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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LINK TO SURVEY

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

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

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

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

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

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We've spent the week working on delivery schedules, packing in cookies at the cookie cupboards and pantries, and cleaning up issues with swipe devices, so clearly the cookie chaos is about to commence.

The council goal for cookies this year is 913,488 packages or boxes of cookies.   Now, that is a lot of cookies.   This amount is what we sold last year, so we know it is achievable.   Our girls are some of the most prolific cookie sellers in the nation, with our per girl average at 200 for last year.   We hope to exceed that and the number of boxes sold.   We believe we are well positioned to make that happen.

Each year at this time, we always start planning for resident camp in earnest.   One of the goals is provide some new opportunities for the girls if we achieve the council goal.   In the past, you may recall we have purchased stand up paddleboards when we made our goal.  Another year, we installed zip lines at two of the camps because we exceeded our council cookie goal.   This year, I'm in search of what would motivate girls to work hard to sell cookies.   One item on my list is to purchase more Jon boats (flat bottomed), so girls who cannot use the canoes are able to get out on the lake in a boat.   Jon boats are much more stable, hold more girls, and you row rather than paddle, ergo the famous camp song "Row, Row, Row, Your Boat."   Purchasing more stand up paddleboards is another possibility.   We are open to suggestions on this, please give us your thoughts at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

I always feel compelled to remind troop leaders and parents that ABC Bakers, our cookie baker, has some great apps that make the cookie program a learning experience for the girls from every angle.   The app for girls to use during the cookie program is called COCO.  Click here for instructions on downloading and using the app.   I believe girls not only learn while selling cookies; when they are at home they can set goals, and establish them in a visible way they can track via the app.   The cookie program presents a great opportunity for girls to learn about the work of commerce.

I hope the cookie delivery went well and your sales are looking great.

Thank you for all you do this time of year to create girls who are young entrepreneurs and business women.

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This also means that it's time for the increase in media around the between Girl Scouts and their "supposed" connection Planned Parenthood.   This is when we receive a number of calls from troop leaders, who are blind-sided by this false claim. This time of year, there is a tremendous amount of publicity about the Girl Scout cookie sale, which produces more than $700 million in sales across the United States and is the world's largest girl-led entrepreneurial project.  Some media outlets try to gain attention to their own agendas by asserting that Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood have a relationship.   Let me be clear -- we don't.

I spent 30 years in higher education, where at least twice a year I was either on television or in the newspaper about some university-related issue.   I was always stunned and amazed that my quote was chopped off, cut up, or the sound bite wasn't the part of the interview where I was making my point.   I have some first-hand experience on how the whole truth doesn't necessarily occur in our sound-bite, twitter-sized world.   I also know that not everything I read in the media, see on television, or see on a facebook or twitter feed is true so I work hard to figure out what information I believe is true in the avalanche of information that comes at me each year.

What we see is a number of organizations that use this time of maximum attention toward our organization to assert there are conspiracies, hidden relationships, and other activities going on that don't fit with the nature of Girl Scouts.   We spend lots of time responding to volunteers' and parents' questions concerning this issue.   We can only supply information about Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama.   Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama's board has met and discussed this matter. Attached is the link that spells out GSSA's policy with respect to Planned Parenthood and other sensitive issues.   We don't have a relationship with them now.   We don't plan on having any relationship with them in the future.   We believe these value-laden discussions are best handled in the family and the church.

I cannot speak for GSUSA, but my experience of many meetings and telephone conversations with other Girl Scout CEOs across the country is that there is no discussion about a relationship with Planned Parenthood.   Each year we receive calls from frustrated volunteers and parents who have experienced someone in the girls' faces talking about Planned Parenthood and Girl Scouts.   It is often someone who is unreasonable.   You have to wonder about an adult who would do that to a girl working to sell cookies.   Rather than have the upset parents and volunteers, we wanted to get ahead of this issue for this cookie sale.  

We believe we are well positioned for a great program.   We have access to many more Wal-Marts than in the past, as well as other businesses.   The cookies are on order and will be here before we know it.   We appreciate all the work and effort you put into the world's largest girl led entrepreneurial endeavor.   Please let us know if you have encounters on the issue of Planned Parenthood or irrational individuals at cookie booths, so we can pass it along to others at that location.   Every year I'm amazed by the girls who were quiet and shy before he cookie program and blossomed learning business values through one of many of her Girl Scout activities.

