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

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Lately there have been some challenging articles written by the mainstream media about our parent organization, Girl Scouts of the USA.  

The focus is GSUSA has hired a consultant to reimagine its configuration now that there are 112 high-capacity councils across the United States, rather than the 330 councils, as it was six years ago.   They have pared the staff at GSUSA from more than 600 full-time employees to what is reported around 400 full-time employees.   Last week, those employees were offered retirement packages to encourage some to retire as Anna Marie Chavez works to "right size" the national organization to fit the needs of the councils.

As you may know, GSSA has had to "right size" a number of times to address tight budgets and a concern that we are too reliant on the cookie program for income.   We recently had to lay-off a number of staff because of the DEFUNDING by the Southwest Alabama United Way (Mobile and Clarke counties).   These budget shortfalls have consequences for those who work for Girl Scouts and for those we serve.

Just to provide some clarity about GSSA's situation in the context of the larger assertions in the media.   Yes, our retirement liability increases annually.   The staff members and I have spoken to Congressional aides about supporting the legislation providing relief from the requirement of having the retirement plan fully funded.

GSSA's membership bounces around and is very reflective of the national scene.   We had three years of modest growth, this year we are down in membership.   A large number of our members are girls in Head Start and other federally funded programs that were cut on sequestration, so the outlook there is a challenge.   There seems to be no logic in what years our membership is strong.  

This past year we encouraged service units who grew membership and cookie sales with a bonus to the service unit.   Of the 43 service units in GSSA, three received the membership bonus and eight received the cookie program bonus.   When we asked one of the service unit managers what she did differently to dramatically increase her girl numbers, she said she didn't know.

Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama were working to sell several of their camp properties.   Some of their long-time adult members were so irate about the plan that they have sued the council and been elected to the board of directors. 

We are very fortunate in regard to property. I had GSUSA property consultants in over two years ago, and we spent a week traveling each property with him making recommendations.   Our properties are adequately spaced apart from one another and in reasonable shape.   We would like a higher utilization of the properties.   I am looking at renting the properties to others on the weekends when they are not being used by Girl Scouts, since replacing lost income with new revenue streams is critical.   We have a long-range facilities master plan that we are working on.   You see some movement at each camp and office that comes directly from that master plan.  

Camp Scoutshire Woods is getting new kitchen equipment as we can find it (we try to buy government surplus items to save money) and a storage building near the recreation hall.   Kamp Kiwanis has a new sailboat loft being built.   Camp Humming Hills saw the addition of canoe racks and some canoes moved to that property.   At Camp Sid Edmonds, we worked replacing boards around the waterfront.

Clearly, as Girl Scouts we are at a crossroads.   We need to find more ways to raise funds from sources other than the cookie program.   The funding by United Way agencies in our community is struggling with more requests than funds.   There are more opportunities for troops to raise funds for their own activities, and we at GSSA are always interested in opportunities you see that we are not capitalizing on to strengthen our fiscal strength.   This is a girl organization focused on what is best for the girls who participate.   

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It is starting to get hot outside, summer is at our doorstep.  This is always the best time of year, as we have camps going on all over the council.   Resident camp started at Scoutshire Woods this week.   We have girls learning to ride horses, to survive in the woods, to swim, and how to be independent strong, confident girls.

This summer, we are fortunate to have a grant at the beach, so we have Beach Scouts going, a month long day camp for girls.   This is their second week, and they are having a blast.   Summer is a great time to continue learning, but learning by hands-on experiences.   Many children learn better with hands-on experiences, so we are pleased to have the opportunity to enrich girls' lives through summer experiences that build skills, push them out of their comfort zone, and get them into the great outdoors.   I hope your plans for the summer include great family time with your Girl Scout.

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A month punctuated with football players in pink spikes and hats, newspapers printed on pink newsprint and folks dressed in pink (we even have someone at the office with a pink strand of hair). It is the month where we think about breast cancer awareness.   Who among us doesn't have someone affected by this significant issue for women?

It is amazing to me how effective the pink campaign has been, and it is stunning  how many people and places have adopted the pink initiative.   It appears on office buildings with their lights illuminated as pink each evening, and even Drew Brees reminds us that breast cancer research provides more birthdays for mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and uncles.

