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

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Yesterday I was working on "Why Join Girl Scouts."   I had enumerated the usual list, all worthwhile and good reasons why a girl should become a Girl Scout.   Then early this morning I got up and read my e-mail and something struck a chord.

Last week I was fortunate enough to hear Hailey, who earned a gold award, talk to the girls at Beach Scouts about how you make your dreams come true.   Hailey is a 1st. Lt. in the Marines and about to earn her wings as a pilot.   She is headed for further flight training and won't be as available to share her inspirational message to girls as she has been, but her message is a simple one.   Sometimes it is only you, your fears, your doubts, and your hesitations that keep you from realizing your dreams.    You can do anything you believe you can if you persist and don't let your own sense of inadequacy for the task get in the way.   Hailey is not only very self-confident, but she is able share how she became so accomplished at such a young age, and she can break her success down into achievable pieces so girls understand.   As I pondered it, Hailey illustrates confidence, one of the three hallmark values Girl Scouts imbue.

The e-mail this morning was from a camp counselor, Oreo.   She also earned a gold award.   She was attending the University of Alabama as a prized debater.   Skilled in what she did, she is competitive, capable, and driven, while still being humble, approachable, and kind.   I watched Oreo a lot last year at camp.   She was a good listener.   Daily I would see her hiking past where I was working, gently nudging her charges in what should and should not be done, always with a kind word, never raising her voice.   The girls adored Oreo.   She was a wonderful role model on how Girl Scouts becomes a springboard to teach and learn about leadership.

Since early last year, Oreo has been plagued with health issues.   What started as migraines turned into a yearlong experience with the health care delivery system.   They think they know what the problem is, and then they don't.   They fix one thing and then some other symptom appears, having nothing to do with the diagnosis.   A bright, accomplished, high achiever has had to put her own goals on hold while she endures what seems to be endless frustration in trying to address her medical issues so she can get on with her life.

Oreo is an illustration of character and courage.   She eloquently describes how she sits in physician waiting rooms, labs, and exam rooms waiting to hear what might be wrong.   As someone who is driven, to be sidelined from school, moving along the trail she had laid out is filled with frustration, anxiety, and pain.   But she endures; she confronts what some days must be a nightmare for a 20-something with courage, summoning the strength to forge ahead.

Oreo visited us this summer at camp, we were delighted.   She got to visit with some of the girls from her camp unit.   She was able to visit with her fellow counselors and hear what antics had gone on during a summer that she wound up sitting in medicinal air-conditioned buildings, waiting.   Everyone got to talk to her and hear first hand what she has been going through.

Why join Girl Scouts?   Because the program provides girls with the life skills to challenge themselves to do things they didn't believe they could do.   On the one hand, become a Marine aviator, handling some of the country's most expensive aeronautical equipment, to being able to forge ahead when life's challenges smack you in the face and then smack you in the face again.   Both of these young women are excellent illustrations of how building life skills have come to serve them well in times of doubt, crisis, and frustration.   The girls I am fortunate enough to work with can do anything.   I watch it happen at camp, I watch it occur at council programs, and I'm fortunate enough to see it happen even as they grow up and become fantastic, contributing citizens.

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It is always nice to be up close and personal with volunteers over a sustained period of time.   I have many opportunities to interact with volunteers, but not over days or weeks.   A shout out to the volunteers who were wonderful and worked at resident camp this summer, doing all sorts of great things and made camp that much better this year.   Rusty and Gwen Black, Caroline Breshears, Elizabeth Conner, Vivian Martin, Tina Savell, and Dana Jones were so very helpful during the camp season.   Thank you for sharing your gifts with the girls.

It is always interesting during the summer to listen to the girls talk about their troop experiences and Girl Scout experiences.   I am always amazed at the wide variety of experiences and adventures these girls have with your planning and assistance.   I found the girls at resident camp this summer to have a high sense of exploration, confidence to get out of their comfort zone, and knowledge about the natural world.   I listened to some girls talk about different types of bugs.   We had another girl who wore her cowboy boots because she was fearful of snakes.   Then when PANDA had a small chicken snake, she decided she would face her fears.   Later she told me she wanted to "kiss it" which we didn't let her do.   But the difference between hot boots to thinking the snake was really cool convinced me of the capacity for girls to grow and learn through these experiences.   Most of their Girl Scout experiences are within your trusty care.

As the summer winds down and we start to turn our attention to fall it is good to be reminded why working with girls pays such tremendous dividends.   The girls I saw all summer were curious, happy, brave, and inquisitive.   Thank you for all you do to make this possible for all the girls we have the privilege of serving.

