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

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This is the time of year frenetic with activities, events, and programs where girls are having some fun!    Last Thursday, we had Advocacy Day at the State House with the State Legislature.   We had a large group of girls who got to see the legislative process in action.  It was a good lesson in how complex the legislative process is.  

We were fortunate to have Young Boozer, the State Treasurer, take time from his busy schedule to talk with the girls.  Last weekend, we had the always-popular sleepover on the USS Alabama, a huge crowd for that.   I heard some girls didn't get much sleep, but all had a lot of fun.   Then the AU WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) group sponsored Pi Day, a daylong STEM program.   That program received great reviews, with all types of hands-on activities for girls to explore science and learn while having fun.   They would like to host that again next year, which we look forward to.

This weekend we have the NAS Pensacola event, which looks like fun touring the museum there, taking the trolley tour, watching an IMAX movie, tour the lighthouse, and having one of the generals speak.   Having recently visited there for the first time, it was a great place to spend a day.   The upcoming Dozing with Dolphins event was so over-subscribed that we had to add another date, so the program team is providing some great programs for the spring for girls to test their skills, learn some things through fun activities, and become leaders.

For those who are interested in a travel adventure, we have a mini-destination this summer to Huntsville.   What a great place to explore how the State of Alabama contributes to research and science through space.   Further details for that can be found on our website, and they are definitely worth checking out.

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It's time for our 2015 Annual Meeting, and we are excited about the business to be conducted and the time for volunteers to share their experience and successes with us. The materials are on the website and available for the meeting, which will held at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Wiregrass on Alice Street (there are two in Dothan) on Saturday, March 28.   We have a nature-themed girl program, which will run concurrent to the business meeting and discussion sessions.

Each year the goal of having an annual meeting is to provide transparency and accountability to the membership about what transpired the year before.   We also review the financial results from the year prior and try to have some discussions that will interest volunteers.   We also present the annual volunteer of the year award. This year, the aware is going to Barbara Mitchell, a long-time volunteer from the Dothan area, who has worked with girls in public housing communities.

We move the annual meeting around the council jurisdiction, so all have an opportunity to attend.   We have held the annual meeting in Elba, but have not been to Dothan.   We receive strong support from the Wiregrass United Way in this area, so we are delighted to hold the meeting in that part of the council.   If you would like to attend the meeting and are a registered Girl Scout older than 14 years old, you can be a delegate.   Simply register as a delegate.   The registration materials for the meeting are available here, and can also be found on our website on our Forms page, under Publications.

We have lots of topics we would like to hear from you on, including the cookie program, fall product sale, program possibilities, camp programs and best practices or simply great idea you would like to share.

Once the meeting is over, we post the financial report and the annual report on our website for your review.   We know many of you like to know what is going on, so this is a great opportunity for you to share your thoughts, ideas, and challenges.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place. We hope to see you on March 28.

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The mountain of cookie boxes is starting to look more like a hill now, with cookies (happily!) continuing to fly out of the offices, cupboards, and warehouse.   We are grateful to each and every one of you who work with girls to make that the world's largest girl-led entrepreneurial program a success.   It is always simply amazing to see some of these girls in action.   Girls do learn how to set goals, make decisions, money management, people skills and business ethics from that experience.   Given what I have seen in some of these girls, they have a promising future as entrepreneurs themselves.

This time of year, as we see light at the end of the cookie program, we turn our attention to other activities and events we have planned to teach girls leadership.   It is always a busy time because we have some great spring programs planned.

One of the new events on the program calendar is Pi day at Auburn University on March 14.   The Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) are hosting this event of fun with science.   A STEM program, girls can select from the program outline the badge they are interested in earning during that daylong event. I even hear that Aubie will make an appearance!

For girls who enjoy politics, Advocacy Day at the State Capitol is always a great event.   Co-sponsored by Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama, this event has girls watching the beginning of the legislative sessions.   They have an opportunity to interact with legislators and get to see the process in action.   This event is on March 12.   Letters from local legislators are available requesting excused absences from for school.

Each year in April in Montgomery, there is a large event called the Joy to Life walk/run for breast cancer awareness.   This was started many years ago by a board member of Girl Scouts, Joy Blondheim, who is a breast cancer survivor.   She started this event to heighten awareness about breast cancer and its challenges.   There are a number of ways a troop can participate in this event, no matter where you live.   Troops can make bracelets that will be passed out to cancer survivors at the special Survivors Tent.   The bracelets can be made and taken to either the Montgomery or Mobile Service Center or given to your field executive to get to the event.   There is a new Joy to Life fun patch available for sale at the council shops.   Your troop can also volunteer to work at this event; it is an extravagant affair and includes many Girl Scouts who have survived breast cancer.

