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

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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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It is because of the hard work, commitment, care, and love Girl Scout volunteers have provided to make the organization strong for more than 100 years.   It works because of you!

I am always struck by what a volunteer will do to make the world a better place.   This past weekend it was sleeping in the outfield at the Montgomery Biscuits game, even when the rain moved in during the wee hours of the morning.   It is working to be sure the beds of camp are ready for the girls to spend the night.   It is volunteers who spend their entire weekend doing camper training so you can go with your girls to explore the woods, canoe, and learn new skills.

We have many troops in this council that 15 to 40 years later still make a point of meeting.   Many meet annually, and it is because of the passion their leader had for her girls.   I've heard them talk about trips they have taken, adventures they have had being together, and the lifelong bonds they developed with one another.   I am convinced that is this type of learning will transcend electronic games, social media, and other types of activities a girl can be involved in today.

All of our girls are accomplished and unbelievably capable in ways that often are not quickly recognized.   I hear stories of how girls decide how to use their cookie proceeds to do exciting activities, often centered on Girl Scout skill building.   What is at the center of all we do? YOU, the volunteer!

You spend lots of your time thinking about your girls.   You take them places, do activities with them, and possibly referee some differences.   You listen to the girls' concerns.    You take on more than just your daughter.   You get up early, stay late, clean up, and spend a lot of your valuable time investing the future of the girls you work with.

We want to thank you for being the special person you are.   It takes a village.    You need to know that you are providing the essential values for the girls you work with to become the exceptional adults they will be.

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Thanks to the staff at Wehle Land Conservation Center for hosting us.   Many attendees remarked to me about how beautiful the property was, even though they had done some burning recently.   The birds were abundant, and the girls seemed to have a good time, which is what it is all about.

We welcome a number of new members to Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama's board of directors.   They are Holly Adcock from Prattville, Christie Crow from Union Springs, Carrie Gray from Montgomery, Garrad Green from Mobile, Ramona Hill from Spanish Fort, and Bill Lancaster from Mobile.   We also welcome a new board chair, Janie Corlee, from Auburn.

I would like to thank the following long-time board members for their many years of service.   They include Helen Alford, who served as the board chair for two years.   Marian Loftin of Dothan was on the board from the council's inception.   Alonzetta Landrum-Sims, from Montgomery, was part of Girl Scouts of South Central Alabama's board of directors, so she has served many years. Dr. Larry Turner, from Chatom, joined the board not long after GSSA was born.    Finally, Alisa Summerville has been involved for two board terms.   All have spent hours working in the best interest of the girls on topics most troop leaders aren't interested in, including budgets, financial statements, audits, contracts, insurance, and other facets of doing business as a not-for-profit.   In addition to these wonderful folks, I would like to thank Nancy Greenwood, who has served as the board chair for the past two years.   Nancy has provided consistent, reliable and supportive leadership during her tenure.

The other business of the meeting included electing the delegates and alternates to the 2014 GSUSA National Convention in Salt Lake City.   In the near future, we will begin to share the business before that convention for member input and comments.   We distribute that input and comments to the board delegation, so they can effectively represent you.

The report passed out at the annual meeting, which is retrospective to the 2012-2013 year, is now on the website.   The reason this goes back that far is because our annual audit for that year is not complete until February, so all the information on that report is for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Each year, we also like to report to troops what their troop proceeds are for the cookie program.   We are still cleaning up some of the details, but we believe parents should be informed of how much the troop made in proceeds.   Each year, I'm asked whether troops make only 10 cents per box sold.   That is not accurate!  The amount varies because of troop bonus and service unit bonuses, but it is much more than 10 cents per box.   If you click here, you can search for your troop and the minimum your troop should have from the 2014 cookie program.

We are always happy to take questions about the annual report, financials or any other questions.   Please send them to communications@girlscoutssa.org.