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Some days at Camp were HOT.   The temperatures may have been soaring, but you couldn't tell by what was going on around me. From my "office" on a porch near Lake Martin, I saw so many girls growing and having fun.

I saw girls in the pavilion learning new songs.   Another group near the tetherball were playing something akin to Marco Polo on land.   Behind me the whir of the zip line continued as girls tested their mettle by giving it a try.   In the cove, there was a group taking out the sailboats for the first time.   The temperatures were high, but you could not tell by the girls I was surrounded by -- all making the best of their summer vacation having a ball.

Camp has been great this summer.   The camp staff has been excellent!   The food has been incredibly good.   One of the staff noted that the food is so good we have not seen hardly any homesickness, because there is a direct relationship between comfort food and feelings of home and safety.   Amanda, our new staff member who is running camp, has brought some fun new ideas and traditions to the experience.

We have worked hard to assure girls are learning skill building in all their activities.   They can play some, but canoe time is getting into the water, learning to swamp the canoe and developing others skills. Just in case you missed it on our social media, the girls had a contest at Camp Scoutshire Woods between two groups under the swamped canoes singing Crazy Moose. It is hilarious!   We were discussing how quickly girls pick up skills if provided the opportunity to give things a try.   We had the Sunfish out this afternoon, and the instructor was stunned how a couple of the girls were rapidly proficient by just watching and listening to the instructions.   Girls are simply amazing!

On one day, I was over at the swim dock taking some video of the girls in swim lessons.   The lifeguards said in a couple of cases they weren't sure one or two of the girls would progress.   But with sheer determination and hard work, one in particular is really becoming a proficient swimmer.   The staff was amazed and delighted.

We work very hard to return your camper as a girl who has become more independent, proficient, and confident.   They have had fun, but they have also established some skills that will stay with them the remainder of their lives.

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It is always a meaningful to take some time to reflect on the girls who have gone before us who have made a difference in the lives of others.   Katie Leutzinger was one of those girls.   She loved Kamp Kiwanis on Lake Martin, and she was s devoted Girl Scout. She was taken suddenly from her family and friends on July 14, 2004, while she was still so young.

After her tragic passing, Katie's family and friends started s memorial fund to create something in her honor at Kamp Kiwanis.   She spent many summers at this camp, where she developed courage, confidence, and character.  

 

We are pleased to announce that we will dedicate the Katie Leutzinger Memorial Observatory at Kamp Kiwanis in her honor on June 28, 2015.   This observatory, though not large, provides an opportunity for girls to search the stars and heavens while at Lake Martin.   The telescope can be mounted in the observatory, but it can also run a computer that can be viewed by girls and others close to the observatory so many will be able to enjoy the thrills astronomy has to offer.


We are delighted the Leutzinger family agreed to this tribute to their daughter and sister so that all girls who spend time at Kamp Kiwanis can continue the wonderful experiences their Girl Scout, Katie, had there.

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My office has sunlight peeking through the pine, there are some bugs around, mostly ants.   As I write this, I can hear the girls behind me working on getting through a spider web exercise requiring communication, cooperation, and teamwork.   This is when being the CEO of Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama has maximum benefit.

So far the homesickness has been minimal, the giggles and singing constant, and the food pretty good.    The girls have been on horseback, racing around the island in their kayaks and canoes, and working on improving their swimming skills.

The girls who did the sampler camp have gone home, but many did not want to leave because they were having such a good time.    This is what we love to hear -- that the fun and some autonomy from their parents is welcome.   It is always good to have your daughter be confident and independent.

We have talked about whether Girl Scout families would like an opportunity to come up to camp and enjoy what the girls experience.   We discussed having a week or two each summer where we would have the waterfront and canoe area available and folks could come up with their families and have some fun.   That means you would have to manage your own cooking needs, but something we were discussing.   If you think you would like to do this, please send us an e-mail at communications@girlscoutssa.org.


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It's summer, and for us, it's time to say farewell to two longtime Girl Scout staff members who are retiring.  Both worked for their respective legacy council prior to realignment, weathered the realignment storm and have been behind the scenes working for the girls of this council for many years.

Karen Doss works in the Mobile office as director of strategic planning.   Her responsibilities are lengthy and wide ranging, but can be summarized by grant writing, applications to United Ways, and whatever else is necessary to bring funds into GSSA.   She came to Girl Scouts of the Deep South in Mobile from the Cahaba Council in Birmingham.   She has worked in various capacities through her 16 years with GSDS and GSSA.   Karen has five children and 8 grandchildren and will have plenty to do in retirement.   I want to thank her for her service to the girls of this council.