If you have never had the opportunity to visit the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, you have missed a treat and should take advantage of the following exciting program.   Mission:  NAS Pensacola is scheduled for March 21 at the air station where girls will have an opportunity to watch an IMAX film.   You can visit all various planes, jets, and winged forms of transportation, as well as take a tour of the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum.   The facilities are interesting and the highlight is a talk by a three star general and a Captain who was a Girl Scout.   This program will delight girls of all ages.

Also be sure to check out our Mini-Destination to Huntsville in July.  This two-night event will include both a special visit to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Sci-Quest. Girls will get to tumble spin on the Multi-Axis Trainer and experience the Five Degrees of Freedom Chair at the Space and Rocket Center's sleepover space camp!  Then girls will have a one-of-a-kind science adventure sleepover at Sci-Quest where they will investigate the different ways things can glow by doing hands-on chemical reactions.  It all sounds so cool!
These are but a few of the programs we have planned for the spring and summer.   We hope you find some great activities for your girls to learn and experience leadership in action.

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We serve lots of girls from ages 5 to 11 and do an excellent job, providing them with lifelong skills and good friends.   But why do some continue past age 11 to complete the program?   As we look around at the programs we offer, it always seems that a role model has touched many of our older girls.   For many, this is their troop leader, an adult in their life not necessarily their parent, who they believe in.   But for some girls, it comes from some of the programs they attend.

We are fortunate to have a strong partnership with Distinguished Young Women in the Mobile area.   Each year representatives arrive from each state for a two-week experience in and around the Mobile.   Many of the troops and Girl Scout families in and around Mobile have met these girls at the airport, hosted them in their homes and enjoyed some great events with them.   These girls have consistently served as excellent role models for our girls. We also have a wonderful council patch program associated with Distinguished Young Women, called Be Your Best Self.

We have a wonderful partnership with the Kappa Delta sororities around the council, particularly in Mobile, Troy and Auburn.   These young women have sponsored badge days and volunteered at a many council events.   They serve as a great resource to encourage girls to continue their education.   They also provide a good resource of older role models for our girls as they explore what the right next path to take on their journey through life. 

Many of our girls are encouraged to remain Girl Scouts because of their involvement in earning the Bronze, Silver or Gold awards.   I have seen some excellent community work done through these award experiences.   In fact, in 2014 alone, our girls provided more than 3,000 hours of service to their communities through completing these award requirements. These experiences have led to scholarships and other accolades for these girls.   This is where you really see how the learning keys of discover, connect, and take action come together in the girls' experience.   These girls are simply amazing.

Each year we have at least one Jesuit Volunteer who works with the girls.   These college graduates have provided some excellent role models and leadership experiences for our girls.   Because they are viewed as closer in age, girls find them more approachable and easy to relate to.   Each has left a legacy of different gifts and made an impression on the girls they have served.

We have some fabulous opportunities for older girls.   For those who enjoy the water, we have a strong sailing program to hone skills and provide girls with a lifetime leisure activity.   The Mariner troop not only has a long summer camp to enjoy, but they have taken a fantastic sailing trip down the Florida Keys.   Another trip is in discussion for the near future.   GSUSA also provides excellent opportunities for leadership development through their Destinations program.   We have had one girl going to Central America, another to Michigan and two more sailing in the Caribbean; there are many ways a girl can grow and develop through these programs.

We recognize that girls have many options for their leisure time, but those girls who stay with Girl Scouts are some of the most accomplished young women I have had the privilege of meeting.   They are quietly capable, confident, and accomplished.   We have many programs this spring that provide great illustrations of great women role models, including Joy to Life, which has a great event in Montgomery, and Girl Scout Advocacy Day in March at the State Capitol. Make sure to check out these events and the many others that are planned!

liz_brent.jpgWhy send my daughter to summer camp?   That's a great question, and one we're often asked.

There seem to be a couple of schools of thought in our Girl Scout family.   One is that all children should be sent to camp.   It provides skill development, enhances independence from parents, and builds confidence.   This is the traditional thought about camp -- that being outdoors, away from parents and siblings teaches kids to develop skills.   And it does.