The very best part of the 2014 annual meeting was awarding three Girl Scouts who earned their Gold Awards.   They are highlighted in this annual report.   We would like to congratulate them and all the girls who earned Bronze, Silver, or Gold Awards this year.   These girls rock!  

Thank you for your hard work.
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We are at the culmination of the 2014 cookie program.    Like you, we are all happy for the cookies to disappear. We look forward to the program each year, but are grateful for its completion.    I want to thank each of you for all your hard work, patience, and generosity of your time.

Each year I hear a number of stories about the quiet girl, who doesn't really talk in the troop meeting who blossoms during the cookie program, being a real entrepreneur.  The goals of the cookie program - which are for girls to gain experience in goal setting, business ethics, people skills, money management,  and decision making, are fulfilled by all the girls who participate in the cookie program.   Hopefully, each of you had some powerful learning experiences with your girls.

And now for Camp!
We are in the process of camp sign up.   This year we have added a day camp opportunity for those girls who are reluctant to spend the night away from home.   The camp program from their arrival at camp until they leave (9a.m.-4 p.m.) each day will be the same as the resident campers.   A girl can use her cookie program credits for day camp, as well as resident camp.   We look forward to this as a great way to provide a great camp experience for girls.

This year we are making some changes at resident camp.   We are going to eliminate turtle time and bring in external resources from the wider community.   In each area, we have some tremendous outdoor education and environmental resources, which will provide fun and educational activities for the girls during this time every day.   In addition, the COO or I will be on the property daily with some of the program staff and other resource people.   We have had our program team working on the programatic elements of camp.

We are also working on a new opportunity for GSSA's older girls.   The staff at Wehle Conservation Center in Midway (near Union Springs) are going to allow us to conduct a resident camp on their property  for Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors. We are going to allow the girls to shape their camp experience.   Wehle provides some wonderful outdoor education and conservation opportunities.   This will be aimed at older girls only, and they will have a great deal of input on the activities in which they participate.   For more information on that opportunity, which is scheduled for July 13 - 19, contact Amy Farrar at afarrar@girlscoutssa.org or 334 272-9164, x2205.   

Sailing camp is still under discussion at this time, and we hope to have information to you soon.

Have you heard of Amazon Smiles?
Finally, this week I discovered another painless and easy way to donate to GSSA.   We have Socialvest, which is an organization that provides us with a small percentage of your purchase costs from a large number of companies.   It does not increase the cost to you, and GSSA receives a check related to your online purchases.   The other one is Amazon Smile.   We talked to Amazon Smile, and it seems they have added us, using one of the legacy council names (Girl Scouts of the Deep South), which is fine as we still use that tax identification number, so you go to Amazon Smile and sign up.   Then, when you go to Amazon to shop, instead of going directly to Amazon, go to smile.amazon.com and again a small percentage of your purchase will be sent to us to support the girls of GSSA at no cost to you.   Please sign up and remember Girl Scouts when you shop.

Thank you for all you do on a regular basis to make the world a better place.

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This year we will be celebrating the Girl Scout Leadership Experience at the annual meeting.    The scheduling of this meeting is always a challenge.  The annual meeting is set on the same weekend each year, but the date of Easter changes.  Between Easter and the different spring breaks on school calendars across our council, we can never find the perfect weekend for everyone.  With that said, we will still celebrate what we are about: GIRLS!

GIRLS are simply amazing.   And GSSA girls are REALLY amazing.   We have a robotics team that, despite being a new group, has done well at competitions.   We have girls who go out in the woods on a regular basis and learn skills they will use for a lifetime.   We have lots of girls who sold lots of cookies this year.   Some who didn't speak up before can now confidently approach strangers with a sales pitch -- a young budding entrepreneur.

Many of our girls drop out of Girl Scouts at age 11.   And what experiences they miss by doing so!   Those girls who do continue the Girl Scout Leadership Experience become exceptional individuals.   They are skilled in many life skills.   Of those who continue, we award 90 Bronze Awards each year.   This is usually earned by troops who do great projects.   We have about 40 girls earn the Silver Award each year.   And last, but certainly not least, this past year we have seven girls who have earned the Gold Award.

