecting the difference in others.”

Girl Scouts has been an important part of Congresswoman Lee’s life, and the experiences she had as a Girl Scout have truly impacted her adult life. She had the opportunity to explore nature and learned to respect and cherish our planet, and now she is able to work with her Congressional colleagues on addressing climate change and pollution as a member of the Safe Environment Caucus.

(Photo credit: BET.com)

Thank you, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, for the shining example of leadership you set for girls around the world! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Girl Scouts Recognized By Fast Company As One Of The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies

Girl Scouts of the USA received honors from Fast Company in its annual ranking of the world's 50 Most Innovative Companies issue. Earning recognition as one of the World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Not-For-Profit, the publication called out GSUSA for "showing girls technology is about more than texting" by creating Digital Cookie, a fun and educational digital sales program "run entirely by girls."

This recognition arrives on the heels of the successful Digital Cookie launch, which included a notable, first-time presence at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show in January. The groundbreaking new addition to the Girl Scout Cookie Program introduces girls to vital 21st-century lessons about online marketing, app usage, and ecommerce, while creating a fun, safe, and interactive space for girls to sell cookies. Digital Cookie marks the first national digital platform in the history of the iconic cookie program.


"Girl Scouts is the only nonprofit or company focused exclusively on girls to be recognized in Fast Company's 50 Most Innovative Companies 2015 issue, which means we are being celebrated for the values and ideals at the very core of our mission—the idea that girls matter," said Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of GSUSA, while announcing the honor to the field this morning. "By putting girls at the center of everything we do, we are making society take notice of the vital importance of investing in girls. When girls succeed, so does our world. And when girls are given the confidence, tools, and support they need, they can change the world forever, and for the better."

In addition to Digital Cookie, GSUSA has been focused on other ways of using technology as a tool for creating a truly contemporary Girl Scout experience for both girls and the adults and volunteers who serve them. Late last year, GSUSA announced ongoing major investments in new techniques to recruit and train adult volunteers and provide more opportunities for girls to join in the face of a net decline in membership over the 2014 Fiscal Year. For the past three years, Girls Scouts has been focused on technology as a central mission of the organization, recently implementing a Customer Engagement Initiative to transform how to use technology to communicate with girls, adults, and councils, and to more effectively deliver the Girl Scout experience.

"The transformational work Girl Scouts is doing on behalf of girls everywhere is both exciting and inspiring," said Fast Company editor Robert Safian. "I commend the organization for its innovation with Digital Cookie and beyond. Affecting future female generations to become women of courage, confidence, and character is no small feat, but thanks to Girl Scouts, girls are able to have fun, impactful, and cutting-edge experiences every day."

Read more about why Girl Scouts is one of the World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Not-For-Profit. To learn more about Girl Scouts, visit www.girlscouts.org.
Friday, February 6, 2015

Girl Scouts Honors Gloria R. Scott, First Black National President



Dr. Gloria Dean Randle Scott is no stranger to making history. In 1961, she started teaching biology at Marion College, becoming the first African American instructor at a predominately white institution in Indianapolis, Indiana.

During her time at Marion and beyond, Dr. Scott displayed exactly the type of courage and leadership it takes to lead a movement. Her love of Girl Scouting blossomed through her involvement as a Girl Scout Junior in Troop #155, and in spite of the segregation her troop experienced, she learned unique leadership skills that would later propel her into her larger leadership roles. Scott served as the president of the Negro Girl Scout Senior Planning Board in the 1950s, and in 1975, she made history yet again by becoming the first black national president of Girl Scouts of the USA. During the last year of her presidency in 1978, the Girl Scout Trefoil was redesigned to highlight the great diversity of our movement.

Today, we honor Dr. Gloria Dean Randle Scott, whose leadership has continued to inspire generations of Girl Scouts.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

What Do Girls Say About Destinations?

Attention Girl Scout Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors: want to change your life this summer? Try a Destination—a trip open to individual girls from across the Girl Scout community!