The other school of thought is the prevailing one of more cautious parents.   They either didn't have a good camp experience or no camp experience, so they aren't comfortable allowing their daughter to attend camp without them.   They also worry she won't have a good time.   And because we don't allow cell phones, there isn't any contact, which may heighten their anxiety and worry.   I ask lots of girls whether they are going to camp.   I hear plenty of them respond because their parents don't want them to.

We have created a day program for those whose parents aren't comfortable with them being away from home with the day camps.   We take girls up to camp in the morning and return them each evening.   This proved to be a good experience for the girls who tried it last summer.   We learned some things through this experience, so we plan on that being a great opportunity for them.   We also have the shortened session for those younger girls who want to give camp a try, but a week is just too long.   Look for the Brownie Sampler as the one for your daughter who wants to give it a try.

Each summer I'm fortunate to watch girls learn how to ride a horse, learn to swim, hike on trails and identify parts of their world, and giggle and have a great time.   There's the occasional moment of homesickness, but we work to keep the girls busy so they don't have time for that.

Girls have fun at camp.   They learn they can do things they didn't believe they could, whether that is sleep in a tent or cabin, confront a spider, put their face in a murky lake, or navigate to the bath house after dark.   Girls build confidence at camp.   I watch it every year, whether that happens at the swim dock, on a zip line or in a tent it is simply amazing to watch.

Girls spend lots of time at camp talking to one another, making new friends, learning songs, and some days just being silly.   Because they don't have access to electronics they learn to savor the silence, listen to the sounds of the outdoors, and understand who they are without their parents readily available.   I'm always gratified and amazed to watch even the meekest girl exhibit the character she possesses in this context.   Last year one of the smallest of the girls I watched one day was the most intrepid.

It takes courage to send your daughter to camp and for her to go.   Last year we had a number of girls who had so much fun their first week that they returned for more, or went from Camp Scoutshire Woods to Kamp Kiwanis for another week in a different location.   Most earned badges and patches.   Many made some great crafts.   Almost all learned more about swimming and canoeing or tried a stand up paddle board.   Some mastered horsemanship, while others learned to survive in the woods.   I was at camp every day last summer, and it was only occasionally that I witnessed a girl not having a good time or homesick.

As you consider what you want your daughter to learn, offer her an opportunity to learn what happens in the great outdoors. It is simply amazing!

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Many of the values and lifelong skills are illustrated through the cookie program experience.   Girls find their voice, suddenly able to speak to strangers and gracefully accept "no" for an answer.   One of the more interesting facets of the learning experienced during the cookie program is how troops decide what to do with the cookie proceeds for the troop.

This is a great place for Girl Scouts to truly be "girl led."  One of the beautiful things about girls in a troop is that they often have to negotiate with one another.   Testing negotiation skills, leadership skills, and how to make group decisions enhances the girl experience.   I have heard a number of anecdotal stories about how girls determine what to do with their proceeds.   I have to admit I'm often entertained and surprised with what they do.

The most common use of cookie proceeds is the groups that fund their summer camp experience.   We have girls that sell enough to attend camp at both Camp Scoutshire Woods and Kamp Kiwanis.   I met two of those girls last week.   They are excited about using the cookie program to pay for their camp experience.   Those activities also build their skills.   These girls were excited about what camp experiences they would have this summer.

We hear about lots of girls that go to the McWane Science Center or the Georgia Aquarium.   Both hold many learning opportunities in a fun venue.    For most of our girls, these are significant trips and provide an opportunity to travel and see more than their hometown.   Some other things that I think are educationally valuable and interesting are the Selma to Montgomery Interpretive Centers; one is located in Selma and the other in Lowndes County.   Given the buzz around the anniversary of the march and the movie "Selma," it would be a good year for this visit.   I also like the Tuskegee Airmen Museum in Tuskegee, whichis en route to Auburn and/or Atlanta.   Two other places of note are the Naval Air Station Pensacola; one of our Gold Award recipients is based there in flight training.   They have an interesting museum with lots of hands-on activities, a bus tour, and for additional funds about four IMAX movies.   A new place that I have not visited yet is the Infinity Science Center located on Stennis Air Force Base on the western edge of Mississippi on I-10.   They have all sorts of interesting space exhibits.   Huntsville's Space and Rocket Center is another great place for girls to visit.

I know many girls take this opportunity to visit larger zip lines than the ones we offer at camp, overnights in new and different places.   I would put in a plug for Wehle Center in Bullock County.   They have fantastic facilities at a reasonable cost.   We also have lots of troops who use camps they don't regularly visit within GSSA.   Then there are the always-fun visits to water parks, zoos, and other events and activities close to where you live.   I hope your girls learn the power of being "girl led" through the cookie program.

