Results tagged “CEO” from GSSA Leader Blog: The Virtual Volunteer

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Summer must be drawing to a close.  Labor Day is now in the past and we are in the midst of recruitment.   We always look forward to a set of fresh new faces to change the world through Girl Scouts.

Social Media
I thought I would run through a few reminders on issues around publicity.   We love to see photos of girls doing things around the council footprint.   Our PR staff use them as best they can through our website, GSSA Weekly E-newsletter, Facebook page, Twitter feed, Flickr photos, and Instagram media outlets.   If it seems like you see some of the same girls, it is because they are the ones who send us photos.   We would like to see photos of EVERYONE!   Please send your troop and activity photos to communications@girlscoutssa.org.   Label it with the troop number and what the girls were doing to have fun, and we will share with everyone!

GSSA Weekly E-newsletter 
It's a good idea to have all the parents in your troop subscribe to the GSSA Weekly E-newsletter.  It comes out every Thursday.   It is full of great ideas, new program listings, trainings, announcements and reminders.   This is the most widely-used resource across the entire council.  We feel it is so important that it is automatically delivered to the email box of every adult member!  Nonmembers can sign up on our website at www.girlscoutssa.org.

Calendars
On our website, we offer our Event Calendar, where council-presented programs are listed as soon as they are finalized.  We also keep an Other Opportunities Calendar for noncouncil events that may be of interest.  Many community events, volunteer opportunities, and Service Unit/Troop based events are listed here.  A Volunteer Training calendar is featured on the Volunteer Resources page of our website - it's an easy way to see what upcoming certification opportunities are available to volunteers. 

Blogs 
The Virtual Volunteer blog keeps you informed of larger issues - like new faces on our staff, upgrades at council properties, plans for camp programs, etc.  We also sometimes feature leader tips, so you are welcome to submit a blog post to share with your peers!  Our Girl Blog is where Girl Scouts are welcome to express themselves.  Our Press Reps write entries here, and this is also where we interview Gold and Silver Awardees, so that other girls can benefit from their experiences.  All Girl Scouts in the council are invited to submit blog entries that are related to their Girl Scouting experiences.  For either blog, please submit to communications@girlscoutssa.org.

We work hard to keep our website and social media up to date, and the most timely resources are our Facebook page and our Twitter feed; please like us and follow us.  But if you have concerns, questions, issues or hear things that don't make sense, let us know at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

Patriot Day

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I have a friend who sends jokes and other items that are of interest. We all probably have at least someone who does that.   I'm paraphrasing the story some, but there was one last week about a schoolteacher who didn't allow her class to sit in their chairs.   She asked them how did they earn the right to sit in that chair?   The children came up with various responses, but none that suited the teacher.   She then had a group of soldiers and veterans come into room with their chairs.   The teacher noted that someone sacrificed so they could sit in that chair each day.   How often do we take this for granted?

For many years, I lived next door to a trauma surgeon.   He had been one of the inventors of MASH units in the Korean War.   He was a quiet, respectful, skillful man.   I awoke one morning around 5 a.m. and happened to look out the window.   Kendall was headed off to the hospital, clearly for an early surgery schedule.   But before he left, he was out in the front yard running the American flag up his flagpole.   When it reached the top, he stopped and saluted.   I suspect he did that many mornings, and I just happened to see it on this particular morning.   In doing this, he signified his respect for those who had gone before.

Each and every day, there is someone out there still fighting for us to retain the values and freedom we give little attention to.   In this day and age when the threats to us become more complex and less visible, there is someone out there working to protect our freedoms and our way of life.   One of the attributes of being a Girl Scout that I appreciate (and other activities don't offer) is a reverence for the flag.   Our girls, as well as Boy Scouts, learn about the flag, how to post the colors, and how to respectfully take one out of service that shows signs of age.   Too often, with the frenetic pace of life, we don't take the time to consider flying the flag comes at a cost everyday, human cost.

On this Patriot Day, remember many gave an ultimate sacrifice so you could sit in that classroom chair and learn.   Thank you to all who have gone before and given so much.

August 25, 2014

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The new recruitment year is in full swing, and we are working hard to recruit more girls so they can experience how to change the world through Girl Scouts.

We were fortunate to have members of Troops 7230 and 7238 at the GSSA Board of Directors meeting.   The board was able to speak with three of their older girls.   What a great conversation they had.   It was clear this troop is girl led, and they had plenty to say about what they were learning, what they had learned and their plans for the future.   This group rocks!   It is amazing to see what girls can do when they set their goals and then work toward them.   We would like for all girls who want this experience to have it!