 

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I drove out of my own neighborhood last night long after dark. Clearly I don't do that much, since I was stunned and amazed at the holiday displays throughout the neighborhood where I live.   Clearly, most went to great effort to celebrate the holiday season.

As the year starts to wind to a close, it is good to take stock of what has transpired in the months before.   I'm always struck with the generosity of Girl Scouts, their troop leaders and families.

The spirit of giving was illustrated for me earlier this week when Leslie Lerner, one of our tremendous volunteers, was in asking for some public relations for an event being held at St. Paul's Episcopal School in Mobile.   The Daisy troop there, whose leader is Michelle Autio, hosted a party for the girls from the Augusta Evans School troop.   The girls at Augusta Evans are developmentally challenged, and the Daisies were paired with the older Augusta Evans girls to make a couple of holiday ornaments and decorate a holiday bag for their belongings.

This Daisy troop girls even went to Build-a-Bear Workshop and made a bear for the girl with whom they were paired.   They gave them the bear that they made at the end of the party.   What a wonderful gesture of generosity.

I heard about another troop that spent last Saturday morning at a home for the elderly in Montgomery.   The Brownie troop caroled for them, and then joined the residents to make ornaments for them to hang in their rooms. At the end of that event, one of the girls told her mother, "We had so much fun making crafts with our new friends! This was the best Girl Scout day ever!" It's wonderful to hear of girls learning to enjoy that special feeling of giving back to their communities.

Last week, I also was privileged to honor Mrs. Grace Leonard of Montgomery as one of "Juliette's Pearls."   Mrs. Leonard is a wonderful woman, who rose to the occasion to serve girls repeatedly, because if she had not, the troop would have disbanded.   Her entire family was there and what a wonderful tribute to hear those who had been in her troop talk about her gifts to them.

In this season of giving, it is good to be reminded that you are giving of yourself to others.  Sometimes we don't recognize or understand the significance of how a seemingly small thing can create a lasting impact on a girl.   Hopefully, during the chaos and excitement of the season, you have time to reflect on the gifts you have given to the girls you work with and the ones they give to you in return.   Thank you.

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It seems funny that in December we are planning for summer camp, but that we are.   We have to get it done prior to the onslaught of the cookie program as it moves into a full gear.   I thought I would outline some things we are considering, asking for your input.

1.    We will work to offer a day camp option for both camps.   If your daughter/girl doesn't want to spend the night away from home, this is a way for her experience what camp has to offer.   We expect to have girls dropped off at the service center by 8 a.m. each day and return by 5 p.m. each afternoon.

2.    We are considering an older girl program at a different venue.   We discussed a survivor format and another geared toward environmental issues.   One of the venues under discussion has facilities for horses, so another option under consideration is horsemanship for older girls, who have already experienced the horse program at Camp Scoutshire.

3.    We are planning to bring in more outside resources during the camp day so girls can experience things, like meeting a raptor or seeing a king snake up close, that this area has to offer.   The program will be geared to earning Girl Scout badges, as well as a great learning experience.   We are educators and want this to be a fun and educational experience.

4.    As a part of that program enhancement, we will be having more GSSA staff and volunteers working at camp during the day.   We know we have volunteers with great expertise, who are not in a position to leave their families for a week, so we think this might be a good option for them.

5.    We have dramatically cut the number of camp sessions offered, since we had many more offerings than we could fill, so the curriculum will move to a thematic offering with programs embedded at different age levels.   Hopefully, that will simplify choices.   As a part of that change, we will have every girl receive an opportunity to try all activities camp has to offer.   We received a lot of feedback last year that this didn't happen, so this year we will work to address that.

6.    We are also discussing a day camp program for older girls on robots in or around the Montgomery area in the late summer.

On another note, the Mobile County School District lags most of the rest of the council as to when classes are over, so we have to work to accommodate as many as possible as we plan our dates.

The tentative camp program dates for summer 2014 are:

Camp Scoutshire Woods Week 1: June 8 - 13, 2014

Camp Scoutshire Woods Week 2: June 15 - 20, 2014

Kamp Kiwanis Week 1: June 22 - 27, 2014

Kamp Kiwanis Week 2: June 29 - July 3, 2014 (camp will end on the 3rd, to allow for an enjoyable 4th of July)

The camp program themes are:

Pioneer Rustic Girl Camp

Outdoor Adventure Camp

Creative Arts Camp

Experimental Explorers Camp (STEM)

We welcome comments or feedback on any of the above.  Please direct these to communications@girlscoutssa.org.  Thanks! 


