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

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At this point, after weeks of being around cookies and getting the money into the bank to pay for them, I thought it might be a good opportunity to remind you why you do so much work.   It is to have a lot of fun with your girls once the sale is over!

Glancing at some of what is on the spring calendar, it looks like a pretty good time to me.   This spring, we are again offering Night Moves in Mobile for older girls.   This is one of my favorite programs because the girls get to go to the Coast Guard base and see what they do there.   Last time we were there, they had gone out of their way to have all the women Coast Guard pilots come in for the program and bring their children.   It was a great way to show girls that you can have a great career in the Coast Guard and still have children.   Girls often get to climb in and out of the many aircraft in both hangers and meet the rescue swimmers.   It is a great program that shows off what careers happen at night.

Last year was the first time the Auburn University WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) group did a program for us called Pi Day.   This program received rave reviews and sounds like it will great again this year.   Girls participated in a large number of fun hands-on science experiments, making learn fun and exciting.   It is a great introduction to how STEM can be fun!

We have a new program in the Mobile area with Gulfquest, a new maritime museum.   It boasts many hands-on activities that teach about the Gulf Coast and the Mobile Tensaw Delta.   This is offered as an overnight. Gulfquest also has a wonderful view of Mobile Bay, where the boats and tugs go up and down to the state docks.

We have the Troy Kappa Delta Badge Day, another program that receives great reviews.   The KDs have been to us across the council footprint, but this is a wonderful opportunity for girls to interact with college coeds who are often role models.

At Scoutshire Woods, there's a day devoted to the It's Your Planet - Love It Journey.   There are all sorts of activities planned as part of that day.   One of my favorites is making bluebird houses.   I have long wanted to have bluebird houses put at all our camp properties, because bluebirds are hard to attract.   The program should be a great one.

There's an overnight camping trip to DeSoto Caverns, so you can test your spelunking skills. That's in Childersburg.   Another annual favorite is the overnight at the McWane Center in Birmingham.

Another of my favorite programs is the overnight at the Biscuits baseball stadium.   Just as a reminder, the staff members report that some parents get tangled up because they have not completed the background check, the link to that is http://girlscoutssa.org/volunteers/.

Thank you for all you do to make this endeavor a success - and be sure to enjoy the fruits of your labor in enjoying time with the girls at some of the wonderful events.

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It's cookie season, and we are grateful for the really great weather we had last weekend.   We had many reports of girls out and about selling cookies.   On my way out of the office door tonight, a car pulled up and the occupants wanted cookies.   I thought they were requesting an opportunity to pick up cookies, but they just wanted to buy two boxes of cookies because they were craving them.   We had the same thing happen last week in Dothan when someone wanted cookies mid-week and could not wait until the weekend to find a cookie booth.   Clearly, there's some pent up desire for cookies, and hopefully your girls will be able to meet the needs.

We have had some reports of locations that are especially particular about where girls are set up to sell.   Please comply with their wishes, since they don't have to allow us back and we want to cooperate with their hospitality.  Remember to check in with the manager and thank them for letting you be there.   To touch on professionalism, we thank folks even if they don't choose to buy.   We don't know their reasons, but need to respect their right to choose.   It is important to be an active cookie seller.   Having your ear buds in listening to music while the adults sell the cookies is not the type of girl entrepreneur image we want to present.   Being engaged and involved at a cookie booth is a great way to be part of a team.   I've seen some great photos of cookie drive-thrus from last weekend.   As always, if you have issues, concerns, suggestions, please send them to communications@girlscoutssa.org.

We have been working on the summer resident camp program.   We are delayed on that because we had to find a new partner to provide horses for our horse camp.   We are working with Riverside Ranch from Loxley.   We are delighted to have this new partner, the horses are coming to camp this year are beautiful.   Look for the camp program to be on our website shortly.   As always, selling lots of Girl Scout cookies is a great way to earn your way to summer camp.

We know you have been busy juggling cookies and dealing with collecting money from parents.   This is always a tricky proposition.   Each year, we have a troop leader who comes to us after the cookie program to admit there has been a delinquent parent in their troop.   It is someone they know, it is someone they trusted, but now they are in the hole financially and the troop's profit from the sale is gone because the parent owes that much.   As a reminder, we are always willing to assist with parents who are not paying.   We consider this theft from the girls in your troop.   If you have issues with this, please contact, Teri Eversole at teversole@girlscoutssa.org. Sooner is always preferable because it is important to minimize the damage.