During this breast cancer awareness month, a good friend of mine is in the battle of her life with hers.   She has just finished radiation, and has sores in her mouth, stiffness, and an upset stomach.   She was given only a weekend for her body to recuperate before she started chemotherapy.    Despite advances in nausea drugs and much lower doses of chemotherapy, she is still sick.   Her husband travels for his work, so a friend stayed with her last week.   She's been a role model to me for a while.    They diagnosed her after spending months looking at other reasons for her poor health.   When physicians finally isolated the reason to breast cancer, hers had advanced to stage 4.   They gave her a terminal diagnosis with an estimated timeline.

My friend is very accomplished.   She had a great career, which she can no longer pursue.   When I went to visit her, we walked her dogs, and I asked her how she coped with giving up something she loved.   She said she decided to live each day she was given.   Instead of chasing something elusive in her career, she spent her days watching the dogs chase bunnies, or smell the air.   She watched the flowers bloom and the seasons change, enjoying all of it.   As someone who could sometimes be dour, at no point did she indicate she wasn't going to beat breast cancer.  At that time, I did not know about the 16 months to live part of her diagnosis.   She never let that slip from her mouth to me or others.

Last January, she said she and her husband were having a party.   I asked her why, and she said that she had exceeded the estimated timeline.   She was living on the other side of what her physicians thought she would.   She reminded me that each day to us is a gift, and we need to make the most of it.   My friend has served to remind me that we need to spend our time on issues and initiatives that matter.   I'm amazed at her positive attitude, even though she can no longer eat any of the foods she loves and do many of her favorite things.   I'm amazed at how she does something each day that she enjoys, since she recognizes it is a gift.   I'm amazed that at no point has she felt sorry for herself, whined or done anything to lash out at what must feel like injustice.

We all know someone who has battled breast cancer.   During this month when we are reminded of its impact, remember those who have taught us to appreciate each day we are given.

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As I read the many articles in newspapers, e-mails that I receive from other councils, and publicity we receive, it is clear Girl Scouts are still going and going strong!   I've been entertained by the many events and activities girls are doing throughout the country for the 100th anniversary.   And I'm excited about our own events and activities. 

Just yesterday, I had the pleasure of enjoying the Mobile Museum exhibit of 100 Years of Girl Scouting.   What a tremendous display it was! Kudos to our heritage committee for their gift of talents and time to show our girls and the community Girl Scouts through those 100 years.   We will have parts of that display and more for an exhibit in Old Alabama Town in Montgomery, and we are working on finding secure locations for the exhibit in the Wiregrass and Auburn/Opelika area.

What transcends all these articles, events, news releases and programs is that Girl Scouts has taught girls to be leaders for 100 years.   When you look at who was a Girl Scout, it is clear that leadership with these girls is not new.   In fact, leadership comes through when you read the many stories about women and what they did with their Girl Scout experience.

Girls have been taught skill building throughout these 100 years.   At first, it might have been about how to build a fire.   In fact, it is still about how to build a fire, but some of the badges are about cooking and guess what; some of the badges that were popular to begin with are still popular now.   With the changes in girls, there are badges on robotics, computers and a variety of other things that didn't exist when Juliette Gordon Low was alive.

One of the hidden values in being a Girl Scout is having a relationship with another adult who isn't a parent and might not be a relative.   I have heard Girl Scout alumnae of all ages talk about how much their troop leader shaped their live.   I've heard of troops that continue to meet, and even 30 years later that is an annual meeting they make sure they attend.   It is important for you to recognize the impact a troop leader can have on the life of a girl.   And as an educator, I realize that often that isn't recognized until years later.

Recently on National Public Radio, they did a piece of the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts.   One of the values they discussed was the importance of girls getting along with other girls in a troop setting.   For anyone that has done a cookie booth, maybe things aren't always even in life, but learning to share, understand what others are good at, and how to cope with frustration is also a valuable life lesson.

We should celebrate!   Girl Scouts makes the world a better place, and now we are starting our second century!   Thanks for being a Girl Scout!