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Each year at this time, we decide upon a Girl Scout alumna in the northern part of the council to honor in conjunction with our holiday open house.   The potential recipients are always fascinating and extraordinary women.   I want to share some of the story of the special woman we are honoring from 4-7 p.m. on Thursday, December 12 at the Montgomery service center. Please stop by if you can.

This year's "Juliette's Pearl" is Mrs. Grace Leonard, a lifetime Girl Scout.  Mrs. Leonard has been involved as a Girl Scout for 45 years and started her involvement in Hawaii in 1968.   Like most of you, she started as a helper for her oldest daughter's troop.   The following year she became a Brownie troop leader.

Mrs. Leonard's family moved to Virginia, where she served as the leader for two troops.   While she was there, the leader for two other troops resigned, and the girls needed a troop leader, so like many of you, rather than disappoint the girls, she took up the challenge.   This made her the troop leader for FOUR Girl Scout troops there.   She said it was hard, but she did it for the girls.   The same reason many of you continue your involvement -- for the girls.

When they moved to Alabama, she led three troops.   She had a Junior troop, a Cadette troop, and a Senior Troop and continues to foster relationships with the girls from her troops.

Through her years of involvement with Girl Scouts, she has witnessed first hand how much the Girl Scout program taught the girls, how they enjoyed the experience, and wanted to remain involved.   Through Girl Scouts, her daughters and others had the opportunity to travel and go places, such as Savannah.   One of her daughters started caving and backpacking, which is a lifetime activity she still participates in today.   Her daughter continues to serve as a troop leader in Hope Hull, and although Mrs. Leonard isn't a troop leader, she continues to give her time to her daughter's troop.

We want to thank Mrs. Grace Leonard, a lifetime member of Girl Scouts, for her contribution to the many girls she has served over her 45 years as a Girl Scout leader.   Thank you, Mrs. Leonard, for making the world a better place through your service to others.

If you are unable to come to the reception in person and have good wishes you would like to extend to Mrs. Leonard, please send them to mstallworth@girlscoutssa.org.  We will read them to Mrs. Leonard at the reception.


We give thanks...

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This is the time of year when we are transfixed by the beauty of the harvest moon.   The cotton is thick on the plants, ready for someone to harvest it to create warmth and cover for someone.   As I drive up and down I-65, the trees are burnt oranges, reds, and yellows, noting the change in the temperature and the onset of winter.   Harkening back to the pilgrims, this is the time of year we give thanks; thanks for the bounty we have been given.

Those of us who work at GSSA give thanks for those of you who volunteer your time, talents and share your gifts with girls to create a confident, courageous generation of girls who will change the world.   Through volunteering, you change the world, one girl at a time, and one event at a time.   We have the privilege of seeing that in action every time we attend a meeting, participate in an event, or experience a program.

We are grateful for the girls, who would rather spend their time honing their skills than sitting in front of the television or their electronic devices on Saturday morning.   These are girls of action who take risks, move out of their comfort zone, and try all sorts of new things.   These are also girls who learn to relate to one another.   They learn the art of talking and listening to their peers.   They learn to negotiate decisions with others participating.   They learn how to get along with others.   These girls will become exceptional adults.

We are grateful for the opportunities to explore nature and the outdoors with the camps and properties we have access to.   We have the opportunity to enjoy beautiful lakes, trails, tents, buildings, and kitchens in the woods all over our council jurisdiction.   We are grateful to have access to opportunities that arise from these properties that others do not enjoy.

We are grateful to have the opportunity to serve our community and improve it -- whether that is through picking up trash where we meet to providing a library for our school that didn't have one.   Girl Scouts serve their community and perpetuate respect for flag and country.   We are grateful to live in a country where we are free to do that.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

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Why be a Girl Scout?   There are many great answers to this question that we ask folks this time of year, but here are some of my top responses.

1.    Girl Scouts provides a learning opportunity that shapes values around loyalty, patriotism, and a reverence for those who have sacrificed to give us freedom.   While the kids around you are daydreaming through the Pledge of Allegiance or a flag ceremony, you know what it means.   You know these symbols signify something larger than you.