Just a reminder please have the funds for the first part of your cookie payment in your troop account on February 10.  This ACH will be based upon all cookies picked up through February 3rd

Thank you for all you do with the cookie program.   We hope the girls are learning and having a great time!

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Bbbbrrrrrr, we are experiencing the El Nino, and the temperatures are dipping into unusual winter range for here.   Kudos to all of you who did show up at your booth sale or drive thru last weekend and sold cookies.   I've been enjoying the photos of girls on participating in Walkabout Weekend that are coming in.  They are always fun.

I want to give a quick an update from some of the chaos we have experienced.   We have been posting the new booth locations as they come in.   We have had fewer reports of issues seeing the entire booth scheduler, so we are hoping that is working better for everyone.   If not, please let us know.  We are working to address your frustrations as they arise, since selling cookies should be fun!   Also, let us know how the cookie drive-thrus are going. These are a new program for us this year, so we look forward to your feedback.

We brought in additional inventory in all cupboards, so we have plenty of cookies for you to pick up.   Simply put in your planned order and come to pull more cookies.   We are pretty close to getting ready to ping your bank account to see if our bank sees your account prior to the ACH withdrawal in February.   If you have not gotten your bank account information to Cheryl Miller, please do so.   If we have sent your troop an ACH in either direction, we probably have the right information for you.   We will ping your account, and then will work to give you a warning a day or before taking the funds your troop owes for the first part of the sale.

I haven't heard much talk about e-mails to others to purchase cookies.   Just a reminder, this is a very easy way for girls to learn about on-line marketing, and you don't have to touch the cookies, as they are mailed to the customer.   Last year, our online sale was .5% of our sale, while most councils grew their sale by 5% or 10 times more.   It's something to consider, and you can sell out of council with e-mails, so you can "guilt" the grandparents into purchasing cookies!   As a reminder, those e-mails cannot be forwarded, and the girls' information is protected in the software.

If you have a good story about your girls and cookies, we always love those.   We use many of your stories throughout our publications, so if you want to share, please send them to communications@girlscoutssa.org.

Thanks for all you do to make the cookie program a success. I'm grateful that the forecast for this coming weekend is more favorable for outdoor sales.   We hope your girls are learning for the world's largest entrepreneurial program.   Keep up the excellent work!

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Welcome to cookie chaos!   You would think, because we do this every year, we would simply get better at it each time we do it.   Well, we wish that were the case.   We do keep notes and make changes each year.  But, as we make these adjustments, things around us changes.   The software is tweaked, the staff changes, we have different folks in the warehouse, etc.   Those are but a few of the changes we're dealing with for 2016 cookies.


First, my apologies again for the IT glitches we encountered at the end of last week.   We had more issues cropping up than we could believe, and they were different in separate parts of the council.   One part of the council could only view one page of the cookie booths; some could not see any booths.   In the midst of trying to work our way out of issues with the baker, our phone system started acting up, so it was a complete mess. Rather than have some inequity in booth sign-ups, we decided to cap it where we were until we could work our way through the issues and address them.

 

We are one of the earliest councils to sell cookies (the "cookie season" runs from when we start through to April).   In this case, leading edge is sometimes bleeding edge.   We heard the GSUSA booth finder app wasn't completely working and there were issues with their cookie platform.  Our online cookie program remains with ABC Bakers, so we have not heard of issues on that.

We had to order all our gluten-free cookies early on (remember that deadline for Trios last Fall?) and commit to those cookies.   Because they are more expensive and have a different market, we do not over-order on those, so we are already out of gluten-free cookies.   However, they can still be purchased online from a girl, but we won't receive any additional gluten-free cookies in our service centers.

Thanks to all of you who did the Walkabout about over the weekend.   We heard great things about it from folks who were out there, and have received some fun photos that we will be posting to our Facebook page for our annual photo contest.   We are hoping for better weather as the cookie program continues.   It's not easy to be out there when the weather is cold, so our hats are off to you who were out and about!

The cookie drive-thrus are getting started this weekend, and we would appreciate your feedback on that endeavor. Please send comments and photos of your drive-thrus to communications@girlscoutssa.org.   We do track all your comments and discuss them during our frequent staff conversations.   At this point, those are almost daily because of the issues we have been addressing.