Not sure what going on a Destination is like? We asked girls to describe their Destination experience, and here are the words they used:


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Inspiration Station: Share Awesome Cookie-Earnings Stories with Us!

Girl Scout Cookie season is in full swing, and we’re so excited to hear about all of the amazing things girls will do with their cookie earnings this year! Cookie bosses across the country are setting their goals and gearing up to do a ton of good in their communities and beyond. The only thing that’s missing is a little sharing-is-caring action!

Help us celebrate girls and inspire cookie customers everywhere to support them and the Girl Scout Cookie Program more than ever. Encourage the Girl Scout in your life to submit her cookie-earnings story to socialmedia@girlscouts.org today. She should include her cookie sales goals, what she’s doing with her cookie earnings, and her troop number, along with a fun pic of her and her troop! Make sure she also provides her:

Name
Age/level
Location
# of years as a Girl Scout

Does she want to share even more? Great! We’d also love to hear what she’s learning by selling cookies. Has she discovered something new this year? Did she develop a new skill? Does she have a fun or uplifting cookie customer story to share? We’re all ears!

We’ll be featuring the best submissions here on the blog, on our social media pages, and elsewhere. And, on top of giving girls the opportunity to celebrate all of their inspiring cookie awesomeness, this is a chance for girls to connect with and motivate each other, share ideas, and let everyone know about the incredible things they’re doing through the Girl Scout Cookie Program.

Hearing all of these inspiring stories is going to be so much fun! We can’t wait to get started. So join the conversation and help her submit her awesome cookie-earnings story today.

Calling on Girl Scouts to Build Effort to Expand Educational Opportunity for All Kids

Girl Scouts have always shown a commitment to service. It will take an expansive and committed network of individuals to provide truly equal opportunity to all students, particularly those growing up in low income communities. Right now, the playing field is not level. Students growing up in low income communities aren’t getting comparable opportunities to students growing up in higher income communities. We’re calling on the Girl Scouts network to help level the playing field for all students.

In the same way it will take an expansive network of individuals working to address issues in education, we also see the need for an array of organizations and institutions working together to make public education work for all kids. Teach For America (TFA) is one of the many organizations committed to service and to partnering with the education community to expand educational opportunities for students in low income communities. TFA is experiencing unprecedented demand for their teachers across the country, and is calling on the Girl Scouts community to help. Refer someone you know who could make an impact in a high need classroom. TFA is seeking applications from individuals who are committed to service, like Girl Scouts alumnae, troop leaders, and parents, who will teach for two years in a high need setting and work toward equal opportunity for many years to come.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015

5 Small Ways to Make a Meaningful Difference in Your Community

Do you love to help others? Is there something about your surroundings that you’d like to improve, but you’re just not quite sure how to go about it? The solution is simple – start small, and work up to the rest!

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part, and we can begin to feel like whatever we can get done on our own or with a small group of friends and family will not be meaningful enough to make any real difference. But that’s not true! It’s the sum of many small acts of kindness that really add up to a whole lot of change and good vibes.

Come on. Get inspired! Here are 5 small ways to make a meaningful difference in your community – with very little more than an open heart, a big smile, and lots of NICE.

Reach out to your neighbors. Do you have an elderly neighbor who could use a friend? Reach out to them and ask if they’d like to visit with you on a weekend afternoon. Maybe they need help cleaning their home or organizing the attic. Or perhaps all they need is someone to check in on them once in a while, or share a cup of iced tea and a snack on the porch. Sometimes just being there for a neighbor can make such a huge difference in their spirits. You can give that to them simply by being yourself! How awesome is that?