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 Okay, we are almost three weeks into the cookie program. Does it feel like an eternity to you yet?   Have cookies taken over your dreams?   Well, even if that's the case, so far everyone has done excellent work!  

I've tried to talk to as many volunteers as I can while they load cookies, and generally the conversation goes something like, "I was trying to unload cookies to a parent in a parking lot, someone saw the cases, came by and purchased two cases before I got them loaded."   Or my personal favorite, "I sold some cookies to some of my friends; they have now eaten them and are back for more."

Despite any chaos, you have successfully survived the first payment.   We have heard over and over again that, what makes you crazy about this isn't that you need to pay for the cookies, but chasing that errant parent or two in your troop who doesn't pay.   You have to bug them; you have to nag them; you have to call them again, and it makes you CRAZY!   And further, this is the same parent that drops their daughter off late, picks her up late, cancels attending an event the troop has paid for, or worse, forgets to tell you she isn't coming and you sit waiting.   At this point, you are entitled to the PRIMAL SCREAM!

Most of the volunteers I talk to, at some point in the conversation, talk about this very parent, and almost all troops have at least one them.   They are not necessarily apologetic about it.   When you are most frustrated with the hassle, it is this parent that you believe might well just send you over the edge!   SCREAM NOW!

So guess what, you are going to get your reward.   For 30 years I worked in student discipline at a college.   I would meet the student and think, "wow, they are impossible."   When things got really bad with the student, I got to meet their parents.   My conclusion was that, at least with the student, I had a chance for some change.   Too often the child was simply a lesser version of the parents, and some of the parents were pretty scary, and this was a very expensive university.  

You, as a volunteer, are getting the opportunity to change how it turns out.   You are going to do your level best to be sure that girl from the impossible parents doesn't turn into one.   You have made the world a better place.   And thanks for always being patient, always understanding and trying to make the best of a situation that is very hard.   It shows who you really are.   It's okay if you need to SCREAM again, we totally understand. We do it, too. 

EricG.jpgGirl Scouts of Southern Alabama is pleased announce that Eric Gallichant was recently hired to serve as the council's Director of Public Relations and Marketing.
 

Gallichant, who attended the University of South Alabama, has already hit the ground running, gearing up for the 2012 cookie season preparing press packets for distribution to area media. 

He is coming to the council with more than eight years of experience in public relations, having worked as the Public Information Officer for the Mobile Museum of Art and Mobile Police Department where he also served as a sworn police officer for 12 years. In his spare time, he serves as Treasurer for the Joe Jefferson Players, the oldest continually running community theatre in Alabama.

"We are delighted to have Eric join Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama. As a native Alabamian, he understands the needs of the communities we serve and shares in the mission of Girl Scouts. He's an amazing addition to our GSSA family, and we know that his being here will help us reach many goals in our 100th year of Girl Scouting." Dr. Liz Brent, CEO of GSSA, said.

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Coping with frustration ... Have you ever had a really bad day?   Have you gone to something and not had your expectations met?   Did you want something very much and not get it?   As adults, we have had to cope with all these things.   And we're lucky that someone, our role model, taught us how to do that. 

Role models come in good and bad examples.   I can remember situations as a child where I saw an adult respond to something, and thought to myself, when I grow up, I'm not going to do something like that.   When I was in higher education, I used to worry that today's college students were not well equipped to go out into the "real world."   Their parents would call and talk to me about concerns, when, in fact, many of those students were 21 years old. They were adults and had a voice.   I used to be more interested in what students said to me than their parents.   I wanted them to share their concerns.   As an educator, I paid more attention to their concerns than many of their parents.  

In Girl Scouting, we want our girls to have voice.   We want them to be able to cope with the frustrations, unmet expectations and experiences that come their way.   The Girl Scout Leadership Experience stretches girls.   It moves them out of their comfort zone to try to do things they might not otherwise try.   If sometimes they fail, which they do, these are also teachable moments.   As a role model and leader, you have the ability to turn a bad situation into a learning experience.   We won't always get what we want.   Life is a roller coaster of wonderful things, and unmet expectations, disappointments and challenges.   Hopefully, as the adult in their world, you are able to assist girls in how to respond to life's hard knocks with courage, confidence and character.

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