As always, we appreciate your professional attitudes, the great cookie outfits we have seen, and some really good advertising.   The creativity is wonderful and a tribute to all of you who have spent some thoughtful time with girls making it a fun and educational program!

Thanks for all you do to make this a learning experience.   Like you, we deal with cookies daily and hope you have some laughs along the way, because we certainly do on a regular basis.

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Don't you just LOVE a drive through?   I have some favorite fast food places, but two don't have a drive through, and I have to admit, I don't go to them as often because I have to get out of the car and stand in line to get my food.   That might be the epitome of laziness, but convenience matters in today's busy world.

With this in mind, the staff has been working hard to develop cookie booth drive thrus.   They have been outlining the rules so we comply with our safety standards, but still provide an opportunity for those who want to purchase cookies, but who might not stop at some of the booth sites to get their always-desirable Girl Scout cookies.

We have purchased drive-thru kits with safety materials, such as signage, cones, and laminated menu cards so we assure everyone involved is safe.   The service unit managers will be managing those kits, and there's a $50 deposit for each kit, so we ensure that troops return what they borrow.

Sign up for the drive thru is on the booth scheduler.   We have selected sites that have larger parking lots, have good visibility, and easily can take the traffic in one direction only, again to assure everyone is safe.   Because this is our first year doing drive thrus, GSSA staff will be visiting some of the sites to be sure safety guidelines are followed.  Because we have carefully chosen sites, we are not authorizing drive thrus other than those available in the booth scheduler.  Please do not hold an independent drive thru this year.

 Meghan Cochrane and her public relations representatives will be highlighting the cookie drive thrus as one of the new initiatives of this year's cookie program.

We hope you will find this as an easy way for your girls to get out and sell cookies without the hassle of moving lots of cookies from cars.   We welcome your feedback on this both now and during the sale so we can work to improve it for the girls and you.   Comments can be sent to communications@girlscoutssa.org.  

The rules and notes about a cookie drive thru can be found on our Troop Cookie Chair Resouces page, or click here.

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Where does the time go?   It seems like just yesterday we were heralding in 2015, and now it is gone, and we are looking to 2016.   But that always gives rise to a sense of hope, the future, and new opportunities.

We had a good 2015 -- lots of positive things happened.   There's a new porch on the rec hall at Camp Scoutshire Woods.   The vegetation has been sprayed at Camp Sid Edmonds.   Sadly, we lost our ranger, Ed Smith, in 2015. What a guy he was.   There's an observatory now at Kamp Kiwanis.   There were more than 40 council programs with around 2,000 girls attending those programs.   Girls had FUN, they developed and honed their leadership skills, and they changed their world.

We look forward to an even better 2016.   We are not far from planting a loblolly pine plantation at Camp Sid Edmonds, happening in late January or early February.   We hope it grows and does as well as the pine plantation we have at Camp Humming Hills.   We welcome a new co-ranger, Tom Tindol, familiar with Camp Humming Hills, to work with Wanda Smith to assure all troops that visit have a great time there.   We continue to address the many issues at Camp Scoutshire Woods, working to return it to its pristine beauty.   Amanda Abercrombie will be moving to Kamp Kiwanis, so we have someone physically living on the property, and we are working on getting new horses for the summer camp program.   The horses we had been leasing are no longer available, but some new animals will arrive at camp for the girls to fall in love with.

The more important part about looking ahead to 2016 is all the wonderful things the girls of GSSA will learn.   The cookie program has some great new opportunities, selling cookies to friends and relatives that might not live in the GSSA turf.   We have some great new programs lined up for the girls at the council level.   We have an overnight at Gulfquest, the new facility on Mobile Bay.   There will be a repeat of the dolphin program that was a big hit last year in Gulfport.   There will be outdoor badge days, focusing on the new outdoor badges, at both Camp Scoutshire Woods and Kamp Kiwanis, an overnight at DeSoto caverns and again Pi Day at Auburn University.

We are looking forward with hope and expectation to a great 2016.

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'Tis the season of giving, that time of year when we think of others less fortunate than us and the feeling we get when we give to others.   

I spent some time this morning with two wonderful volunteers.   They took over a troop that had some issues and have been working diligently for a long time to do what is right for those girls.   They are focused on teaching their girls life skills.   They are very active, but the troop leaders are focused on the girls having a great experience, which hadn't always been the case with this particular troop.   What a wonderful gift for these two women to step up, take over a chaotic situation, work with angry parents, forge their way through issues they should not have had to deal with.   I am grateful for what they do for the girls they work with.