On the GSSA website (www.girlscoutssa.org/join), we are posting all the recruitment events across the council.   Please let your field executive know if you are having a recruitment event, so we are certain we have all of them listed.   Also, we are working hard to coordinate what the field executives do with what the service units are planning.   Please be sure your field executive has the complete list because this is how everything is listed, and those staff at the service centers has the information so we can accurately respond to calls.  Information and coordination are critical to maximize success.

The girls from Troops 7230 and 7238 shared how much they had gained from the trips they had taken as Girl Scouts.   This summer, they went on the Savannah trip and found it very worthwhile.   They are busy planning for their next expedition.   One of the interesting asides we heard from these girls was how much they enjoy participating in parades.   It was an interesting conversation because we don't always think of this as a program activity, but as they described why they enjoyed the parade, the learning elements started to become clearer.

Having spent the summer at camp, it is clear that girls do enjoy Girl Scouts.   They learn about all types of topics in a fun and easy way.   Much of their learning is hands-on experiential, so it becomes fun.   If you know of a girl who needs Girl Scouts or a potential leader, please let your field executive know.   If you aren't clear who that is, send an e-mail to membership@girlsccoutssa.org.

Thanks for all you do to change the world!

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School has commenced, and it's a good time to be reminded of things that might have faded during the summer.

 

It is important to register your girls as Girl Scouts.   If you have girls who participate but are not registered, they are not covered by GSSA insurance.   You might think, "Well, we aren't doing anything dangerous."  However, you would be surprised how many claims we have annually from simple accidents.   I was stunned to find some girls not even registered prior to the start of the cookie program.   The problem is that, if something happens, this impacts you personally and won't be covered by our insurance, so registering girls who participate is important.

 

When we have space and the opportunity, we try to include tagalongs and siblings, but GSSA pays additional insurance for those individuals.   We cannot allow these children if we don't have tagalong insurance because they are not covered if an accident occurs.   Please respect our request when a program or training description indicates no tagalongs.   We don't do this to be offensive, but it increases the cost of the event to have them present, and we do it only when it is appropriate.   We have already turned someone -away who brought tagalongs to a recent event. 

 

We subscribe to all Safety Activity Checkpoints provided by GSUSA.   We have requested that some of those regulations be changed, such as the one which states that those who cannot swim are not allowed to canoe.   However, we expect you to comply with those regulations.   Each ranger has been provided with a new notebook outlining the various policies and regulations on GSSA properties.   It is not their role to enforce those regulations, but they do have a notebook with the documentation that applies to their camp.   If you have questions, they have this at their residence.   Please check because we have been told about some flagrant violations from last year that we cannot have continue this year.   Most of you are excellent about complying with these rules, so this applies to those few who aren't obeying the rules.

 

We work hard to assure the safety of the girls with whom you work.   We vet the adults and work to assure we don't do anything that would put the girls in harm's way.   Last year, I attended a couple of events where the parents/troop leaders were present, but not tuned in.   The beauty of our program is that girls experience time with adults who can shape them to become contributing citizens.   Try to be present with the girls you are chaperoning; it is a gift they will not forget.


Most of the time when I'm around girls and volunteers, I'm always impressed with what

some of you do with the girls in your charge.  There is a great deal of interest, caring, nurturing, and learning that happens.   It is always beautiful to watch.   Thank you for all you do.

 

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Once upon a time, I was lucky enough to work for a brilliant Jesuit priest.   He was a genius.   I was a young dean and not sure I was impressed with his constant stream of ideas.   I was the resident skeptic.   My mentor had been a trusty, reliable, predictable boss.   This new president was handsome, charming, energetic, and enthusiastic about everything.   I don't know if you have ever had a friend like this, but he was constantly invading my personal space.   One entire basketball game he practically sat on my leg, until I finally asked him to move over, whereupon he laughed.   He knew he was sitting on my leg. He just wanted to see how long I would tolerate it.

Over the years, I learned that working for someone who was a genius took a lot of time and energy.   Some days it took me awhile to even figure out what he was babbling about, but I learned to love him.   I believe he was the perfect boss for me at a time when I needed to be moved out of my comfort zone and confront some change.

One of the maxims he believed, which I now embrace, is that you will not change unless you are standing at the edge of the cliff, looking down into the abyss, with someone nudging you to go over.   When you look down and see what could be ahead, you will make the dramatic changes necessary to stay on the top of the cliff.   His point was always that change is good.   It is hard, but it also makes you better.   His advice to us was that we would work smarter, and during his tenure there, we did.