Organize a food and clothes drive for the homeless in your community. Many of us have one or two cans of food in our pantries to spare, but others aren’t so lucky. This weekend get the family together and check out that pantry to see what’s in there that you can do without. Take a couple of hours to clean the house and figure out what clothes and other items you and your family might have outgrown. Fill up a box (or two, or three!) with everything you find, and call up your friends. Let them know what you’ve done, and encourage them to take a look in their own pantries and homes too. Then it’s time to share and take action! Make a big batch of fun snacks, and invite everyone to bring over all of the cool stuff they want to donate. Sit in a big circle (snacks in the middle!), and take turns sharing what helping others means to everyone. Before your donation party, find a local homeless shelter and coordinate a carpool to take everything over there yourselves after the sharing session. But don’t stop there! Maybe you can coordinate a small drive every month that can add up to a ton of donations over time. What a simple way to make such a huge difference in the lives of those who need a little NICE the most! 

Always be polite and helpful. Opening a door for someone. Saying please and thank you. Offering to help with grocery bags when you see your neighbor struggling to make it up their porch steps, or babysitting for a neighbor desperate for a last minute sitter free of charge. All of these things sound so simple, so small, right? But they’re the complete opposite! Making an effort to be polite and helpful wherever and whenever possible is powerful, and it can make a huge difference. Often we can inspire others to be a little more polite and helpful just by setting an example ourselves. And when everyone in a community begins to pay just a little more attention to these small everyday acts of kindness, something amazing starts to happen. We all help each other more. We start to feel better, happier and less alone. And little by little, life becomes just a bit easier. You can start that incredible change today simply by acting with kindness! 

Smile. Just like small acts of kindness can create powerful change in your community, so can something as simple as smiling at each other more! When we smile, we create positive energy that can turn even some of the worst days around. It costs nothing, and it’s so, so simple. Want to make a difference? Smile more, and brighten up someone’s day every chance you get. Even on a bad day, a simple smile can help others feel more positive and in turn encourage them to smile at someone else that will then smile at someone else, and well, you get the point!

Recycle, never litter, and encourage others to do the same. What better way to make a difference in your community than by helping to keep it clean, and encouraging others to do the same? If you don’t already recycle in your home, this is the perfect time to figure out how you can start. Ask your neighbors what days the recycling pick-ups happen, and start thinking about your trash before you toss! Recycling helps us minimize waste and keep the environment safe, plus it’s a great way to make a small, meaningful difference every day. Making an effort to never litter (or throw garbage out in the street), is another great way to keep your community clean and welcoming. Always wait until you get to a trash can to throw away your garbage, and if you see friends, family or neighbors littering, politely encourage them to do the same.

And if you have an idea for an awesome volunteer project, but you’re overwhelmed or not sure where to start, don’t give up! Share your ideas with friends, and brainstorm together. Working as a team, you will be able to figure out a game plan and make it happen.

Most importantly, always remember that what might seem like a very small gesture can really help turn someone’s day and even life, around. No amount of NICE is ever too little, and simply by making it a point to spread kindness wherever and whenever possible, you can make your community a better, happier, more positive place for everyone. And that is pretty awesome.
Monday, February 2, 2015

Girl Scouts Celebrates Black History Month

(Photo credit: Forbes.com)

“Once you have attained knowledge you cannot go back to ignorance.” 
–Admiral Michelle J. Howard

February is Black History Month, and all month long we’ll be highlighting African American women who have defeated the odds, dreamed big, and paved the way for girls and women to follow in their footsteps. The best part? They’re all Girl Scout alumnae!

We’re kicking things off today with the amazing Admiral Michelle J. Howard, who has served in the United States Navy since 1982 and is the highest-ranking woman in American naval history. Michelle also has countless “firsts” under her belt: not only is she the first woman in the U.S. Navy’s 236-year history to be promoted to four-star admiral, but she also, in 1999, became the first African American woman to command a naval ship.

Over a span of three decades, Howard has continuously shown perseverance and bravery in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Her shining example has helped change perceptions about what women can accomplish when they follow their passions, never give up, and always strive to be their best.

Admiral Howard attributes many of the values that helped her succeed to her time in Girl Scouting.

"For me, Girl Scouts was about friendship and learning—mostly learning about ourselves and that we could do anything if we worked as a team," she says.