Chris Shavers is in the Montgomery office and is best known through her work with the Cookie Program.   Chris was with Girl Scouts of South Central Alabama and then GSSA.   She works with Fall Product, product sales in the council shops, and the Cookie Program.   There is a lot of fun in store from Chris in retirement, as her husband retired recently; between him, her four children, and six grandchildren, she will be a busy lady!  I want to thank her for her service to the girls of this council.

We are in the process of reorganizing job responsibilities to cover those leaving us.   We will clarify who is doing what as we work through it over the course of the summer.

If you would like to wish them well, they can be reached at kdoss@girlscoutssa.org and cshavers@girlscoutssa.org.

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Each year around the cookie sale, our council staff is frantic trying to get all the pieces and parts of such a large endeavor managed.  However, in the midst of this we find we have girls who have not registered yet.   There are phone calls, going online, collecting money -- a bunch of pieces and parts that slow up getting to manage the cookie program.  Surprisingly, this is more of a problem with established troops than with new troops and volunteers.

This year has been especially problematic because we changed registration software back to the GSUSA platform earlier than anticipated.  This unexpectedly caused all our memberships for three years being sucked into the system, and then we had to peel out those who were not currently registered.  

We appreciate those of you who responded to our requests to check your rosters to see if they were accurate.   Thank you for assisting us, as we can only look at pages of names for so long.   We found some troops didn't have all their girls registered, despite having the receipts and lots of chaos, for you and for us.   Thank you to those of you who helped, and I apologize for the chaos.   We hope that is over and going forward you register and it all works smoothly.

We do want to encourage you to go ahead and register now for next year.   We have a lot of fun events and activities planned already.   I can't wait to attend some of them, as they sound like so much fun.   We have an archeology day planned at the University of South Alabama and another exciting Pi Day program at Auburn University on the horizon.  

Lots of councils encourage the use of the cookie monies to early bird register the entire troop so there is no gap in activities.   We would love for more of that to happen here, since we have lots of program opportunities in August and September that we can't take advantage of because folks are still getting reorganized.   The important piece of it is that with registration comes insurance for all Girl Scout activities. Without being registered, there is no insurance coverage.

Recently, we have had a lot of folks who are not approved and vetted for overnights that have to submit all the paperwork at the last minute.   This results in staff having to spend day and night trying to get this paperwork through.   It is frantic for the parents and volunteers who haven't submitted it and a nightmare for the staff.  But please don't get ugly if this has not been submitted at the beginning of the year, as requested, and we are asking for it.   We work very hard to be of service because you are a volunteer.   We usually have more than one camporee on any given weekend, and the havoc created when each camporee urgently needs many attendees to be vetted and approved is truly formidable.  In an effort to be more consistent, we will have one source of where and how that is done.  Please help us to help you by registering now.

We want everyone to have the opportunity to have fun, safe and a great time through Girl Scouts.

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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 2015   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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Girls can do anything!   Each year we have a group of girls that are highly accomplished and do amazing things.   It is wonderful to see them grow over the years and watch them give back to their community through their award projects.   We have a great group of girls that provide all types of community service through their awards.

A large number of Junior troops earned the Girl Scout Bronze Award during the past year, and many more are currently working on projects in their communities. Here are a few examples from across the council:

  • ·         Daphne Troop 8186 is working on a permanent geocache course at Camp Scoutshire Woods for other girls to enjoy.
  • ·         Troop 9349 from Enterprise helped the local animal shelter by painting some of the rooms and collecting needed items.
  • ·         Troop 9261 in Ozark created an outdoor education garden at their school that included upcycling milk jugs into automatic watering containers, painting stepping stones, and leading a group of more than 50 students to plant a variety of plants.
  • ·         Loxley Troop 8393 volunteered and collected items for a horse rescue shelter.