This is a year filled with change for the Girl Scouts, also.   As with the Southwest Alabama United Way defunding, declines in other funding sources, a lackluster cookie sale come together, we have to make some changes.   Staffing is our largest expense, followed by fixed costs of properties.   The check for the electric bill I signed this afternoon for one month was more than $6,700.   That is what it runs each month across our properties and that was just one power company.   We have many.

This year we will be looking for ways to maximize the girl experience.   We want to continue the quality programs we offered the girls, but do it smarter and less expensively.   We want to increase the number of girls; we do this because we believe the Girl Scout Leadership Experience changes lives.   I see this daily.   We want to provide the type of support to our wonderful volunteers that they desire.   We have attainable goals for this year.

I was looking over the edge at the abyss as I worked on the budget.   As we have staff leave, we won't be able to replace all of those positions.   As I look at a long list of equipment volunteers would like at camp properties, we might not be able to afford many of those this year.   However, with that said, as we work to increase girl numbers and the quality of our offerings we are optimistic about what this year holds for our girls.   I will keep that list for after the cookie program.  You will experience some changes this year.   You will see the staff working smarter and aimed to achieve better customer service and the best year possible for your girls.   Change is good! It moves us forward.

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Where did the summer go?   For me, this summer has reflected the adage "time flies when you are having fun."   I don't know about you, but we had a good summer.   Almost all of the staff was able to spend at least one day at resident camp, seeing what the girls are doing and working with them directly.   Sometimes, when you are dealing with the business aspects of Girl Scouts, you need to find and take the time to get out and savor what we really do, work for and with girls.   I saw some great learning and fun this summer. It was a joy.

School begins for much of GSSA this week and into next.   It feels like summers are just getting shorter and shorter.   I hope you had a chance to enjoy your children during their time away from school and that they are looking forward to the school year.

I spent most of my career working at a university.   The beginning of each academic year was marked with frenetic activity, some initial chaos, and the hope of great things to come.   There was not one year I was there that the hope of great things to come went unfulfilled.   I'm not saying every year was perfect or without its challenges.   However, I learned a lot from the students I worked with every year.

GSSA has some challenges this year, working to regain the lost girl members that resulted from the loss of United Way funding in the Mobile area.   We have new staff that we need to integrate.   We are always confronted with more girls than adults we can stretch around them.   Girls benefit from Girl Scouts programs; there is abundant evidence to prove the power of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.

If you know of anyone who would be a good leader or volunteer, please suggest Girl Scouts to him or her as a place to spend quality time with some of the best girls in the State of Alabama.   Each year by the end of September we have lists of hundreds of girls and no troop leaders, it is gut wrenching.   If you have additional room in your troop for additional girls, please let your local area field executive know.   I spent the summer watching how Girl Scouts can and do make the world a better place.

I hope you have high expectations for this year, and it holds the promise of great things to come.

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If you pay a visit to the Montgomery Service Center, you will see considerable chaos.   However, you will also see that the larger building, 145 Coliseum Boulevard is receiving a significant facelift.   This is thanks to the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery and the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery Foundation.    Through their generosity we are able to redo the floors, paint, and replace the front blinds.   We are hoping the new custom blinds will serve as some excellent advertising for us.   To help stretch the funding from this grant, employees from the Sherwin-Williams Company are donating their time to paint our office.  If you know a member of the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery, please go out of your way to thank them for their gift and express your appreciation at your local Sherwin-Williams store.

We are always appreciative of the generosity of others.   Baptist South Hospital Foundation will be providing the supplies for our First Aid kits this year.   Thanks to them for the supplies that expire annually and can be costly to keep updated.

We have received a couple of additional sailboats.   They have not arrived yet, but one is a fairly large boat and another is a sunfish.   Thanks to Dr. Mark Kassels and an anonymous benefactor for these generous gifts.

One of our volunteers who drove a car load of day camp girls this summer put us in touch with a local businessman who donated a pontoon boat to us on Lake Martin.   I have heard that the boat is much nicer than the one we owned.   Any interested troop is welcome to make advance arrangements with the ranger for a tour of Lake Martin in the boat, complete with his commentary on who lives where.   (Please make arrangements well in advance; your only cost will be the gas used by the boat while you are there.)   Our thanks to volunteer Caroline Breshears, who not only spent a lot of time assisting girls at camp, but also brought us this new boat.

In the Mobile area we are in the midst of our annual brand campaign with the Mobile Area Boy Scouts of America.   We work during the summer to remind our constituents that we no longer receive any funds from the Southwest Alabama United Way or the Lee County United Way.   We still receive generous support from ten other United Ways and United Funds, including Baldwin County, River Region United Way, Wiregrass United Way, and Lake Martin Area United Way.   So if you live or work in Mobile, Clarke or Washington Counties, please remember that if you previously gave to the United Way, Scouting appreciates direct donations.   If you have any interest in doing a pitch for Scouting at your own work place and work in Mobile, Washington, or Clarke Counties please let me know.