We thought we would highlight the young women who have earned the Gold Award and who will be presented their award at the annual meeting at Wehle Conservation Center on March 29.

Elizabeth Schloss is from Prattville. She is finishing her freshman year at Auburn, where she plays xylophone in the band.  For her Gold Award project, Elizabeth set up tutoring sessions for Hispanic kids. She involved her Beta club at school and held sessions at a local church after Spanish mass. Elizabeth said one of the most successful aspects for her was that the parents started coming with their kids, so she ended up with adults being tutored as well as kids. Also, a principal at a local elementary school heard about her project and asked her to come and do after school tutoring at the elementary school.

Adrienne Spivey is from Montgomery, where she is a senior at Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School.  Adrienne's Gold Award project involved educating children about Alzheimer's disease. She created and produced a video to help children understand changes they may see in their elderly relatives and feel more confident interacting with them. Adrienne has these words for girls who are thinking about going for the Gold Award: "Taking on a serious Girl Scout project could seem impossible. Think about the difference you will make by doing it, though. Think about the lives you'll change. Think about how you'll be campaigning for something you not only believe in, but that you created. This project may seem overwhelming, and even be a bit challenging at times, but the outcome and the rewards are worth it all."

 

Ann Claire Carnahan is a senior at UMS-Wright in Mobile.  Ann Claire worked with staff and volunteers at Keep Mobile Beautiful to create and promote a website for their organization. Keep Mobile Beautiful is a city of Mobile department that operates as a not-for-profit environmental organization and depends heavily on volunteers. Ann Claire designed and built a website, and used social media and presentations to bring awareness to the public about the services that Keep Mobile Beautiful offers. Ann Claire offers this advice to girls interested in going for the Gold: "I would advise girls to align themselves with a community organization that already has a need you can work towards fixing. Listening to the organization's needs gave me the framework I needed to construct an airtight, meaningful project."

These young women (and all the others who have earned awards this year) are outstanding examples of why we work hard, and why we celebrate girls.

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This is the week to celebrate being a Girl Scout. I hope you have some fun things in mind this week to commemorate the founding of Girl Scouts.

It is always interesting to look back in time and determine what it is we are celebrating and why.   As we look at the origins of Girl Scout Week, we see that each day had a theme with assignments or activities that relate to that specific theme of each day.

Girl Scout Sunday and Girl Scout Sabbath (Saturday) is designated as a time for girls to attend services in their house of worship.   They are to take part in a religious service and wear your uniform.   Another activity is to say or sing grace at a meal.

Girl Scout Monday is designated as Homemaking Day.   On this day, a Girl Scout helps do the chores around your house.  She should also be extra nice to siblings and do a good deed for them.

Tuesday is Citizenship Day.   On that day, the Girl Scout should take part in a flag ceremony and do a service or a take action project in their community.

Wednesday is Health and Safety Day.   On this day, you should do at least 20 minutes of exercise.    You could check to see if the smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are working properly.   You should eat only healthy snacks today.

Thursday is International Friendship day.   You can learn about a country you would like to visit and cook/prepare something from that country, or you can learn about girls from others countries who belong to WAGGGS.

Friday is Arts and Crafts day.   You could make a scrapbook for your family, or make a craft from a recycled material.

Saturday is Outdoors Day.   You could take a scavenger hunt and find something in nature that begins with each letter of the alphabet.   You could play games outside with your family or troop.

We know many of you have some great Girl Scout activities planned for this weekend.   GSSA also has some fun things planned for you also, so celebrate being a Girl Scout!

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 I thought I would take this opportunity to update you on some of what is going on nationally, so that, in case you hear or confront some of this, you will be well equipped to respond and understand the context.