2.    Girl Scouts learn to develop friendships and frequently lifelong relationships with others, both peers and adults.   Every time I'm out I have someone talk to me about an adult that influenced them that might have been their Girl Scout leader or someone in their troop they are still friends with, years later.   Girl Scouts learn to interact with others in a setting other than school where you can make decisions about the fun things you want to do.   They also shape healthy relationships.

3.    Girl Scouts participate in activities, programs and events that you might not otherwise have access to.   Girls in Southern Alabama sleep on a battleship, dig in the mud at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, ride zip lines at Kamp Kiwanis and Camp Scoutshire Woods, and go behind the scenes at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, among many other things.   Girls have fun with their friends while learning and doing in a safe environment.

4.    Girl Scouts master DISCOVER, CONNECT, and TAKE ACTION as keys to learning and how they view the world.   They can take these easy to use keys and apply them to everything throughout their lives.   They learn to give voice to their concerns and take action to make their community better.

5.    Girl Scouts become members of the largest female alumnae association in the world.   They are a part of a sisterhood of women who care about their community and have become women of confidence, courage and character.

Why did you become a Girl Scout?   Share your stories of how Girl Scouts has contributed to your development.   Let us hear from you!

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It's time for the fun ... we are pleased and delighted to have so many new troop leaders, parents, and especially girls this fall.   That is always a positive for all of us.   In the past week or so, I have been in numerous conversations about what Girl Scouts does for girls.   The good part of my work is that I often get to see that up close.

I was at an event this weekend and talked to a troop leader about the work her troop is doing for abused children.   She has older girls, and each week they do programming for children who have been abused.   Teenagers are often a challenge, but she reports that when they see what happens to other children, they are so grateful for what they have and their own parents and family situation.   What a great learning experience!

I had another leader talk about her experience with Brownies.  At the first few meetings, it sounded like controlled chaos, but she said now you can see the troop taking shape with the girls relating to one another.   They are making friends with other girls in their troop they didn't know.   What a joy to watch, she reported, as they are learning to make new friends.

The third conversation I had was someone reporting the family had enrolled their daughter in Girl Scouts to "change her attitude."   So far, it has actually "changed her attitude."   What an interesting experience to use the fun of Girl Scouts to change girls and eventually change the world.

We had a board meeting last week during which the discussion focused around fund development and the belief that our strongest case to make to a potential funder is that we change the world through girls.   Given the rest of my weekend, all of that conversation was reinforced.   We do change the world by making girls aware of what goes on around them.   Girls learn to discover their world, once discovered they connect how they can change and improve their world, from there Girl Scouts take action.   The three keys to Girl Scouting are so simple, yet so profound.

We hope your Girl Scout is having fun while learning to change the world.

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I'm from the Midwest, so a pressure washer is a foreign object to me.   In the Midwest, you worry about snow, falling leaves, and grass seed.   There is little need for a pressure washer.   One of my friend's husbands invested in one a number of years ago, being the only one in his neighborhood to have one he thought he would be helpful, since there isn't a lot to use one on.   He offered to wash their windows with his newly acquired pressure washer.   After he blew out the second window on a neighbor's house, he gave up being a good neighbor, and I'm sure the rest of the neighborhood was grateful.   With that as a backdrop, I recently purchased a pressure washer with some trepidation.

The first issue is getting the pressure washer to work.   After enlisting others to assist me in getting the object together, the first one was returned.   On the second pressure washer, it was another problem. The first difficulty I overcame, but the second was that the spray gun would not go together.   Happily, the college student next door had the good sense to recognize there were more parts available than what I was using.   Managing a pressure washer takes some patience, and it doesn't move along the timeline one desires.   In the end, what I found was that a pressure washer was analogous to working with children.

I was excited to take charge of the pressure washer and get the job done.   What I soon discovered was the pressure washer had a mind of its own.   I suspect this isn't too different than your child.   The other early thing that I learned is that this is dirty work; it is best to be prepared because you will get dirty.   Again, this is something analogous to raising children; it isn't always smiles and roses.

During the four-hour adventure I had with the pressure washer, I had plenty of time to muse (this must be why Southern males so enjoy their pressure washers).   I could hear two others in my neighborhood while I had mine working.   There was time to ponder how pressure washers are like working with kids.   When I got too close and decided to blast away, most of the time the dirt came right back in my face, and I didn't accomplish what I had intended.   However, when I was back with an angle that gave me some perspective, it was easier to see what was going on, and I did get done what I wanted to accomplish.   I worked with college students for 30 years.   This conclusion is the same as I would have with them, too -- close didn't achieve the desired results, backing off and gaining perspective achieved results.