We have thousands of volunteers and parents who toil diligently to make the world a better place by investing their leisure time in girls.   They invest in our collective future.   They make sure girls are where they need to be early Saturday mornings.   They pick up trash, they clean up campsites, they sing to the elderly, or work at the food bank.   They have a lot of fun, but that investment takes time and effort.   

At this time of year when we are grateful for our many gifts, we are grateful for all you do to turn girls into tomorrow's leaders.   You might not see the fruit of your labors, but by planting these seeds of leadership, you are changing the world.

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Predicting how cookies will sell is much more of an art than a science.   That is true from your perspective and ours, and it is always good to be reminded of this, as we wind up as the aggregate of all of you.   We work to pay a lot of attention to how rapidly cookies are going out of our 10 warehouses.   The patterns change from year to year related to the weather, enthusiasm on the part of the girls to get out to booth sales, and whether we have lots of criticism of Girl Scouts, such as the orchestrated Planned Parenthood affront during 2014.

Just as a reminder, we do not give money to Planned Parenthood. We have no relationship with them and believe that topics related to those issues are best managed at home and within faith communities.   For the GSSA policy on this go to What GSSA Stands For on the GSSA website

Why do we want to encourage you to do pre-orders/planned orders?   Last year, GSSA was left with $40,000 in excess cookie inventory.   At the end of the sale, we are not able to sell that magnitude of cookies.   We gave them to our First Responders and military, which was a great thing, but all of that is at the expense of GSSA girls, so we really do care about having you give us your best guess for pre-orders.   We work hard to have cookies on hand in case you get caught and really need them.   However, this year we will be much more cautious on how much inventory we have on hand.   Losing that much in cookie revenue hurts all the girls of the council.   We order cookies on Sunday evening, for delivery to our larger pantries at the Mobile and Montgomery service centers on Monday and Tuesday.   If you can submit your order for the following week by Sunday evening that would be a great assistance to us.   We can only guess from one year to the next, but the more you tell us what is going on with your sale, the better we are at predicting what your needs will be in the aggregate.

We do close off pickups and deliveries while we are replenishing our larger warehouses.   It is simply too confusing to have cookies going in and out at the same time with two folks there counting.   If you think you count a lot, think how much we count with cookies moving sometimes twice a week.   We work to replenish our inventory only once a week but sometimes that simply doesn't fulfill your needs.   We always hope the delivery trucks arrive on Monday, but that does depend on the schedule and workload of delivery agents.

If you see new patterns, or experience new situations during the cookie program, please let us know.   One year we had some issues in a particular shopping center. After we had to contact the police, others who had issues shared they had experienced the same thing.   If someone bothers you and/or there are issues, please let us know.   We work hard to monitor all our media during the cookie program with increased vigilance.   You can contact us at any of the following addresses:   communications@girlscoutssa.org, teversole@girlscoutssa.org, cmiller@girlscoutssa.org, mcochrane@girlscoutssa.org.

 

Giving Tuesday

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December 1, 2015 is #GIVING TUESDAY. A global day dedicated to generosity and giving back. Many not-for-profits use this day to kick off year end giving campaigns to solicit donations to support our mission and keep our organizations functioning. If you haven't already contributed, or even if you have, we hope you will consider an investment in the girls of GSSA.  Please ask your family members, friends and coworkers to support our girls and join us in this Season of Giving. We have a new online giving platform that is safe and secure.  It's easy to donate. Click here to make a one-time donation or to join our new monthly giving program. Our monthly giving program is an affordable way to support Girl Scouts using an automatic ACH withdrawal from your checking or savings account, or with a monthly charge to your credit card.  You can also use our printable form and mail in your donation.

Every day I have the opportunity to see what a girl can do.  It is pretty amazing.  Last weekend, Evie, a second grader, spoke to the board of directors of GSSA about her Girl Scout experience.  Evie tried camp this year for the first time.  She wasn't sure about spending the night, so she went the day camp route, so she could go home each evening.  The first day she arrived in her cowboy boots.  It's camp, so we encourage them to dress in whatever they desire.  At the end of the day, when her mother picked Evie up she asked whether or not the boots were hot. She admitted they were. Evie was concerned about snakes, which is really a normal concern and one we see daily. But, after a day at camp seeing no snakes, she summoned the courage to wear cooler shoes.  Her experience at camp was so fun she decided to invest her own funds and return for a second week and stay overnight.  It isn't every second grader who confronts her fears, finds she has the courage to do and try lots of things.  Evie is also learning the meaning of philanthropy. She saved her allowance money from her chores to donate to a charity - she chose to invest her hard earned $5 in Girl Scouts!  We want to thank Evie, because investing in girls will reap dividends years from now. Please follow Evie's example and support our girls.