Thank you for all you do to make that possible for them.


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What is that all about?   Many of you know the original story; that the cookie program started as girls learning to bake cookies and selling them as a fund raiser.   Isn't it amazing how the world's largest girl entrepreneur program was started by girls and was girl led?   And it started as early as 1917!

As you can imagine, we have seen a lot of changes to the cookie program this year with the move to allowing girls to sell cookies online.   This is a positive move, as girls have asked for this to happen and permission has been lagging.   Because of concerns over girl safety, this change did not move at "girl speed."   But with this said, selling items online and in a virtual marketplace will be the world these girls inhabit.  

This changes the mix on the cookie program because sales will become more reliant on the girl who has a good sales pitch and marketing for the e-mail recipient to purchase their cookies.  The online sale does not replace or substitute from the regular sale of cookies to friends, family, and at booth sales, so this is in addition to the other traditional sales approaches.

Our cookie baker, ABC, which has developed the online sales software, has assured us they have done considerable testing around the safety issues of girls doing online sales.   One of the safety features is that you cannot forward the e-mail from the Girl Scout from whom you received it to your friends, colleagues, etc.   The link is broken when forwarded, so girls have to initiate the e-mail to make the online sale.   If any of you experience something different, please let us know at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

There has been some blogging about the cost of shipping of Girl Scout cookies sold online.   For anyone whose dining room or home has been consumed in cases of Girl Scout cookies, this might not bother them.   Because this is the first time for this type of sale, there are no reductions in the actual shipping costs.  Or put another way, we do not have the volume that a company like Amazon has to negotiate dramatically reduced shipping rates.   Our baker has determined that purchasing a half case, whole case, or 8-pack of each variety sampler makes the shipping cost effective, so the orders have to be of that size to make the shipping costs bearable.

Although the cookie program always has everyone operating in high gear, each year we all hear wonderful stories about what it does for the self-confidence of the girls who participate.   Every year we hear about the quiet, shy girl who doesn't speak up at troop meetings.   She's an introvert and doesn't interact a lot.   And then, one day at a booth sale, this girl suddenly finds her voice.   She sheds the fright of speaking to people she doesn't know.   She gracefully accepts "no" as a response and isn't bothered by it.   She has discovered that she is an entrepreneur and a successful one.   This happens every year to many girls.

The cookie program has five objectives for girls, which build their self-confidence. They are goal setting, decision-making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.   We hear stories that demonstrate each of those objectives during the program each year.   If you have some good stories to share, please send them to communications@girlscoutssa.org.   We love to share those stories, and they reinforce the power of the program.

I want to remind people that this year the money management is more complex than in previous years. The gluten-free cookie, the Trio, costs $5 a box, rather than $3.50.   This means you will have to be more vigilant while you are selling cookies to be sure you collect the right amount for the type of cookie sold.   The bakers assure us those who regularly purchase gluten-free products are not bothered by the higher cost, but our concern is that your troop and your parents remember the price difference.   I had someone complain to me about it, and I understand change is hard.   As an educator, my response is that this creates a great opportunity for girls to practice their math skills.

We hope the addition of online sales is yet another way for you to learn with your daughter or troop member.   We believe this is a great opportunity for girls to experience the world they will inhabit.   As always, we can learn from girls about how to market and make sales.    I hope your experience with the cookie program is a positive one.  

It's Cookie Time!

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This time of year is so exciting for many of our amazing young entrepreneurs, and the beginning of some real craziness for many of us as we kick into high gear.   In an effort to keep you abreast of what is going on, I want to review some of the issues we often face during cookie time, so you are well-informed about what may come up.

During the 2014 cookie program, we dealt with that old internet farce, the so-called Planned Parenthood conspiracy with Girl Scouts.   We received telephone calls from some upset people; others made a point of letting us (or girls) know they were not purchasing cookies because of Girl Scouts giving money to Planned Parenthood.   The truth is, we don't.   We haven't, don't, and we are not going to.   Because this affected our cookie program sales, our public relations staff has worked ahead to try to address this and provide you with a set of responses around last year's allegations and the real facts.   Let me repeat: we do not have any relationship with Planned Parenthood.   For more information and the materials we have developed for this year's cookie program, visit our Forms & Resources page.

We have seen some blogs and other materials about the Girl Scout retirement program funding deficit.   Yes, there are issues around the full funding of the Girl Scout retirement program.   This and other councils pay into the plan annually to fund pensions of long-time Girl Scout employees.   However, the plan has been frozen for several years, meaning those of us hired in the last several years have no retirement plan.   GSUSA has worked with Congress to shape legislation to address the full funding issues.