Fundraising is an adult activity and we appreciate the assistance of Girl Scout volunteers, alumnae and parents with cultivating support in our community.  We appreciate the leads and assistance many of you lend to us by giving us suggestions on businesses and others who are willing to make the world a better place by giving to girls.   We always appreciate those leads and your generosity and that of others.

Also, please consider shopping with our business partners and be sure to tell them you appreciate their support for girls. If you know of a business or organization who would like to join our list of distinguished partners or to learn more about giving opportunities, feel free to contact me at lbrent@girlscoutssa.org or Melinda Stallworth, Director of Advancement at mstallworth@girlscoutssa.org

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I had a long visit with a good service unit manager last week that said it is sometimes confusing who is doing what around the service centers because it seems to change.   She is accurate; we have experienced a lot of change recently, so I thought I would introduce some of the new council staff and outline some contacts that have changed, hopefully this will serve as a good resource for you.

This is the year of the early arrivals, Jen Thrash's baby showed up about a month early recently, so we are scrambling to get some work done in relation to the membership plans in each area.   With that said we are welcoming some new staff in Membership.

Field Executive - Gulf Region

Allison Marlow, mother of five children (ages 2 to 11), has just relocated from South Carolina.   As a long-time Girl Scout mom and service unit leader, her service unit in Hawaii increased their membership from 125 girls to 425 girls during her time there.   She resides in Fairhope and is eager to meet and get to know you.   She can be reached at amarlow@girlscoutssa.org or 800/239-6636, ext 1402.

Field Executive - Wiregrass Region

Brandy Lydick joins our staff as field executive in the Wiregrass.  Brandy and her family live in Chancellor, and she has a daughter who is a Girl Scout in Geneva.  Brandy is working on completing her Bachelor's degree in business and has considerable experience in office management and customer service. Brandy looks forward to growing Girl Scouts in the Wiregrass.  She may be reached at blydick@girlscoutssa.org or 800/239-6636, ext 2103.

Associate Field Executive - Wiregrass Region

Launa Boynton will be working with Brandy in the Wiregrass.  Launa was a Girl Scout as a child, and has held many volunteer positions with Girl Scouts since then (beginning as an assistant leader in her 20s.)  She has lived all over the United States, and has resided with her husband and twin girls (rising 7th graders) for in Enterprise for seven years.

Money Raising Projects - questions and requests for those requests need to be sent to Melinda Stallworth.   She can be reached at extension 2802 or mstallworth@girlscoutssa.org.

Programming - Mary Anne Brutkiewicz will be retiring at the end of July, and her programming assignments will be taken up by Christina Smotherman and other staff members.  She will be returning to teaching Spanish at USA, and we wish her the best. 

Camps and Property

Joe Turner has been hired as the new Ranger at Camp Scoutshire Woods.  Joe has his own carpentry business and has been working as a contractor for 42 years. He and his wife, Cindy, have two adult children and two grandchildren.  He has taught Sunday School class for 40 years at the First Baptist Church of Citronelle. He love fishing and participates in tournaments.  He is excited about improving Camp Scoutshire Woods for our girls.

Just as a reminder, we did clear cut 69 acres at Camp Sid Edmonds and thinned some of the inner portion of the camp.   It looks dramatically different.   Each time I'm up there I'm surprised at how it changes from one week to the next.   I was pleased to see some quail while I was up there and the work was going on.   We have not noticed any significant changes in the wildlife.

The camp calendars have been opened up for camporees.   We have been discussing a couple of council wide camporees opened to anyone wanting to attend.   This worked very well the last time we tried it, in fact we had a waiting list.   Hopefully that will be put on the calendar shortly.   As a reminder, camp reservations are made at either service center but it is easier to make the Scoutshire and Sid reservations at the Mobile Service Center and the Kamp Kiwanis and Humming Hills reservations at the Montgomery Service Center.

We will continue to work to keep you abreast of changes as they occur.

 

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Each year we have a program where a cadre of girls apply and serve as press representatives for the council.   These girls, representing all age levels, are asked to comment (time permitting)) about their Girl Scout experiences prior to the media approaching us.   During fall product sales and the cookie program, we ask them to represent all the girls of GSSA to speak on their behalf.   The story is always better when a girl or Volunteer tells it.