Even hours into the job, it was clear I wasn't going to get everything done I had hoped.   I could only do part of what I needed to do, because it was too much.   I was trying to eliminate years of growth.   I had to focus on the part that I could accomplish that day, returning later to work on more of it.   This is true of children too; sometimes it is to make one point, give that time to soak in and then return to continue to shape the outcome you hope.

For years, I worked with parents who had college students that were a challenge.   Sometimes I met the parents and thought, "nut didn't fall far from tree."   Other times, I met the parents who could not understand how the student managed to get into so much trouble. They were often lovely people, and the student bore no resemblance to them.   In both cases, the pressure washer was at work.   When there was too much pressure, the situation blew up and didn't produce what was desired.   But the gentle, focused, systematic pressure that you pay attention to does often reap desired results.

In my current work, I often have occasions to see parents at work.   There's one in particular that stands out.   With the focus on bullying, this girl reports she is bullied frequently.   Interestingly, I've never seen this girl bullied, but the mother is aggressive about anyone speaking to the girl in a manner that she perceives as bullying.   I always wonder how well this girl will adjust, since everyone has pressure in life.   How you deal with the pressure plays into how happy and content you will be.   I question the wisdom of always responding, rather than encouraging healthy responses to the pressures of life.

My deck isn't finished, despite a lot of work this weekend.   Because of the nature of growth in the South, it will never really be finished.   I will work on it again and focus on a different facet of the project.   But I have learned that blasting away too close doesn't produce the desired results.   Staying back, remaining focused, and applying steady pressure from a distance does create the desired results.

October 18, 2013

 

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Now that you're a Girl Scout, let's have some fun and learn while doing it!   Not only are the girls in this council successful cookie sellers, they have the benefit of some tremendous resources for programs.   We are fortunate to have an excellent program team that puts together great programs and leverages many of the resources of the council footprint.   I thought I would run through a few programs for girls to have some real fun with. It is important to register early since some of these opportunities will fill up!

Mobile - Scouting for Food - November 9 - we are partnering with the Mobile Area Council Boy Scouts of America to help feed the needy.   This is one of the largest one-day food drives to help supply area food banks as winter approaches.   Food is collected in bags and taken to area Greer's Markets.   This is a great way to contribute to the community and earn community service hours.

Auburn - Thin Mint Sprint/Glow Run - November 2 - we have had successful Thin Mint Sprints around the council.   This year the run/walk takes a new twist.   It is a glow run, which is the new trend in the running world.   It takes place in the dark, and runners/walkers will have the opportunity to participate in all sorts of glow fun!   There's glowing fingernail polish, a glow tunnel, glow face paint, a tot trot and glow games.   It's a great family fun opportunity to get some exercise and show off your inner glow!

Mobile - Kappa Delta Badge Day - November 2 - the KDs at the University of South Alabama are great role models for girls and host a badge day for girls of all ages to earn badge that reinforce becoming a girl of courage, confidence, and character.   There are badge opportunities at every age level.   The KDs spend a great deal of time on this opportunity and everyone I've talked to about this event says it has had the girls spellbound.

Troy - High Adventure at Camp Butter & Egg - November 9 - we are proud of our zip lines, but Camp Butter & Egg has climbing walls, climbing nets, double zip lines and a number of high-adventure elements to challenge even the most adept Girl Scout.   Using this camp provides a tremendous opportunity for girls to put their skills to the test in a safe and friendly environment.

Montgomery - Zumba - November 16 - do you love to dance?   Do you enjoy getting some exercise while making some great moves on the dance floor?   Come to Zumba at the Montgomery Volunteer Center.   Dance to the music with your Girl Scout sisters, have some fun and get that body moving!

Montgomery - Handmade Holidays - November 23 - the holidays are right around the corner.   Do you prefer to give gifts that express your inner artist?   Handmade Holidays is the girl event for you.   Make cards, crafts and a canvas while listening to holiday music.   This is a great way to get a jump on holiday shopping.

This is just a sampling of the many fun events and activities to get your Girl Scouts out and having some fun while learning skills.   Others with deadlines and pertinent information can be found on www.girlscoutssa.org under the events and programs tab or subscribe to the weekly GSSA e-newsletter.