We want to encourage you to invest in girls and your community for the future.  What sounds like fun and learning, actually results in women who are contributors to their community.  Just a few fun facts about Girl Scouts:  For every 100 girls who join Girl Scouts - 8 will enter a vocation learned through a badge or patch program, 12 will have their first contact with a church, 1 will use her Girl Scout skills to save a life, 1 will use her Girl Scout skills to save her own life, and 17 will be future leaders.  Consider a generous gift to GSSA on #GivingTuesday; it is a sound investment in our community. Because when a girl succeeds, so does society.


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I was driving between service centers last week, pondering the differences between a volunteer who was especially frustrating and another who isn't.    Most of my musing was on the latter volunteer, whom I won't name because she would be embarrassed by the attention.  

I don't always agree with this volunteer, but she is always working hard to communicate.   She talks to everyone in the service center.   About once a month, she calls one of the camp rangers, just to see how he is doing.   If she has time on a Saturday and knows there are girls at camp, she will drive up to talk to the troop leaders and meet the girls.   This individual's daughter aged out of Girl Scouts many years ago, yet she has remained involved and engaged.

Over time, this volunteer and I have talked about the realignment that occurred eight years ago, a discussion that was very hard on volunteers, benefactors and girls in the Movement.   We have talked about staff members. She always reports those who are helpful vs. those who could use a reminder about customer service.    I don't always agree with her, and she certainly doesn't always agree with me.   We have different perspectives, and that's just fine.   We view the organization from different perspectives, but I value what she has to say, even if I don't agree.   I've been mad at her, she's been mad at me, but we have continued to talk to one another.   We communicate through thick and thin, which I appreciate.

I have an abiding respect for this person.   I appreciate the value she brings to me and my work, but my respect comes from the fact that she has done this hard work for years, and she continues to be focused on what is best for girls.   She would say, in a self-effacing way, that her work is mostly with troop leaders. Really, though, her work is central to what all of you do for girls.   It is through women like this one that the organization has changed the world through girls for many years.     And we don't thank this individual as often as she deserves.   As I said, she would find this embarrassing.   She is one of many, but she is very special.

This is but one individual in this organization who changes the world everyday because of what she does for others.   Each of you do this often and change the world this way.   I am around girls who talk about their Girl Scout experience.   They talk about the fun they have.   They talk about the activities they participate in.   This would not be possible without you.   This organization would not continue to grow and thrive without you.   As we take the time to examine what we are thankful for, it is for each of you.   Thankful that you are kind and generous enough to use your time to invest in the girls you care about.

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It is hard to believe, but cookie time is just around the corner.   I was reminded of this when our public relations cookies arrived last week.   It seems like yesterday that we saw the last year's cookies head out the door.   Last year was a great sale; the girls did a tremendous job, as you did as leaders, and parents.   Thank you for that.   We hope to have an even better year this year.  Before we do that, though, I thought I would run through a few reminders.

Cookie training, which has a fun lemonade party theme in honor of the Lemonade cookie's 10th anniversary this year, is a good program to attend if you can make it fit into your schedule.   We have a representative from the cookie baker with us to talk about the changes they have made and new things on the horizon for the year.   This year, ABC Bakers has worked very hard to make the online ordering experience a better one for those using it, as well as you, so there are some improvements there.   Last year, our online sales generated less than one percent of our total cookie program, while most councils saw a 5% increase in sales through the online opportunity.   Clearly, there is room for growth there, and it is not as complicated as order taking and delivery.   If you have relatives and friends that live outside the GSSA footprint, here's your chance to garner some sales from them.

As always, it is good to have the leadership responsibilities outlined for your troop and service unit.   We have some great leaders in service units who can speak to how they are organized if you need pointers.   If so, please send Cheryl Miller an e-mail, and she can get you in touch with those tremendous volunteers, she is at cmiller@girlscoutssa.org.

With the retirement of Chris Shavers, Teri Eversole will be running the entire cookie program, and as you can image, this is a huge task.   Teri can be reached at teversole@girlscoutssa.org, or you can call either office and use extension 1302.   Please let us know if you have needs so we can address them.