Online cookie sales is a new point causing confusion this year.  I have had many people tell me they thought the only way girls were selling cookies this year was online.   I think the great public relations around the online sales have led the general public to that conclusion.   I have assured those to whom I have spoken that online sales are simply another approach to selling cookies in this age of the internet.   When 70% of the public says they do not purchase cookies because no one asks them, this is a way to ask them to support girls.   Hopefully, as the general public sees girls out and about with cookies, their perception will change.

This year there are two online platforms to purchase cookies.   These vary by the two bakers. One is being managed by GSUSA, and the councils using that platform use Little Brownie Bakers for their cookies.   We are using COCO, which is the online platform for our baker, ABC, which decided that, to purchase online, you must purchase at least 6 boxes of cookies to make the shipping costs seem reasonable.   Thus, you cannot purchase only one box of cookies online from our baker.   

Through the online cookie platform, girls send emails to potential customers, so that they may purchase cookies. Depending on the email sent, girls either are asking customers to purchase cookies that they will then deliver, or purchase cookies that will be delivered by the cookie baker (in which case, customers must pay applicable shipping fees).

We are looking forward to a great cookie sale and hope you are, too!  Please let us know if there is other information that would make your girls more successful as they are out selling.  Thanks, again, for your hard work during this time of year.

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We hope the New Year brings peace, wisdom, and many gifts that feed your soul.

Did you make any New Year's resolutions?   What are they?   I've made a few, and we'll see how it goes.   Some years I make them, and I follow through.   When this happens, they do change how I enjoy the year and life.  The experts on a tv program I was watching recently said most resolutions are broken within a month, long forgotten.  

One of my resolutions is to be a better friend to my many friends.   I have wonderful friends who are supportive.   They lend a listening ear.   They remember my birthday, visit my mother when I sometimes can't, and they are simply there when I need them.   I believe it is important to be as good a friend to my friends as I possibly can.   Do you teach girls to be good friends through troop meetings, programs, and activities you do through Girl Scouts?   I suspect you do.

During the holidays, one of my friends lost her husband.   He came home on Friday evening and had a heart attack.   She did CPR on him until the ambulance arrived.   They got him to the hospital where they operated and installed three stents.   He had been to the doctor 15 days before and pronounced in excellent health.  

By Sunday he was awake; talking and joking with his wife and son.   Sunday night he was again taken to the operating room, they called his wife and said there was no need to return to the hospital because  they were going to install a pacemaker.   He didn't make it through the surgery.   This happened three days before Christmas.

I attended the funeral, which was postponed until after Christmas.  Everyone was trying to make sense of it.   He was young, and as a court-appointed attorney, he did work others did not want to do.   He lived what he believed, with respect to social justice and the treatment of others.   The theme of the funeral was his constant kindness, which was so true of him.  One of my resolutions is to be sure to be supportive of his wife and son, who are friends of mine.   But we are reminded you never know what tomorrow will bring.  

It is important to live each day to the fullest, as it is a gift to you.   I know many of you personally, and kindness is an attribute that I see constantly in what I do.   I see frequent acts of kindness and conversations with girls about kindness.   Make kindness part of your 2015 plan. I hope it is.

A number of years ago, I attended a middle school football game to watch the son of one of my friends in his debut.   I arrived well before she did, so I was sitting in the bleachers, watching those around me.   There were lots of people there, but many were on the cell phones, not looking up long enough to really see what was going on.   My conclusion is that we can be present but not paying attention.  

Another of my resolutions is to be present and pay attention.   The cell phone can ring constantly, with e-mails and updates.   But being present matters to those I interact with.   People crave real conversation with others, where both parties listen and exchange thoughts and ideas.   When I have attended troop meetings, it's clear that, as a troop leader you have to be present.   Girls appreciate that you take the time to be present with them.   It shapes lives.

Finally, one of my resolutions is to change the world.   In my case, I have the privilege of changing the world one Girl Scout at a time.   It isn't often that we have the opportunity to see how the world is changed, one girl at a time.   Last week, there was an article in the Dothan Eagle about one of our Girl Scouts who saved someone's life.   What a wonderful gift she gave as a direct result of the skills she developed as a Girl Scout.   Although not everyone's story is quite as dramatic, being a Girl Scout and changing your world does make the world a better place.   Thank you for changing the world, one girl at a time.