Each year during the cookie program, Karlyn Edmonds, the COO, and I are confronted with numerous calls about the "conspiracy between Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood."  At the commencement of the 2014  cookie program, it was obvious this year was different.   From the first day of the cookie program, it felt like the "Planned Parenthood and Girl Scout conspiracy" comments had been promulgated widely, primarily via social media and quasi-news websites.   We were taken aback with that felt like an orchestrated wave of public relations against Girl Scouts and the cookie program.   In the days that followed, the phone calls and emails continued and were significantly more than anything we had experienced in the past.

Let me remind you once again that GSSA has NO relationship with Planned Parenthood.   We have a clear policy, which has been in place for a number of years, that states we believe issues around sex are best handled in the family and your faith community.   This is not a topic that is part of our curriculum.  
Every day many of the staff read Google alerts, so we can see what else is going on with Girl Scouts around the country.   Most of the time, this is a source of good ideas.   It was clear when the cookie program started that there was a huge surge in the articles that connect "Planned Parenthood with Girl Scouts."   This topic consumed the Google alerts and has during most of the cookie program, not just for us, but for all the Girl Scout councils across the U.S.

When you look at the source of the increase in these articles, most of them are found on blog sites and other media that are not necessarily standard news outlets that check their facts and have substantiation behind what they write and print.   In fact, as I clicked through one of the blog sites I found that they had taken a screen shot from our website of one of our girl members and used that to link GSSA to Planned Parenthood.   The girl in this case and the article had NOTHING to do with Planned Parenthood, but literacy.   It was a violation of this girl's privacy and a misuse of our website.   As we started to complain to this blog, we discovered there is no place to contact them.   This is not a credible source, and what was done with this girl's article is not journalism.

This more heavily orchestrated move to discredit Girl Scouts has been pervasive and unending throughout the cookie program.   Anna Maria Chavez, GSUSA CEO, has made a video to again repeat GSUSA does not have a relationship with Planned Parenthood.  We have posted it on our website to reinforce our continued position that we do not have a relationship with this organization either.   But what we are experiencing is that in today's world of the blogosphere, where you can say whatever you want with impunity, and if you say it enough times then it becomes true, whether it is factually accurate or not.   A crazed person called me last week to rant and rave about Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood.   She didn't want to listen to anything I had to say in our girls' defense.   She didn't want to hear about the policy that has been in place for a number of years.   She ranted about not buying cookies.   Clearly, she is not alone in the subtle and overt intention to boycott Girl Scouts by not purchasing Girl Scout cookies.   The cookie program is down in most councils, with our's being down considerably.   This is a serious cause for concern since 80 percent of our income is derived from the cookie program.

We have a number of troop leaders on the front lines of these confrontations in their church communities.   One last week said  a friend was asked to post a biased article connecting "Girl Scouts with Planned Parenthood" on her facebook site.   I suspect this is a fairly pervasive way to exploit the situation.   I also suspect this posting of information that is not fact based is seen as acceptable, but to what good end?   It simply hurts the girls of the community.

You spend a lot of time and energy working to "make the world a better place through Girl Scouts."   You know what goes on within your troop and at council events.   We do not have a relationship with Planned Parenthood, yet there is a movement afoot to damage the reputation of Girl Scouts and impact the girls you serve.   This organization isn't perfect, as is no such entity, but I have spent lots of time watching you create contributing girls of courage, confidence, and character, who will change the world.   This type of pervasive attack that misconstrues the facts and at this point is going to assert that Anna Marie Chavez is lying is an affront to all you do with your girls.   As you see and hear these kinds of attacks, please be familiar with the facts and know we are not involved with Planned Parenthood.