Last year GSSA was left with more than $40,000 in excess inventory.   I realize it is often hard for you to predict what your needs will be, so we err on the side of having sufficient inventory.   This year we will be working with our inventory management more closely.   You can assist us greatly in this effort by always submitting a planned order.   This helps us pull what you need and assure we have the types of cookies you need on hand.

We had some folks take more cookies than what they could sell,  which is never a good thing, so we will be watching more carefully how much is taken out on the initial order.   We want the girls to be successful; we want you not to be cussing about cookies littering your entire home for the duration, so we will assist you in ordering wisely.

This year, we will be adding some drive through cookie booths around the council.   We have been working on safety rules to make this safe for your girls and a success.   We have targeted high-traffic locations throughout the council's footprint that we can get access to.   Look for those on the booth scheduler.   If you have any contacts that you believe would provide good drive through locations, please contact Meghan Cochrane at mcochrane@girlscoutssa.org, or call and use extension 2907.

As an educator, I'm always impressed by and want to encourage you to use the curriculum materials that go along with the sale.   ABC Bakers provides some great materials for girls to enhance their learning while doing, so try to use their on-line resources, they are really great!

We plan on doing a special segment called "Cookie Bites" throughout the program to communicate about changes, issues, good ideas, and how the program is progressing.  Look for those in the GSSA Weekly during the sale.  You also can sign up to receive reminders via text message on your phone.  To do that, please email Jennifer Thrash, director  of membership development, at jthrash@girlscoutssa.org.

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Recently, I was reading a biography of Juliette Gordon Low, who was an interesting and pioneering woman on many levels.  Even as a child, she was considered kind and good-natured, but eccentric.  Many of her experiments in kindness went awry.  Unlike other girls of her age and social position, she loved to hike, play tennis, and ride horses.  Again, areas atypical of her social station for the times.  Undaunted, she always felt she needed a purpose in life.  After meeting Robert Baden-Powell, she started what is now today's Girl Scouts.  When she saw how the many activities built self-confidence in girls, she found the purpose in life she was seeking.

How often do we see someone else who is a tad eccentric, enjoys activities her peers do not, and has a kind heart although things don't always work out?   We don't always know what lies ahead for the girls we serve.  But among them there will be more Juliette Gordon Lows, we just don't know it.  We can only hope all the girls we serve have the courage, confidence, and character to change their world as she changed hers.

Happy Birthday to our Founder, Juliette Gordon Low, who was born 155 years ago this week!

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GSUSA recently worked on introducing new badges using girl voting and input to determine what badges to pursue at what age level.   One set of badges revolve around the outdoors.   Girl Scouts has always been a leader in outdoors education, so this was a perfect match for them.

The Girl Scout experience offers prime forests, hiking trails, lakes and opportunities for girls in the outdoors.   My own view is that we offer some of the most pristine and best property in the State of Alabama.   We boast four very different camps, with differing opportunities at each.   I recognize they are not necessarily proximate to one another, but each has something unique to offer.

The Civilian Conservation Corps built Camp Scoutshire Woods, just a quick 45-minute drive from Mobile, when the economy was really a wreck during the Great Depression. The original buildings and lake were developed only from materials taken from that property, which is one of the things that make it unique and special.   The lake has a spillway that empties into a stream that is fun to wade in.   There is a wonderful hiking trail around the perimeter of the camp with different side trips that offer pitcher plants, a bog, and other interesting opportunities to see nature.   The frog pond on the property is wonderful, with a variety of frogs calling for mates throughout most of the year.   Our rangers have been rebuilding the porch on the recreation hall to bring it back to its original look using hand-planed Cyprus planks.

Camp Sid Edmonds in Bay Minette had a great deal of its pine plantation clear cut in the summer of 2014.   The result is an opportunity to really understand how a pine plantation works.   The quail are abundant, as are the snakes if the weather is conducive.   The inner part of the camp property was left intact, so you can still canoe in the large lake, have a campfire at the fire ring at the Scott House, or hike the perimeter of the lake.   The pine plantation will be replanted after the holidays, so we will be seeing first hand how the pines mature.