I hope you stay with your New Year's resolutions and have a great 2015!

Giving Tuesday

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December 2, 2014, is GIVING TUESDAY.   Giving Tuesday is a day during which the philanthropic community works to highlight not-for-profit organizations and encourages the community to give to their favorite groups.

We are working on a goal of raising $1,000 for GSSA during the GIVING TUESDAY campaign.   If you want to give an end-of-the-year gift, please consider going online to www.girlscoutssa.org/invest and make your donation to us that day.   We have been promoting Giving Tuesday through our social media with #unselfies, in hopes to increase what we raised in 2013.

Donations and giving are changing from the more traditional end-of-the-year letters to social media, crowd sourcing, and other approaches.   GSSA recently received $5,000 from Wind Creek Casino Wetumpka from a video the girls submitted and was voted on by social media.   Just as retail goes on-line, and we can order most anything from our telephone or computer all hours of the day and night, we can raise funds through Giving Tuesday, which is a type of crowd sourcing.

We work to solicit gifts for the girls through a wide variety of sources.  Over time, however, we have left a couple of United Way organizations due to their funding cuts (Lee County and Southwest Alabama, Mobile) and funding has been reduced from some of the others because of a tough economy.   Government agencies after sequestration have reduced funds to agencies so some of the quality programs we have long provided have gone away because of funding cuts.   Despite all of this, we have a large number of people who give generously to us annually, so girls can reap the benefits of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.

Give on Giving Tuesday, tag us in your #unselfies, and encourage your friends to give to make the world a better place through Girl Scouts.

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Who doesn't like to spend time with their friends?   I attended a women's chamber luncheon last week, and they have to number where you sit so you won't just sit with your friends during this luncheon.   They were up front about it, saying, "We want to get you to meet people and make some new friends."   Clearly, sticking with your friends happens at every age.

Girl Scouts is about making new friends and keeping the old.   As we work with girls, we find they want to participate with friends they are familiar with.   We believe that the work you do with your troop changes lives.   We are in the midst of the I Can't Wait to Invite a Friend campaign to increase the number of girls' whose lives are changed by Girl Scouts.

At last count, we still had 450 girls waiting to be placed into troops because we do not have enough adults willing to spend their time with wonderful girls.   I attended an event in Union Springs recently, and asked a mother why she became a troop leader. Her response was, "My daughter asked to be a Girl Scout and I decided becoming the troop leader was one of the things I could do for her."   What a beautiful response -- something she can give to her daughter.  

I realize everyone can't do this, but every year our girls' needs are unmet; not because of their desire to be a Girl Scout, but because we don't have the adults to serve them.    "I can't wait to invite a friend" provides a $50 coupon code to the GSUSA Online Store for the current volunteer and a free resource pack, which includes a Girl's Guide to Girl Scouting, Adult Insignia Tab, Official Girl Scout Membership Pin, WAGGGS Official Pin and new Official Volunteer Pin as well as journey book for the new volunteer.  Please help us change the world through girls by identifying someone else who can give of themselves to girls.   They do not have to be the parent of a girl, they can be retired, an aunt, a dad. We welcome all.

Thanks for all you do, help by inviting a friend to be a Girl Scout.

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Do you know where those lyrics come from?   They are from God Bless America.   What you do is to stand beside girls and guide girls.   This week is STAND BESIDE HER week.   This is an initiative to change the negative messages about women and girls.

How many girls have been discouraged or suffered put downs while trying to lead?  39%   At what age does a girl's self-esteem peak?   At 9 years old, think about that for a minute, your peak self-esteem is reached at age 9, 4th grade.   Sixty-seven women rate having a mentor as highly important to their career, however 63% have never had a mentor.   Five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.  

The data is clear from the Girl Scout Research Institute that Girl Scouts does make a positive difference in the lives of the girls involved.   Stand Beside Her is a call to action initiative to mentor, support, and develop women and girls; to end comparison and competition and create a more collaboration and support for one another.

Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts, understood the power of mentoring, support, and collaboration to create support for other girls and women.   Look at what she built.   An organization that has transcended time and surely what she had imagined.   Consider the millions of girls and women who have been changed by someone who chose to STAND BESIDE HER and guide her.   What a wonderful gift.

Recently I was listening to some actor speak on television, when asked about something frightful that happened his response was "I cried like a girl."   At that moment, it hit me as a pretty offensive comment.   I doubt that was his intention, but he didn't think about it and what we say does reflect our values.   As we consider who we are and how we want to change the world, consider committing to changing the self-esteem of the girls you touch.   Consider the power that serving as a mentor, building positive relations among girls, and appreciate each girl for her talents, strengths, and uniqueness.