We work with these girls and do training activities, including role-playing in front of a camera and interview skills.   We also ask them to write and blog about their Girl Scout experiences.   Being a press rep covers all types of media, so girls have an opportunity to decide if this is a potential career that interests them.

I have been around this program since I arrived.   It is a great opportunity for girls to share their experiences.  I have worked with girls who were quiet and reticent, who came to life in front of a television camera.   I've also seen some of our more boisterous girls turn shy once the camera turned on, and I've seen everything in between.  It is important for girls to find their voice, and this program is an ideal opportunity!

Meet some of the girls (and a Troop Leader) who are press reps:

Mackie and Lane, Troop 8241

Angel, Troop 8605

Erin, Troop 8309

Tori, Troop 8215

Julianna and Tamatha, 9195
Tammy Ortega, Troop 9195 Leader

Cheyenne and Aliyah, Troop 9041

Mary Virginia, Troop 9134

Gabriella, Troop 8645

Claire, Troop 9327

Kyndall and Tayler, Troop 9241

Welcome!

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You and I know the value of Girl Scouting.  We've seen first-hand the way girls evolve into leadership roles, marveled as they learn new things and watched them proudly as they make valuable contributions of time to their community.

As a Brownie mom, I love watching our sweet group of girls learn how to work together and become stronger, more independent young ladies through the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.  Sure, you and I have experienced all of this first-hand, but what about the wider community?  What do they think of when you say Girl Scouts?  You got it - cookies and camping!

Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama is working to change the way the Girl Scout program is perceived within our communities with an educational media campaign directed toward changing the way members of our community traditionally think of Girl Scouting.

We know that cookies, crafts, and camping remind many people of being a Girl Scout, but these days, Girl Scouting is so much more.  For example, did you know Girl Scout Alumnae credit Girl Scouts with preparing them to face life's challenges and opportunities with resourcefulness, ingenuity, and discipline? Research shows that, compared to women who were not Girl Scouts, Girl Scout alumnae feel more capable and competent in their adult lives, have more supportive social relationships, and feel more optimistic about their futures. How incredible is that - and who wouldn't want this for their own daughter?!

Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama (GSSA) has the reach and experience to help girls in our community navigate an increasingly complex society. We offer many educational and exciting programs, such as those involving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to help girls realize their full potential in a career path of this nature. This year alone, GSSA has teamed up with Auburn University, Auburn University Montgomery, and University of South Alabama to provide fun, interactive STEM activities for Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama also has a competitive robotics team.

Girl Scouts can build robots. They can become Congressional leaders. They can do anything they set their mind to, but not without the help of the community. Because when girls succeed, so does society. This is the message we're spreading across southern Alabama. Be on the lookout for digital billboards, advertisements and articles featuring Girl Scouts and help us spread the word that Girl Scouts is indeed much more than simply cookies and camping.

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I sat in my outdoor office today, listening to the sights and sounds of summer -- sounds I have come to enjoy each day.   It has been wonderful hearing the girls sing, learning complex songs with hand gestures, listening to the squealing of the girls riding the banana boat on Lake Martin, while still others hone their canoe skills.   But summer is now at the half waypoint, with school looming in the not too distant future.

As we work to edit the fall product guide and meet with our representative from the cookie baker, it is time to turn our attention to the coming school year.   We will have some challenges and changes with our fall recruitment, with staff out on maternity leave and others new to their positions.   If you hear or see opportunities where we can find adult leadership for new troops, please let us know.  You can contact the membership department at membership@girlscoutssa.org.   We work to hit the largest schools first and systematically work our way through the different areas, mostly by size and presence of troops in the past.

The best recruiters for members are the girls themselves.   We learned this at the university where I worked previously; our best recruiters were our own students.   Our best recruiters of other adults are current happy volunteers, who know from their experience they educate leaders and that passion and enthusiasm can be contagious.   If you know of someone that has an interest in Girl Scouts, please encourage him or her to contact us.   We always have girls who desire placement in troops, but we never have enough adults willing to take on the challenge of leading one.   It is heartbreaking to look at the number of girls who cannot be placed in troops each year.

We have great programs, activities and opportunities in progress for the fall.   If you have not already sent in your membership registration, get a jump start on the school year; visit our Renew Your Membership page on our website for electronic forms.

As summer starts to heat up and move toward fall, we look forward to another fun year to come.

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My view is of girls learning skills with boats and paddleboards, learning to swim, singing new songs, hiking trails, making all sorts of crafts, and managing bugs and spiders in their living quarters.  

Last week, they had a Native American storyteller and were spellbound by the wonderful stories.   Another day, they heard a paleontologist speak.  Then there was a herpetologist from Auburn University, who brought her frogs and toads.   They knew a lot about frogs and toads already, but she let them see their spade feet, or the bumps on their back.   They learn so much while having fun.