Girl Scouts of the USA does support WAGGGS, the international Girl Scout organization.   That group discusses topics that affect girls all over the world.   Some of those issues, thankfully, are not ones we have to deal with in the United States;but there are things that happen to girls in the rest of the world that are offensive and should be discussed.   Another piece of purported evidence is that GSUSA supports Planned Parenthood financially.   GSUSA recently had to lay off a very large percentage of their staff members because of financial shortfalls, and I have found no evidence that GSUSA supports Planned Parenthood, and Anna Maria Chavez says as much in her video.   The link that keeps being discussed surrounds some comments Kathy Cloninger, the previous GSUSA CEO, made at least seven years ago.   We are happy to discuss or refute any specific allegations you hear or are confronted with.   Please feel free to send them to communications@girlscoutssa.org.   Do understand that, at this point, this continual allegation is beginning to damage the very organization you work so hard to support.   Thank you for all you do to make a difference in the lives of the girls you work with.

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During the cookie program, we are looking at the various ways we connect with you.   We want to communicate with you, and likewise, we want you to communicate with us.   Just recently, we had a service unit mess because we didn't know there were issues within those working there, so communication is a critical issue for us - particularly at this busy time of year.

We have the GSSA Weekly e-newletter that comes out each Thursday.   It includes information on cookies, programs, camps, rule changes, a blog entry, and other information about happenings around the council.   We plan on continuing that initiative because we have metrics from Constant Contact we use to see what is being opened and clicked on.   We track that, so we can shape the GSSA Weekly to items we know you are interested in.

We also are looking at social media, since some of you use that rather than an e-mail account.   We thought we would do a quick survey of what you are using and what you find the most useful.   We are also looking at some of the new media opportunities to assess whether to up any time into these or not.

We are starting to work with Instagram, which is good for us because of the visual nature of it and so much of what we do is well communicated visually.   We have talked about using Vine, as well, which does brief videos.   How useful that is for us isn't as clear as Instagram.

We do know that, during the cookie program, the e-mails that go from the ABC SNAP program tend to work fairly well.   As we continue to get the modules of E-Council to work, we will have that capacity.   We want to know what works best for you, and when you are spending time on-line, what programs you use.

I hope cookies are going well so far.  Please click here or on the image below to take the short survey. Thanks for your feedback.

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LINK TO SURVEY

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Technology can be the best thing that happens in your day, and then suddenly it turns on you and ruins a perfectly nice day.   When I first came to Girl Scouts, we did all our work with the cookie program by hand.   We had elaborate spreadsheets with troops and service units, booth schedules, and receipts books and receipts everywhere. That was just how the cookie program worked.   Over time, there has been a slow evolution to putting all things related to the cookie program on-line.

Now, the good part of having it on-line is there are great tools for girls, since technology and the use of technology is their world.   So a girl can go on COCO, set her goals, watch as she achieves her goals and learns.   She discovers how to plan.   This is a wonderful thing if you are young.   The on-line materials our cookie baker, ABC, provides are excellent and add to the cookie program.   Girls are better able to connect the cookie program with the five business tools they are learning through the program, so I recommend that your daughter, troop, and service unit use COCO, as it is a great resource for them.

On Tuesday, we also discovered the downside of technology when the Montgomery portion of the booth scheduler managed to have your troop only be able to sign up for a booth sale all day long.   This is probably your worst nightmare, an all-day booth sale at Walmart.   It certainly quickly became our worst nightmare when 17 pages of volunteers had tried to sign up and wound up with the all-day booth sale.   We're sorry about that. It was a great case of human error.   Our apologies, as we know this created some serious havoc.   We did have a discussion that next year instead of the 6 a.m. booth scheduler opening up, we will have it at noon when folks can possibly do it from work, home or their cell phones, and we will be in the office to deal with the issues.   We welcome your thoughts on that change at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

If you were one of the troops tied up in this technology faux pas, please know that we are working to fix it immediately.   We also are working to get in touch with you so we can honor what you intended.   If we have not e-mailed or spoken to you yet, please contact Cheryl Miller at cmiller@girlscoutssa.org.   She is working to address this with those conscientious volunteers, who got caught in our mess.

Thanks for your perseverance and patience. We appreciate all you do to make the world a better place.

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