State of the Girl

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Girl Scout Research Institute conducts  cutting-edge research with respect to girls.   They put out reports with their studies findings and results.   Recently, they completed a report ranking girls by different metrics in all 50 states.   The metrics were physical health and safety, economic well-being, education, emotional health, and extra-curricular activities.   The composite rank for girls in Alabama is 30th.

In an effort to better understand this ranking, let's work through the individual metrics of this research.   Girls in Alabama rated their physical health and safety 33rd in relation to the other 49 states.   Their rating compared to others states on economic well-being was ranked 34rd out of 50.   Sadly, their ranking on education was 40th.   On extra-curricular activities, their ranking was 26th, and on emotional health, their ranking was 21st.   This is how the research came to a composite rank of 30th out of the 50 states.

Burrowing down more into the data, 37 percent of girls 10 to 17 were overweight or obese.   Roughly 8 percent have experienced neighborhood violence.   Twenty-six (26) percent of school-age girls live in poverty in Alabama.

As we examine the education segment specifically, roughly 33 percent of 4th grade girls are proficient in reading and 19 percent are proficient in math.   Only 45 percent of 3-4 -year-old girls are enrolled in pre-school.   Women ages 18-24 enrolled in colleges at 46%, while the national average is at 48%.   As an educator, I find these results troubling.   We can do more.  We can improve those outcomes.

As the Girl Scout Research Institute Report titled The State of Girls:  Unfinished Business asserts, data is not destiny.   Girl Scouts is aimed at providing the tools and skills for all girls to develop to their full potential.   The work you do with girls strengthens how girls can reach their goals and improve their lives.   Thank you for your work, hopefully this accentuates the need to continue and work to impact more girls through Girl Scouts.   To learn more about this report and others, visit www.girlscouts.org/stateofgirls.

New Troops

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So, are you new to Girl Scouts?   Does it  seem overwhelming?   Don't let the catalog of rules, paperwork, and online training be daunting.   The point is to have fun with girls!  Share what you know.   Allow the girls to decide things they want to do from one meeting to the next.

I had a leader invite me to her troop meeting the first year I was here.   It was delightful.   She was very talented and had 40 Brownies in her troop.   She said she planned activities, crafts, songs and educational activities for each meeting, but the girls would come up and ask if they could talk and color.   She learned very quickly to have plenty of ideas on hand, but she gave the girls time to talk to one another and color.   Sometimes we underestimate the value of talking with your friends at the end of the day.   One of the salient values of Girl Scouts is a group of girls working with one another.   They learn to make decisions about what they want to do.   They learn to work with one another when they don't always agree.   Sometimes they argue, but what I hear over and over is they learn by those experiences, as well as the many opportunities to earn badges and patches.

There are tremendous ideas, resources, and program ideas available for you, which could be what look like mountains of information to sift through.   We find different leaders find ideas in different places.   Some use this Virtual Volunteer blog, a place where you can use the "search" function (in the upper right hand corner) to find information.   Others prefer to use the Journey books and curriculum materials.   Others use online resources, which are plentiful.(Check out our great Pinterest boards!)  We are always happy to assist with questions, Cheryl Miller is our Volunteer Liaison. She can be reached at 334-312-0433 or CMiller@girlscoutssa.org.

Some troop leaders take their troop to council-sponsored events, while others don't attend them often.   The council-sponsored events are programs that are more easily done across all troops that are hard for an individual troop or service unit to host.   Good examples are the sleepover on the US. ALABAMA, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab program or the McWane Science Center.   If your troop needs resource individuals, we have lists of those we can provide.   We also have a list of lifeguards and certified archers.   We let you make arrangements with those individuals directly.

Subscribing to the GSSA Weekly e-newsletter is a good way to get an idea of different program deadlines, Other Opportunities we don't host but believe would be good opportunities for girls all around the council and beyond.   The website, www.girlscoutssa.org, has the forms, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and a wide variety of other information.

We hope that the fun you can have with girls motivates you to accept the challenge of working through the elements to obtain your Leader License and have a blast!

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I lost one of my best friends recently.   She died from complications from surgery.   She was bright, funny, hard-working and extraordinarily talented; a teacher and skilled leader.   During her career, she successfully juggled raising three children with her work, as well as serving as the director of a theater program.   She spent many evenings at work, rehearsing students while her own children were with her doing homework, but she also spent lots of time attending synchronized swim meets and her own children's events and activities.   She was simply an amazing woman, and I'm not the only one who can attest to that.