One of the facets of Girl Scouts I appreciate most is that girls can learn by doing.   They can collect bugs and create their own living environment.   The things they see and experience can be applied when they return to school in the fall.   In the meantime, they have been outside listening to birds, seeing the fish, and experiencing a lake.   I've not heard one mention that she misses the television, a cell phone, or the Internet.   Music at camp is made from nature or the girls that inhabit it.   They do mention they miss their family, but only occasionally.

We are on a learning curve with the day campers.   My notion of victory here is that those girls will want to attend resident camp next year.   So far, we have had a number of them say they do.   At the end of the day as our drivers talk to them, they discuss the fun they had.   This was the first year for the day camp, and we had some early hiccups, but I believe we have determined it is worth offering again.   We have had a number of girls who had so much fun their first week that they returned for a second.   This is another victory.

Every day I take a photo of my new office and send it to my friends, calling it "my office today."   Every one of them expresses jealousy because they can see from the photos the fun the girls are having.   Please check out the fun at our Flickr.com account on line, share in the joy the girls are having in the outdoors.

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One of the great things about what I do is getting to know some of the girls we have the privilege of serving.   Spending the summer at camp has provided me with a good opportunity to meet some of the great staff we have.   I spent 30 years working with college students at a university, so I was delighted to spend some time with the summer camp staff during their training.   Since then, I've been watching them interact with the campers, which is a beautiful thing.

Many of these girls have gone to camp in our council and are the product of your hard work and efforts.    They are leaders.   I see them teach, counsel, correct, nurture and work with their charges.   The girls, in return, follow them around, look up to them, and find role models to emulate.   It's something I wish you could all witness, because it proves the power of what a girl can do.   And the time you invested in these girls proves it was time well spent.

These girls laugh, sing, hike, swim, paddle, and eat with our camper girls.   And I can assure you they sweat with these girls.   Last week, I was sitting down from the rec hall at Scoutshire, trying to get some work done and someone I was with noticed there was a black snake at the steps of the building.   We checked it out, and decided it was a rat snake or maybe a black racer.   There was a group of Brownies just coming out of the water from boating, so we asked them if they wanted to see the snake.   They all said they did, so we let them walk where they could see it, but not too close.   No one shrieked, ran, or did anything that indicated they were afraid of it.   The whole interaction with the counselors, the girls, and watching the snake was amazing.   Girls in the woods who go to camp tend to appreciate the beauty of the nature that surrounds them, soaking in all that the great outdoors has to offer.


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From Scoutshire Woods...My office today overlooks Echo Lake, where one unit is kayaking, another is serenading me with camp songs from the rec hall, and yet another is out on the dock in the middle of the lake diving in.   What could be better?   The birds are singing; there's a bullfrog croaking in the frog pond; the occasional cricket frog tunes up; and there's a stunning monarch butterfly flitting near me.

This is the first time since I've been here that I felt that I could afford the time to be up here to enjoy summer camp. What a mistake.   I come up during breakfast, check on the girls and the staff, then come to my office on the edge of Echo Lake and turn on my laptop.   This is absolutely the best part of what I do -- listen to girls giggle as they fall from stand up paddle boards, probably intentionally, swim from the dock in the middle of the lake to the swim dock for the first time, or work on camp songs that they will remember for a lifetime.

This week of camp has been a great one.   Of the more the 80 girls here, I have seen only one who has a serious attitude problem.   She doesn't want to do anything.   She announced to the staff the first day she planned on not having a good time.   I'm sure if you plan not to have a good time, you won't.   The rest of the girls watched for the first half day, and then proceeded to go about trying everything camp has to offer.  

Some days it is hysterical to watch.   They are becoming more adept at actually sweeping the dining hall after they eat (rather than simply pushing the dust around!).   Many have tried the stand-up paddleboards, and their performance is pretty impressive.   Some who started afraid of the water can now put their face underwater, and some can swim. What a wonderful thing. The sound of giggling comes from all parts of camp.

I'm very pleased with the day camp option.   This week we have only had one girl, but she arrives early and tries to be away from her drivers at the end of the day so she won't have to leave.   That is a victory. We had hoped to attract some of those girls for resident camp to have the full experience.

Hopefully you and your daughter are having a great summer!

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This past week I experienced the power of the Girl Scout program.   I had the privilege of working with the Camp Sunshine staff and watching the girls of Camp Sunshine learn, grow, and prosper because of their efforts. 