The Girl Scout Silver Award is earned by Cadettes and is a stepping stone for the Gold Award. Here are a few of our excellent projects from this past year:

  • ·         Troop 9750 from Dothan recycled plastic grocery bags to make plastic yarn, which they crocheted to make sleeping mats for the homeless.
  • ·         Troop 7309 worked with a low-income daycare in Auburn to improve the facilities and provide additional resources and activities for the children to enjoy.
  • ·         A member of troop 9157 in Prattville sewed more than 70 colorful pillowcases to comfort children in an orphanage in Bulgaria.
  • ·         Satsuma Troop 8517 created a "Read Across America" curriculum for their middle school library. They identified and compiled a list of books from all 50 states to encourage students to read.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award in Girl Scouting, and is only open to Seniors and Ambassadors. Here are two of our recent Gold Awards:  

  • ·         Rebecca Pober from Daphne produced, directed, edited and screened a professional documentary on domestic human trafficking, which can be seen on the website she created: againsthumantrafficking.com. In order to create her documentary, she made contacts, fundraised, conducted on and off-camera interviews.  Afterwards, she has given and continues to give presentations to highlight this issue.
  • ·         Amerie Gramelspacher's topic for her Girl Scout Gold Award was suicide awareness and prevention. She spoke at churches and events, conducted a suicide awareness and prevention 5K, purchased a curriculum for the health classes at her school, and purchased signs for the middle and high schools. Throughout the project, she partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Thanks to Amerie's efforts, the elementary, middle, and high school teachers in Thomasville now receive annual suicide prevention and awareness training hosted by the AFSP.

Rebecca and Amerie have been nominated by our council for the National Young Women of Distinction (NYWOD) award, given by GSUSA to 10 exceptional Gold Award recipients from across the nation. GSUSA has done some great work to improve the highest awards.   Rather than having the National Young Women of Distinction awarded every three years at the national convention, that will change to annually.   In addition, a benefactor will be providing funding for a $10,000 scholarship for each NYWOD.  Girls who have earned the Gold Award are eligible to be nominated for NYWOD by the Gold Award Committee of GSSA.

As a reminder, GSSA has a group of trained volunteers who work with girls on their Gold Awards.   This committee reviews girls' applications and materials.   Because it is a group of volunteers, we try hard to respect their time, which means paperwork needs to be submitted well in advance of deadlines so the committee has the time they need to conduct their review.   The new working deadlines for 2015-2016 awards are as follows:

Quarterly deadlines for all Gold Award submissions

·         February 1

·         May 1

·         August 1

·         November 1

Graduating Ambassadors

·         February 1 deadline for proposals

·         May 1 deadline for final reports


Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama is fortunate to have a great group of volunteers and girls committed to community service. Last year GSSA girls earned 112 Bronze Awards, 27 Silver Awards, and 6 Gold Awards, representing more than 4000 hours of service in their communities. Girls also earned 44 Service Bars for Community Service and Service to Girl Scouting, representing more than 1,400 hours of service.

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We work hard to supplement the funds girls bring in through the cookie program with a wide variety of events, activities, and other fund development initiatives. Recently, a volunteer inquired about these activities, so I would like to go through some of them to make you aware of the many things we do to increase opportunities for girls.

EVENTS

ART SHOW AND SALE  - Daugherty's Gallery and Frame Shop in Mobile is hosting a benefit art show and sale for GSSA.   There will be a wide variety of art available in all price ranges and budgets.   The art show and sale is a casual browse through their gallery this weekend.   Drop by for some refreshments while looking at some delightful art and making a purchase.   Daugherty's Gallery and Frame Shop is located at 857-A Downtowner Boulevard in Mobile, the times are Saturday, May 16, from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday, May 17, from 1 p.m.-5 p.m.   A percentage of the sales will benefit the girls of this council.

 M3 - MANICURES, MASSAGES AND MERRIMENT - This is an ADULTS-ONLY event, scheduled for Friday, June 12, at Virginia College - Montgomery, 6200 Atlanta Highway. This event is organized by members of On My Honor, the Montgomery area Alumnae Association. We are so grateful for the hard work and dedication of this committee.  Last year was the first for this event, and it received rave reviews. You are sure to have a great time. Bring some friends, have some fun and leave looking and feeling great.  Guests can score some great items at the silent auction and enjoy delicious food donated by restaurants and caterers from throughout the River Region. The fun continues with manicures and massages by the students of Virginia College School of Cosmetology and School of Massage Therapy and is topped off with delicious pairings of cocktails inspired by Girl Scout cookie flavors, prepared by local bartenders! Tickets are $40 each. For tickets, please call the Montgomery office or tickets are available at our online shop. Plans are being made for a similar event in the Mobile area.

MEMBER CARDS

We have a new benefit to offer our outstanding supporters who donate $35 or more - the MemberCard. Click here for Information on how this great program works, and some of the amazing deals! This card offers a variety of deals, including 2-for-1 specials, discounts at local restaurants, performances, attractions and more! Just a few of the 2-for-1 deals include Red Brick Pizza (Enterprise), Down By the Bay (Fairhope), Butch Cassidy's Café (Mobile), Eastside Grille (Montgomery) and so much more. The card is valid for one year, so get your card today and begin saving!  Visit http://membercard.com/landing/gssa.cfm to check out the latest listing of participating businesses. Once you have your card, download the MemberCard mobile app to find available discounts, distance to participating businesses, and more! Let us know if you have any suggestions for other local restaurants or attractions you would like to see included.  