"My favorite camp memory was an orienteering weekend. Our troop split into two teams, and we laid a 10-mile trail and put three distinctive markers (that we made) at waypoints. The next day, we traded routes and had to hike the other team's trail and find the markers. There is no end of satisfaction knowing that, with a compass and friends, you don't have to get lost in the woods."

And that's the lesson that has stuck with Admiral Howard.

"In life, with a moral compass and friends, you can find your trail to success."


Note: The views expressed are those of the speaker and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

Doing Good is Priceless

If you have kids, chances are you know that we are in the midst of Girl Scout cookie season – and if you have a daughter, you may have young cookie entrepreneur of your own.  There is no shortage of options for consumers when it comes to purchasing a snack, but there is something about Girl Scout cookies that causes them to rise to the top. 

Perhaps it’s their limited availability (cookie season is just three to four months a year); perhaps it’s because of their unique flavors.  But the real reason is this; buying Girl Scout Cookies is good for the world. When you buy cookies from a Girl Scout, you are investing in so much more than a box of treats – you are investing in her future, and the future leadership of our country.

The Girl Scout Cookie Program is a vitally important program for girls. A cornerstone of the Girl Scout experience, it’s the largest, most successful girl run business in the world.  Through this program, girls not only learn goal setting, but decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—key 21st century business and finance skills.

So perhaps that’s why buying Girl Scout cookies feels so satisfying.  After the boxes are empty and the cookies are gone, you’re left with a feeling of fullness and fulfillment; knowing that you played a small part in helping a young girl – a young leader – reach her truest potential.  In a world that too often throws up roadblocks for girls, you helped tear them down. The cookies? That’s just the dessert, your prize if you will, for a job well done.

First National Girl Scout Cookie Recipe Contest Launches, Sponsored by Taste of Home!

Today Girl Scouts of the USA announced the first National Girl Scout Cookie Recipe Contest, Sponsored by Taste of Homethe world's leading food magazine.  Through March 2, Girl Scout Cookie enthusiasts can create and submit their favorite dessert recipes using the iconic cookies as ingredients, for the chance to win prizes ranging from$250 to $500, plus a spotlight feature in Taste of Home.

Chefs of all levels, from home cooks to established professionals, are encouraged to submit Girl Scout Cookie-inspired entries in one of four categories: (1) cakes, pies, cupcakes, (2) cookies, brownies, bars, (3) pudding, ice-cream, gelatin desserts, and (4) candies. The experts in the Taste of Home Test Kitchen will review and test the recipes, selecting the top 16—four from each category—based on taste, visual appeal, creativity, and crowd appeal.

From March 30 to April 14, the public will have a chance to vote for their favorite finalist recipes here. The recipes with the most votes in each category win and winners will be announced in mid-April.

"Each year, we see so many excited cookie fans share their own recipes using Girl Scout Cookies via social media and more, so we figured it was high time to do something with all this positive energy," said Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. "The creative possibilities are endless, just like the number of ways girls use their cookie money to give back to their local communities."

Taste of Home Editor-in-Chief Catherine Cassidy is equally enthusiastic about the contest and the opportunity to collaborate with Girl Scouts. "Fostering a sense of care and community in homes across America has always been part of the fabric of Taste of Home," she said. "As a Girl Scout alumna, I'm thrilled to lend a helping hand in and outside of the kitchen. We are pleased to work with an organization that encourages young women to put their skills and creativity to positive use."

Participating in the National Girl Scout Cookie Recipe Contest, Sponsored by Taste of Home, could be a fun activity to do during this year's National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend (February 27 -- March 1, 2015). The weekend will celebrate the positive impact girls make on their communities through the Girl Scout Cookie Program. The Girl Scout Cookie Program aims to teach girls five essential life skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.
Sunday, February 1, 2015

Deflategate Solved: Video!

Spoiler Alert—Team Thin Mint may have had something to do with it.

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