Laurie Weil and Kathy Sawyer founded Camp Sunshine more than 25 years ago in Montgomery.   Its mission is to provide an OPPORTUNITY for girls to experience the power of a wonderful summer camp.   These girls have the same dreams, hopes, and desires that all girls possess.   But many don't have the opportunity to visit the Alabama Shakespeare Festival or the Montgomery Museum of Art.   They certainly don't spend their summer time shooting off bottle rockets or learning to play tennis.   What fun they had trying new things!  They even learned about bullying through modern interpretive dance.

Girls from Camp Sunshine spend the night at Kamp Kiwanis each year.   Some have never been to the woods; others have never been swimming in a lake.   They ride the zip lines, spend the night in a tent, and ride on the pontoon boat.   This part of their experience really moves them from their comfort zone.   Many of these girls, sadly, live in areas where playing outdoors are dangerous.   So the opportunity to experience the woods and all the outdoors has to offer is a wonderful gift for summer.

Camp Sunshine has provided these opportunities, and more, for thousands of girls in the Montgomery area for over 25 years.   It continues to be a resource for the girls of the Montgomery community.   More importantly, the volunteers who generously give of their time have given girls the courage, confidence, and character to make their world a better place.

Thanks to Laurie Weil and Kathy Sawyer for their unflagging generosity for so long; they have changed the world.

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I've had the opportunity to attend some graduation activities of our graduating Girl Scouts.   What a treat!   Every graduate is an accomplished individual beyond their activities in Girl Scouts, and we wish them the best in the next part of their Journey through life.

For many of you, this is the time of year when you are trying to adjust to a somewhat different schedule.   Hopefully, lots more outdoor activities, trying new things, and some leisure time that you just don't have the opportunity for during the school year.

I know many of you suspend troop meetings during the summer so you don't have to hassle with coordinating vacation schedules, people moving in different directions, and summer fun.    I want to thank you for all you do for girls.    This has been a good year in many ways and one that has held its challenges.   I'm sure you can resonate with that.    We cannot do this work without you.   I know there are days when it is frustrating, but I hope the moments with the girls when they gain an insight makes all that worthwhile.

We have had service units give scholarships to their graduates recently.   We had another troop that is graduating give their remaining troop funds to fund a camp scholarship in honor one of their deceased troop members.   I hear about great summer events that troops are doing some exciting events with their troop proceeds.  

I reached an age milestone recently with my birthday, and it is closer to retirement than it is my youth at this point.   I still look back on my Girl Scout experiences with fondness and pleasure.   I remember the women who were part of that experience -- the leaders who taught life skills I still use today.   They were role models.   I hope you know you serve that role to the girls you work with.   Every day I hear examples of great leadership on your part.   Those might seem insignificant, but never underestimate what small thing will change a girl's life and be that one moment that makes a difference in her life.

Thank you for your hours of work, patience, planning, and contribution to make the world a better place.    You are special! I'm hoping it is a great summer.

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This week and next week as I drive to and from work I'll play Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches.   It is a time of exhilaration and tears.   Commencement's definition, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is "a time when something begins."   I realize we sometimes see this as an ending, when, in fact, it is the beginning.

On behalf of all of GSSA's staff, I would like to congratulate the class of 2014.   What an accomplished group of girls, soon to be young women that we have had amongst us.   I have had the privilege of attending ceremonies where these girls have been honored.   They will change the world, and they have learned how to do this through Girl Scouts.   They are headed in many different directions, but all are aimed at making a difference in the lives of others.

Hopefully, this transition to the next phase of life, the new beginning, will continue to include involvement in Girl Scouts.   We work with many collegiate women through programs facilitated partnership with us, especially those involved in the Kappa Delta Sorority, but we are not limited to that partnership.  If your Girl Scout experience has been a good one, consider remaining involved, even if it is the occasional assistance to a troop where you are living.   Many of you might remember how great you thought college girls were; remember that now you are, too, for younger girls.

Also a reminder, there is a large discount when you become a lifetime member of Girl Scouts upon graduation from high school.   I urge you to consider taking advantage of that.

On behalf of the more than 10,000 girls and volunteers involved in GSSA, we wish you every success in your future endeavors.   You will have times of frustration and times of great joy in your journey ahead, but we know you will do well because of the life skills you have developed through your many experiences and the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.

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Each year, Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama is given the gift of millions of hours of generosity on the part of the volunteers.   These volunteers make a difference in the lives of thousands of girls in the southern half of the Great State of Alabama.   Most would be worthy recipients of the Volunteer of the Year award.   They are devoted to their girls, spend lots of times assuring girls have a great experience, and much of their work and effort goes unheralded.