CALLING ALL AMAZON SHOPPERS! - Shop for great deals and support GSSA at the same time. For those who prefer shopping on line, sign up for AmazonSmile at smile.amazon.com, which is the charitable arm of Amazon.  Simply visit smile.amazon.com,  search for our name "Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama" and make us your charity of choice.  You may also see our name listed as Girl Scouts of the Deep South (we are working with AmazonSmile to make the name correction). You can even use your existing account, and Amazon's website will remember your charity selection.  Signing up does not cost you any additional money and a small percentage of all your sales is donated to Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama. As these donations add up, they will help us in our efforts to secure matching grant funding and help us with our continuing work to support our girls.

PLANGPlanG is another way to shop online with a purpose.  PlanG has partnered with more than 250 major brands to transform everyday shopping into acts of purpose. Simply shop online and earn free giving dollars for Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama!  It is really simple! Go to myplang.com to sign up, designating "Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama" as the recipient of the funds.  Then tell others about the impact you are making in the life of girls in southern Alabama. PlanG makes it easy for you to share your experience and ask your friends to help make a difference in a girl's life, too!  

INSCRIBED BRICKS 

Honor a loved one, troop leader, volunteer or special occasion with a brick paver a Kamp Kiwanis for generations to see.  For $50 purchase a brick paver and personalize it.  It will be placed around the Sawyer-Weil pavilion at Kamp Kiwanis.  Inscriptions are limited to twelve characters on three lines.  Some troops purchase multiple bricks to increase the size of their message. To purchase your brick, visit the gift page of our online shop. or call the Montgomery office to learn more.

RESIDENT CAMP SCHOLARSHIPS

- Each year we do an annual camp appeal seeking support from our current donors.   In memory of Cadette Girl Scout Emily Dunnam, GSSA's Board of Directors approved the establishment of the Emily Dunnam Camp Scholarship. Emily was an active Girl Scout from Fairhope, who loved camp and the outdoors. She enjoyed canoeing, nature walks and playing in the spillway at Camp Scoutshire. Before disbanding for graduation, members of Troop 8442 used their remaining troop funds to help establish this scholarship to honor Emily and give other girls an opportunity to enjoy camp for years to come. This fund will sponsors one Brownie or Junior, and one Cadette or Senior (leadership or CIT program) to attend camp each year. 


DINING OUT, ANYONE?

Zea Rotisserie and Grille in Mobile is supporting Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama.  Every second Wednesday of the month in 2015, from 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Zea will donate 10% back from sales to GSSA when you show them our flyer.  The flyers are available at the Mobile Service Center at the front desk, or you can download them here. Grab a few flyers and enjoy the dining experience. Schedule your next meeting our gathering for the second Wednesday at Zea to enjoy some wonderful food and support Girl Scouts all at the same time.

These are just a few of the many activities we are conducting in our efforts to increase funding and program opportunities for our girls.   We hope you can support them and help us spread the word to your family and friends.  Thanks for all that you do!

liz-2015.jpgGirl Scouts of Southern Alabama enjoys partnerships with local Army representatives through a number of projects and initiatives.   They have evaluated the tower for us at Camp Humming Hills around safety and stability.   They also have installed a set of three navigation courses for us at Kamp Kiwanis.  

Last week, I was one of a number of guests and educators of the U.S. Army and the Army recruiting battalion at Fort Benning, Ga.  I welcomed an opportunity to see what the Army does.

What is interesting about this tour is how much what the US Army dovetails with our own mission and values.   The Army imbues the values of leadership.   We teach values to Girl Scouts.   We teach respect for the flag, and for those who have given their lives for our freedom, and the importance of being good citizens.   All values the Army teaches its new recruits.

The point of this tour is to assist those who work with youth to understand the requirements and opportunities available to them through joining the US Army, or any other branch of the service.   We used to believe if you can't make it in college, join the Army.   Well, that is no longer the case.   The US Army wants the brightest and the best.   They want to top of the high school graduating class.   They offer more than 150 different occupational specialties.   Much of their orientation is computer technology.