Another illustration of a good pine plantation is at Camp Humming Hills.   This is our largest property and has three lakes; one of which requires a very lengthy hike and is deep in the woods.   Humming Hills has the most unique dock I've ever seen, seemingly put together when the builder either didn't have a level or didn't care if it was hilly.   The pine plantation at Humming Hills is 3.5 years old, so the 117 acres we planted illustrate how quickly loblolly pine can mature under good conditions.   This property is the highest point in Coffee County, so you can see forever if you are on Tower Hill up high enough to get a good scan of the surrounding beauty.   The wildlife there is very abundant.   There's long been conversation about a jaguar seen there.   This has been met with some skepticism, but not long ago someone not far from Humming Hills did capture the photo of a jaguar on their game camera.   Humming Hills is located to the north of Elba.

Kamp Kiwanis is a property situated on the western arm of Lake Martin, near Eclectic.   It boasts 2.5 miles of Lake Martin shoreline.   It has two sloughs and islands.   One of the islands is accessible all the time, the other serves as a great place for spending the night during a survivor camp, but can be reached when the lake level is lower in the winter months.   If aquatic endeavors interest you, Lake Martin is the place to go.   It houses the council sailing program and pontoon boat.

For a mere $15, you can become a Girl Scout and for modest fees access all these properties by attending council programs, or with your troop or service unit.   During this time of year when many are talking about their hunting and fishing camps, I always think the girls and adults I have the privilege of serving really have "camps."   They have some of the best properties and opportunities the State of Alabama has to offer.   If you love the outdoors, being a Girl Scout is the best investment you can make.

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Fall is clearly in the air. Some mornings are cool and crisp, and the trees are just starting to take on another color. However, there seem to be plenty of leaves in my driveway each evening. Darkness seems to be earlier than before. It always seems to come on so quickly.

Each year at this time, I try to do my annual reminder that girls, parents, volunteers need to be registered, not just because we want them to be registered, but for their own protection and safety.

I recognize sometimes that registering can certainly be a challenge. The system was down last week without warning. We weren't notified, either, and found out through calls from many of you. We regret any inconvenience this caused. With registration comes insurance, so it is important that you and all those who participate in Girl Scout activities are registered. Being registered matters because, if there is an accident and you are not registered, you are not covered by Girl Scout insurance. The same is true of parents and others attending events.

We also adhere to GSUSA's Safety Activity Checkpoints on all activities that girls participate in. Their experts on risk management review these regulations fairly frequently to update them. There is always some tension between what girls want to do and the attendant risks. This summer there was a lot of changes and modification to those regulations. If you are responsible for an event or activity, please take a look at these rules to find what can and can't be done. These can be found at www.girlscoutssa.org, on the right hand side on the clipboard under FORMS are SAFETY ACTIVITY CHECKPOINTS, or you may click here. If you have any questions regarding those, Cheryl Miller is the council's resident expert, and she can be reached at cmiller@girlscoutssa.org or 334 272-9164, extension 2302.

We have been working hard to make training for you easier, many of the more technical trainings, such as basic camper training or canoe training, can be done ahead of time with the practical in-person portion of the course being completed in a shorter span of time, but you have to do the homework ahead of time and get it submitted. For more information about that, please contact Cheryl Miller. We are delighted to have a large number of volunteers already trained in camping skills and canoe for this year. It's always fun to get the girls in the outdoors during the fall while the weather is wonderful. We sometimes do have cancellations for the camp properties, so don't assume the camp isn't available for day use or an overnight. If you want to use a camp property, visit the Properties page on our website, or call either Service Center, Montgomery for Humming Hills and Kamp Kiwanis and Mobile for Camp Sid Edmonds and Camp Scoutshire Woods, and they can assist you on the reservation.

We hope you can find many opportunities to get yourself and the girls you work with outdoors and out in the woods.

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

 

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Why aren't more girls Girl Scouts?   This is an issue we grapple with on a regular basis at the council service center.   The short answer to that is, not enough adults are willing to step up and serve as leaders.   Each year every one of our field executives and their associates returns to the office with a story about how they held a recruitment event and no parents would volunteer to serve. It is hard to conceive that there girls waiting to be Girl Scouts simply because we cannot find enough adults to help.

At this time of year we are busy negotiating with troop leaders to add girls to troops who join, and there is no troop around for them to get into.   The parents won't do it, so we start our waiting list, which some year's reaches as high as 2,000 girls.   It is hard to understand how there can be at least 2,000 girls who want to be Girl Scouts who can't because of the lack of adults.   This time of year we are searching for those adults who want to have a good time with girls.   Is it hard work?   Well, it might be, although we have more materials to make it easier to start a troop.   It does require some time up front to become vetted so we are sure the girls involved are safe and we have appropriate safeguards in place for them.