In 2001, Leslie Lerner started to substitute teach at St. Paul's Episcopal School, when her own children were getting older.  By 2004, she was working full time at St. Paul's.   For many of those years, Leslie has been a volunteer with Girl Scouts, working with St. Paul's students to bring Girl Scouting to students at Augusta Evans School in Mobile.   She has inspired her students to provide Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts to the students there.

Leslie, as the head of the Community Service Department at St. Paul's, works with students who become class tutors at Prichard Preparatory School, and the Regional School for the Deaf and Blind.   St. Paul's students do projects at McKemie Place, the Ronald McDonald House, Animal Rescue Foundation, and Little Sisters of the Poor.   Students also do annual service days at Habitat for Humanity and Wilmer Hall.   As a part of a St. Paul's education, students are required to perform at least 15 hours of community service per year, and Leslie is a task master to assure the students do the work and do quality work in the community.

Leslie Lerner is driven.   She is driven to help others.   She is driven to be sure her students assist the largest number of people possible.   Leslie has high expectations for herself and her students.   She is a servant leader.   Leslie is remarkable because she always brings out the best in the people she touches.   Her energy and drive have made the St. Paul's Community Service Department an asset to the community.

On behalf of more than 7,000 girls of Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama, I want to congratulate Leslie Lerner on being selected our 2013-2014 Volunteer of the Year.

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Did you or your daughter have an excellent year as a Girl Scout?   Are you ready to sign on for more?   Early bird registration for 2014-2015 has already begun, and if you register by June 15, 2014, your girls receive an early bird patch.

We have tried to encourage folks to sign up early. Here's some of the incentives:

Girls:   All girls registered by June 15, 2014, for 2014-2015 Girl Scout year receive an early bird patch.   To receive the patch, please fill out our the form on this link http://tinyurl.com/EarlyBirdPatchOrder

Troop:   If 75% of the girls in your troop are registered for 2014-2015 and all end-of-year financial reporting is submitted by June 15, 2014, you will receive at 5% bonus on your fall product proceeds.   To submit your financial reporting use this link http://tinyurl.com/EndofYearFinancialStatement.

Leader:   If 85% of the girls in the troop, plus 2 adults, are registered for 2014-2015 and all of the end-of-year financial reporting is submitted by June 15, 2014, the leader will receive her registration FREE.

If 100% of the girls in the troop are registered for 2014-2015 and all end-of-year financial reporting is submitted by June 15, 2014, the troop will be entered in a drawing for a $250 council gift card.

May troop bank statements should be submitted to training@girlscoutssa.org by June 15 to complete your financial reporting.

Troop numbers and percentages are based on the number of girls registered in your troop as of April 15, 2014.   If the registered girls are not returning or were not active with your troop, you will need to find new girls to take their place to meet the percentage requirement and receive incentives.   In addition, registered girls that are moving out of the area can re-register with your troop and transfer when they get to their new council.

I can't wait to be a GIRL SCOUT! We hope you can't wait either!

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Every council with camp properties has the responsibility (and cost) of proper stewardship of the land.  Ideally, this stewardship not only enhances the property for the use of our girls, but also sets up a future stable income stream.

We use a registered forester to manage all our properties because of their expertise and ability to deal in the complex world of tree farming.  Several years ago, I was told that our trees at Camp Sid would bring some money when we needed it because we had some hardwoods there that are desirable.   Since the cookie program did not reap the desired results this year, I called our forester about doing some selective thinning of the trees.   

Our forester called back to say that what he thought were some select hardwoods are really slash pines, which are not productive as a revenue stream.    Rather than leave this property and not turn it into a revenue stream for the girls, we will likely be doing a clear cut of the exterior 69 acres of the property; this is the part that lies outside or to the right of the road.   With the income reaped from the clear cut, we will replant and get that 69 acres into production.   Another facet of that project will be thinning the property to the left of the road, so there isn't a lot of fuel if a fire would break out.   Thus, this makes that part of the property more usable by girls.

A few years from now, as the planted trees become larger, we will reduce the trees on the left side of the road and put that part of the property into production.   We have done this same thing at Camp Humming Hills.   The trees up there are about three years old and they are now 5-7 feet tall.   This has not impeded troops from using the property.   By doing part of the property, then later doing the other part, you always have trees at different facets of maturity, since wind and storms can level an entire forest. This insulates the property from loss.

This is rather short notice for intensive property work, but there are some timber companies eager for this type of work, so we will capitalize on that, working to reap the most for the girls of this council.   As we look down the road, we need to find additional revenue streams to insulate from the ups and downs of the cookie program, which is our largest source of income each year.

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