The equipment, simulators, training facilities and opportunities are stunning.   Their mission to protect us involves increasingly complex technology and equipment.   Having an opportunity to see their facilities first hand is mind blowing.   Fort Benning itself is equivalent to a medium-sized city with what is as complex as one of the largest universities in the United States, with education of all types being conducted daily.

We had the opportunity to fire virtual rifles and machine guns.   We were able to crawl around on Abrams and Bradley tanks and then get in a tank simulator and try to hit a target.   Trust me, it isn't very easy.   We sat through a lecture for the Airborne on what happens when your parachute gets tangled.   Some of the options there weren't very attractive.   We heard from the Lt. Col. who trains the infantry and visited their dining room and living facilities.   During their 14-week training, the living facilities are pretty sparse, with the emphasis on getting in shape and eating healthy.   We attended a graduation ceremony for a group that had completed Basic Combat Training.   We also had a guided tour of the Infantry Museum, at the entrance of Fort Benning.  Finally we were able to attend Rangers in Action, a show that should not be missed if you ever have an opportunity to attend.   There was lots of blowing things up, rappelling up and down 40 foot towers, walking across high structures, zip lining down long cables into the water, and finally dropping from a helicopter into an area and then being picked up later.   It was fantastic, and we missed part of it because of the large number of school kids there that day.

If you have an opportunity to tour Fort Benning or any other military installation, it is both eye opening and educational.   All those we spoke to possessed a seriousness of purpose.   They understand their mission is to defend our freedom.   Hooah!


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It is spring, which means it's time for us to start planning for next fall.   It seems hard to believe we start now, but we do.   We are always looking for new and educational events and activities for our girls to participate in, and this year we had a number of new programs offered across the council.  

The general criteria for the council to offer a program is that it should be something a troop individually cannot do or do easily.   In addition, it needs to be attractive enough for folks to travel from one part of the council to another because it is not cost-efficient to use the girls' money to plan council events for less than 50 girls.   Because of this, most events will be larger, that is always desirable.   If you have some thoughts or ideas of good events that you believe girls would like, please let us know at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

This year, we had some great new events that have received excellent reviews.  Auburn University hosted an equestrian day for the girls and a fantastic Pi Day event that was filled with all sorts of hands-on science experiments.   Recently, we had a day with the dolphins in Gulfport, which filled twice, and the girls loved it.   We also had a new program at the zoo in Gulf Shores.  

Again, one of the caveats in planning events is they must attract people from around the council.   We have worked at hosting a number of programs in the Wiregrass area and have been disappointed they didn't make the minimum attendance required.   .

We will be starting to do some strategic planning, involving volunteers, always looking for ways to make the Girl Scout experience better for the girls we serve, so be on the lookout for those questionnaires and surveys in the near term.

As we work through our girl numbers this year, we find that some folks did not register until the cookie program.   Just a reminder on this, for now and I will do so again in the fall.   If you are not registered and participate in activities and there is an accident, you are held liable, not GSSA.   So you do that at your own peril.   The $15 price is a small price to pay for insurance coverage in case there is some type of accident.

We are also working on getting things ready for summer resident camp.   We will have a commuter option for those who do not want to spend the night.   Again, we take girls from the Mobile Service Center to Scoutshire Woods and the Montgomery Service Center for Kamp Kiwanis to be cost efficient.   We found last year that we had a number of girls who were able to enjoy camp this way.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place.   Please share your ideas on programs you would like to see.

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How often have we been moved, given gifts, or good advice from a great teacher and not really thanked them?   As we grow older and reflect on the gifts we have been given, we regret not thanking some of those individuals.

Volunteers are a wonderful!   Our girls and staff have the privilege of working with a tremendous group of individuals on a daily basis.   We have volunteers who have worked with girls for more than 30 years and others who are just getting started.   We have individuals who teach girls about horses, how to swim, how not to be afraid of bugs and spiders, and how to become a women of courage, confidence, and character.   It is a gift.

I always stand in wonder as I watch what some girls can do with the encouragement and support of those adults around them who care.   These girls try things they would never want to try.   They learn they can do anything they set their mind to.   But this is because one of you has given them that slight nudge, or word of support that empowers them to try something new.   I have seen girls put their face in the murky lake, ride a zip line, look at a snake and a variety of things because a busy adult gave back to a girl.