As I reminisce about her, her greatest gift was that she was a wonderful listener, offering good advice to those who came to her.   One of my friends, one of her theater students, said she gave him a gift with a verse on it that he could recite when he graduated from college, which he still has today, some 30 plus years later.   She was my friend, but for a year she was also my boss.   When she left, she broke up a chess set and gave each of us that worked for her a piece of that chess set, with a note on why she selected that piece for each one.   My chess piece has been on my desk since she gave it to me, and it is here today.

As you struggle to juggle your children's needs with your work, your spouse, and other obligations, at the end of the day you drop in sheer exhaustion.   But somehow, it all gets done, or at least most of it gets done.   I suspect most of those days you do not have a minute to reflect on what you are giving to your children, those around you, and those that you work to serve.   And sometimes it is not until the end of the road, that you look back and see what tidbits of yourself you left along your journey.   This individual was a leader, a mother, a teacher, a mentor, and a good friend. One of her small gestures of best wishes and hope stay with one of her charges today, 30 years later.   She would be touched to know that.

Understand what you do on a daily basis for your children and those you come in contact does matter.   You might not receive the feedback on that now or ever, but sometimes it is some small token of appreciation that stays with someone else their entire life.   We should be grateful to all of those who share their gifts with us and make us better.   Thank you for all you do for those you serve.

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It is always good to be grateful for those who support you, especially in these tight economic times.   We appreciate all the hard work, hours of effort, and patience each of you has to make Girl Scouts possible.   Without the millions of hours you provide, this endeavor would not be possible.   Thank you for all you do.

We have been fortunate during the past year to have a number of companies and organizations assist us by providing some great resources and programming for the girls.   I thought it was important that you know so you have an opportunity to thank them or patronize their business.

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama has supported our STEM initiatives through a generous grant they have provided annually.   The grant funds paid for the Hyundai Fun Day at Auburn University last spring.   They also supplemented a number of other STEM programs throughout the year, including the Robotics Team.

If you walk into the Montgomery Service Center, you will be stunned by its new look.   It includes removal of some disgusting carpet, replaced with laminate floors in the heavy use areas and carpet in the lighter use areas.   The common areas received a fresh coat of paint, and there are new blinds.   This was all done through the generosity of the Montgomery Kiwanis Club and the Kiwanis Foundation.  We also are grateful to volunteers from Sherwin Williams, who donated their time to paint.  Redoing our offices is low on our list of priorities, since our goal is always to focus on projects that   so we are appreciative of their generous gift.

Each year, Alabama Power Company supports us in a wide variety of ways.   This year, they provided some needed funds for operations, a donation rarely made.   We also appreciate the Alabama Service Organization, which provides staff for the Autumn Adventures program at Lake Martin.   This is a great partnership between their staff and the children of the community near Lake Martin.

We have partnered with the Virginia Colleges in both Mobile and Montgomery.   We have an adult fundraiser that we started this year called Martinis and Manicures in Mobile, and in Montgomery it is M3, which stands for Martinis, Manicures, and Massages.   Many in the community do not realize that Virginia College has programs in cosmetology, manicures, and massages (in Montgomery only), so this was great advertising for their services and a good opportunity for their students.   We are planning similar events at both locations in 2015. Let us know if you would like to be on the planning committee.

We had a new fundraiser last spring in conjunction with Cinco de Mayo in Mobile called the Salsa Challenge.   Since the Mobile area thrives on food competitions, such as the chili cook-off, we thought we would give it a try.   Golden Flake provided all the chips for the event.   Iberia Bank was one of the sponsors that provided a salsa team.

Pilot Catastrophe Insurance was generous to provide many pieces of commercial kitchen equipment for our camp properties.   We are grateful for those because they are very expensive when purchased new and many of our pieces of equipment had aged enough to become unreliable.

When you are at Kamp Kiwanis and see a lagoon filled with sailboats, as well as the slope toward the boat dock, you might ask where they came from.   We have had a number of generous benefactors give them to us one at a time.   This summer we had a volunteer who knew someone that had a pontoon boat to donate.   We appreciate the generosity of others to build the mariner sailing program with those assets.

The Mobile Junior League is underwriting a program with girls in the Mobile area this year.  They will develop healthy living materials that can be used by troops and for council programming.

Thank you to all our generous corporate benefactors who support making the world a better place through girls.

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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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