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First, I hope most of you are getting used to E-Council. We have received feedback from many volunteers who seem to love it.   It is much easier to use and saves lots of time from your end and ours.   We have discovered that many of you do not yet have council debit cards.   One of the things we have discussed on that is you can pay for it personally (using your own debit or credit card) and get reimbursed by your troop until you have a troop debit card in place.   We have heard that sometimes it takes the bank 10 business days to get you a troop debit card.   We won't be suspicious on troop audits if this fall girl memberships were paid to individuals so you can get registered.

The reason this is important is that the program module is going live very soon, and you cannot register for any programs unless you are registered in the membership module.   Thus, if you want to attend a council program, you will have to be registered in E-Council.   We have some great programs planned for girls, and we don't want them to miss out.

September 30 was the end of the council's fiscal year.   As we get close to the end of the year, if we have money left, then I try hard to address deferred maintenance issues at each of the camp properties.  One of the things we have been working on is the slipping sand at Camp Scoutshire Woods.   We were able to get more dirt, rock, and have some bulldozer work done to improve the perimeter road there.   Happily, we had a generous gift from our bulldozer contractor, which helped to make that happen.    At Camp Sid Edmonds, we replaced a culvert where the road washed significantly.   We were able to lay down rock on about half of the road there.   We did more rock on the road at Humming Hills, and Kamp Kiwanis got a new tractor, since the one there had not been replaced in years.

There is a large black bear that is in residence not far from Camp Scoutshire Woods, and we have seen photos of him.   He's a large guy, but the ranger has not seen him, and it is unlikely you will see him.   However, we are interested in safety, so please be on the lookout for bears on the property.   This summer, we also had an interloper who came on to the property at Camp Sid while there was a day camp going.   Because we are safety conscious and cell coverage is spotty at all our properties, we have purchased walkie-talkies for leaders when you are on camp properties.   When you arrive at the units, they will be checked out to you.   The base station is at the ranger's house.   Should you need any assistance or have an emergency, you can call via a cell phone or now use a walkie-talkie.

Hopefully, these improvements will make your stay at the camp properties safer and more enjoyable.   If you have not already registered for the 2013-2014-membership year, please register now.

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Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the Alabama Coastal Bird Fest.   If you live near the coast or simply love birds, this is well worth your time and travel.   It started 10 years ago when Dr. John Borom convinced a number of organizations to band together to offer an opportunity for bird enthusiasts to enjoy the wealth of opportunities the coast offers together.   In sharing their respective resources, there was a lot of opportunity to learn, share ideas, and locations for great coastal birding.

The Bird Fest is a three-day event with a wide variety of programs, trips, and opportunities to choose from.   The culminating event is a bird expo, which is a great family-oriented day of programming in Fairhope.   They had a raptor presentation by the Mobile School District Environmental Center with their osprey, barred owl and screech owl available to view up close.   All of those birds were injured and are cared for by the environmental center staff and used for teaching.   The Boy Scouts were giving away woodpecker houses.   The event was free, open to the public and had photography, other conservation organizations, sharing their opportunities.

The birding during the Bird Fest was fantastic!   I consider myself a neophyte in birding.   One of the trips I took had some serious bird watchers, who were generous in sharing their expertise and knowledge to a novice.  One of the days, we saw 47 species of birds.   Both days we had birders from Canada, England and all over the United States, so this Bird Fest has grown larger than just a local program.

During the event, I had an opportunity to meet the directors of the Wehle Center part of Forever Wild lands in Bullock County, the Weeks Bay Foundation, the Alabama Coastal Foundation, Five Rivers, and the Audubon Society members.   All these organizations have fabulous materials to make working with your girls easier and maximize the area's natural resources.   I was pleased to hear we had many troops participating in the Alabama Coastal Clean Up a few weeks ago.  We will be following up with those organizations for more specifics.   We will also be discussing how we can partner with these organizations.   In the meantime, here are their websites.

Wehle Center - Forever Wild - Bullock County - www.outdooralabama.com/public-lands/stateLands/WNC

Five Rivers Delta Resource Center - Spanish Fort - www.alabama5rivers.com

Mobile School District Environmental Studies Center - 6101 Girby Road, Mobile - open to the public, check hours

Weeks Bay Foundation - Fairhope - www.weeksbay.org

Alabama Coastal Foundation - Mobile - www.joinacf.org

Mobile Bay Audubon Society - www.mobilebayaudubon.org

 

 

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