As life is increasingly busy and people are reluctant to volunteer, they want the quick easy tasks, not the ones that require some training, negotiation, planning, and lots of patience.   But at the other end, being a Girl Scout volunteer is the gift that doesn't go away.   We have troops in this council that met as girls and continue to meet today, more than 40 years later.   Last summer I attended the funeral of a Girl Scout leader whose entire troop attended, and those women were in their late 50s.   They met every year for a reunion.   When this troop leader's daughter passed away, they moved in to fill the void.   They visited with her, called her, took her places, and made sure she was taken care of.   It was a testament to what a caring group this leader shaped by the actions of these women, years later.   And when they visited her, they laughed like they were young again, telling stories of when they were in Girl Scouts together, stories of how their lives had changed.

Know that every day you are giving back and investing in the future by your actions as a Girl Scout volunteer.   The thanks might be brief or not well formed.   But we are all guilty of not thanking those who give to us the way we should.   And years later, when you think the girls are long gone, know that they will be using the skills you taught them, summoning the courage you showed them they had, and have become the confident women you meant for them to be.

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One of the great stories about Juliette Gordon Low is that she was willing to sacrifice one of her most prized possessions, her pearls, to secure the continued growth and success of Girl Scouts.   She gave up something she loved so this organization could live on and thrive more than 103 years later.   What a gift that was.

Recently, I attended a GSUSA CEO conference, and the discussion was around the need to grow membership and to continue to find ways to be relevant to today's girls, with changing needs, access to new and different ways of communicating and learning, and much more competition for their time and attention.   The issue is how to respect and integrate the values from the past while still appealing to today's girl who lives life at a faster pace.

The meeting was fruitful, and the CEO leading the discussion noted, as she often confronts people in the organization who want to cling to the past, she always reminds them that Juliette Gordon Low was a change agent.   What she founded as Girl Scouts was a new idea, and that organization had to change and adapt to stay alive.   So CHANGE is the important element of the long time success of Girl Scouts.   CHANGE is at the center of who we are and what we do.   Journeys, Studio 2B, whatever the current curriculum of the day will come and go.   What dwells at the heart of what we do is encouraging girls.   The best Girl Scout leaders have always understood that the organization at its heart and soul is GIRL LED.   Allowing girls to make choices, they learn how to make good decisions and the consequences of decisions.

I worked for a long time in higher education and came to understand that more learning came from allowing students to make their mistakes than trying to save them from their blunders.   That failure and making mistakes is as much a part of growing and understanding as always making excellent decisions.   The ability to reflect and garner insights from losses and learning to cope has great value.

As you give the girls you work with your gift of time, think of those pearls.   That time will never come back, to you or to them.   It is a precious gift that cannot be replaced.   And as you reflect on why you do this, remember you change each of those girls and they change you.

Thank you for giving your pearls.

liz_brent.jpgWe have had another successful annual meeting.    The timing of this meeting is always a challenge because of varying spring breaks around the council footprint.   We managed to hit several school districts' spring breaks in this year's venue, but happily we still had a nice audience.   We held the annual meeting at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Wiregrass in Dothan.   Thanks to them for hosting us.

One of the things that makes the annual meeting a challenge (besides the spring break schedules) is that the meeting reviews the previous year while we are at the half way point of the current year.   This happens because our annual audit is not complete until then, so we make time to review the financial results.   We will be posting the annual report and the council financial results from our audit on the website this week.

Last year was not a good one financially, a direct result of the lack of funding from the United Way of Southwest Alabama.   Because of this our organization experienced an $83,000 funding reduction with virtually no warning.   It wasn't a fair and measured funding cut and affected Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.   Both organizations are still reeling, working to continue to provide the quality of service we had with such a dramatic budget reduction.  

United Way givers tend to give on a monthly basis through payroll deduction.   We have been unable to locate those individuals in the Mobile, Clarke, and Washington counties to give to us directly to continue to provide quality service to those locations.   We do want to acknowledge we continue to receive support from Wiregrass United Way, River Region United Way, Baldwin County United Way, Lake Martin United Way, Troy United Way, Selma-Dallas County United Way and a host of United Funds.   We appreciate their vision and investment in the future of their communities through shaping young leaders.

Fewer staff has a direct result in recruitment of fewer adult leaders and therefore serving fewer girls.   The girl numbers last year were frightful, and it is heart breaking that girls who would like to be Girl Scouts cannot do so because of funding.   Fewer girls resulted in a much smaller cookie program, which is the primary source of our revenue, at 75 percent.    Thus, as we worked to reduce expenses through staff lay-offs, our revenue spiraled in a negative direction.

We continued to offer more than 50 council-hosted programs during the year, working hard to serve the girls who were committed to Girl Scouts.   Those programs included some great STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs.   We also partnered with the local universities to have events on their campuses, often using current students to assist in providing some great fun activities for girls.    Summer resident camp was a great one.   We had many girls who were willing to experience the great outdoors and move out of their comfort zones by trying things they haven't before.   That ran the gamut from mounting a horse, to putting their face underwater in a murky lake to riding the zip line.