You do not have to be a parent to serve as a Girl Scout troop leader, although most are because it brings a group almost automatically.    We are interested in any adults who have the desire to make the world a better place through girls.   We have recruitment events scheduled all over the council, you can see them listed on our Facebook page.   But, if you are interested in becoming a Girl Scout troop leader, contact Membership@girlscoutssa.org or call either service center and ask for a membership staff member.

We would love to have no waiting lists of girls this year that we wind up turning away because there are no adults interested in spending time with them.   It is fun and fulfilling work.

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It's time for some fun!   Now that school has started and everyone is starting to settle into a routine, it's time to look at your calendars and plan some fun.   That's the great thing about Girl Scouts, you can have lots of fun while learning things.

GSSA works to offer programs that an individual troop can't easily plan.   The program staff works hard on topics for events that girls will have a lot of fun with.   Those opportunities are listed on the www.girlscoutssa.org website under EVENTS and PROGRAMS   There are deadlines for each event, so pay attention to those, since some of the programs fill quickly.

The fall program schedule is chock full of great events spread throughout the council.   You can go back in time to the 1800s for a program in Dothan.   There's an archeology program called Dig In, where you explore the fun of learning what is in the dirt.   A program we have done parts of but will do a longer session is called Camp Conservation, where girls look at skulls, learn about water, recycling, birds and the environment.   The University of South Alabama is offering ChemScouts where girls can explore chemistry in a fun and exciting manner.   The Dauphin Island Sea Lab mini-destination is always a great program, but tends to fill quickly.   For those of you who are night owls, what about a program where you explore what happens at night in the outdoors?   Another fun program is the Princess Party with the Kappa Delta Sorority at USA.

Hopefully, you can find some fun programs for your girls this fall that everyone will enjoy.   Have fun while learning!

Our Fall Product Sale is starting soon.  This is a great way for troops to earn start-up funds for the year.  And, we promise, it really is easy!

 

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I have a lot of troop leaders tell me they don't participate in Fall Product because it is too hard.   I recognize that many schools have large fall fund-raisers and asking folks to purchase things gets wearying, even if it is fantastic Girl Scout cookies.   The fall product sale, though, is much quicker and easier than selling cookies.   The funds to the troops are higher, as well.  This program was developed so troops could earn funds to get started with each year.   Also, it tends to be oriented more toward friends and family and includes magazine sales.   Who doesn't like a good magazine or some delicious treats?

The products, if you are ordering nuts and candy, are delivered prior to the Thanksgiving holidays, which make them great for holiday gift giving.   The payback is quick and easy, too. If you are in a quandary, here's a link to the fall product family guide, take a look. Trainings will be presented on Sept. 12 (Montgomery) and Sept. 13 (Mobile).

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The school buses are choking the main thoroughfares, children are standing at the bus stop each morning, clean and pressed ready for the new year.   Every school in this council has now started, so although the temperatures and humidity are still high, the days are starting to shorten, and there is change in the wind.

As you work to get back into the rhythm of the routine of school, you ponder how you can get everything done and still have time for sanity.   In this age of enhanced communication, on demand video, and too much to do, it is hard to fit everything in on a daily basis.   I have long been a believer in "inertia."   The theory that a moving object remains moving and a stopped object stays stopped.   Most of you are moving parents, doing things to assist your child/children along in their journey to enhance their lives and bring them joy.

I was reading through some of the tributes to Mrs. Gloria Caddell, a longtime volunteer who passed away last week.   In my announcement I missed by 10 years, she had been a Girl Scout volunteer for 60 years.   Wrap your head around that number -- 60 years of giving to others.   As I read through the comments, all spoke of her joy, her ability to teach skills they still use today.   In her 80s, she was still teaching First Aid and CPR, I find that awe-inspiring.   My own theory is that, by giving to others for as long as she did, it was part of what fueled a fulfilling life into her 90s.

At the end of the day, when you take stock of can you do this and you don't have time for the many things you want to do, it is good to make time for the things that matter.   I have not met one volunteer who didn't have a girl who used her as a role model and idolized her in one way or another.   She might not be able to articulate that clearly, but it is true.    Girls matter, make the time to leave your world a better place.   Thank you for all you do.

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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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