We had five girls earn their Gold Awards last year with some outstanding projects.   This is a significant accomplishment for these girls.   It includes not only their project, which has to be significant and sustainable, but they have to complete hours of other Journeys and requirements as a part of that significant milestone.   The girls who earned their gold award last year are Morgan Alford, Amerie Gramelspacher, Katie Kirk, Bailey Sawyer and Rebecca Pober Citrin.    More information about each girl and her project can be found in the annual report.   We are very proud of these girls as well as the 27 that earned their Silver Award, and the 112 that earned their Bronze Award.    These girls are changing their world now.

Another of last year's challenges was the number of significant water leaks at Camp Scoutshire Woods and Kamp Kiwanis.   With a harsh winter the water lines, buried not far below ground level broke with a spill at Oka Misha at Camp Scoutshire Woods dumping 1,000,000 gallons of water into the lake.   The rangers worked most of the winter months addressing the water leaks at both camp properties.   As we replaced water lines we also put in additional valves so we can isolate one unit from another to turn the water off.

Since we were precariously close to ending the year spending more money than we brought in, we had our forester evaluate the pine plantation at Camp Sid Edmonds.   That pine forest was mature and needed attention, so we clear cut 69 acres of the pine plantation there to address the revenue shortfall.   It was a good time to cut timber and the funds produced from the pine plantation closed the revenue gap from fewer girls and a tough cookie program.   The pine forest will be replanted in January 2016.

The best part of the annual meeting is always awarding the Volunteer of the Year to one of our wonderful volunteers. This year's recipient was Barbara Mitchell.   Barbara has delivered Girl Scout programs and served as a role model to girls in the Dothan Public Housing community for more than twenty years.   Please read this blog entry about her many accomplishments..

For the entire annual report and financial report, please click here.

BarbaraMitchell2015VoY.jpgLifetime Girl Scout Barbara Mitchell is an amazing woman. She has worked tirelessly to provide Girl Scouting to girls in Dothan's public housing community -- changing lives and certainly making the world a better place.

Barbara came to Girl Scouting through her work at the Dothan Housing Authority where she served as a liaison between DHA and its residents by engaging and involving them in worthwhile activities, events and challenges on both a personal and community level.

Barbara has always believed the easiest way to reach adults would be through their children. It was because of this belief that Barbara started both Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops in the housing authority.  Girl Scouting specifically began there in 1995 and has been going strong thanks to Barbara's leadership ever since.

The size of the troop took off and grew by leaps and bounds. For years the rolls grew with repeat registrations of twenty to thirty girls and added new girls. The top enrollment grew to 67 girls!

Barbara met with different groups of girls five times weekly - one day at each complex - until their numbers were such that we transported and met with one level per day. People from the community were brought in to do programs, and were invited to join ongoing programs. These included programs with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, dance classes, basketball, volleyball, vacation bible school and arts activities, just to name a few.

Some of Barbara's favorite Girl Scout events over the years were part of the Studio 2B program for older girls. Barbara and her girls' favorite Studio 2B event was a Mini Destination to the caves in Chattanooga, TN. Of course, they drove up to Chattanooga the evening before. Barbara says they dubbed themselves "the troop who liked to sleep around." If they could find a way to stay overnight, that's what they did. On this trip they didn't just stay over one night, but two -- enjoying all of Chattanooga . . . Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls, Rock City, Market Street Bridge, and the Chattanooga Choo Choo.

Barbara says the girls' most memorable trip, though, was to Plains, GA, where they visited with President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalind. President Carter taught their Sunday School class, and the girls attended worship service with he and his wife. After service, they allowed the girls to take pictures with them, and they visited the library, museum, his boyhood home, the campaign office, and road the train.

In 2008, Barbara retired from Dothan Housing Authority, but not from Girl Scouts. She decided to continue what she had started and remains a dedicated volunteer -- serving girls who benefit so greatly from our program.

Barbara is grateful to the Dothan Housing Authority for providing meeting spaces, transportation and support and to the staff and volunteers of our council who have supported her in her efforts to make the world a better place for girls.

Barbara also sends love to her special guests, Ida Danzy, Pat Williams, Cathy Walker, Ahneysha Jackson, Sheila Twiggs, and all the girls and families she's had the pleasure to serve.

We thank you, Barbara, for your continued work to create girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

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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!

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