September 2013 Archives

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"I can't wait to" ... this is the tag line for this year's Girl Scout recruitment activities.  Last Sunday, First Lady Michelle Obama was featured in a public service announcement for Girl Scouts on the importance of volunteering.   Please find this video on our website at www.girlscoutssa.org or at www.girlscouts.org.

Those of us who work for Girl Scouts know our volunteers are wonderful.   There isn't a day that goes by that I don't have some amazing moment or insight brought to me by a GSSA volunteer.   But our problem is always the same - finding adults who are willing to take the time from their busy calendars to become a volunteer.   This year, we are running behind where we were last year in recruitment, and not because we don't have interested girls.   We have lists of girls in every area who want to participate, but we haven't identified adults who will share their time.   If you know someone who might be interested, please have her check out the First Lady's video and the opportunities to volunteer on our website.

GSUSA is conducting a contest for councils, and the council with the most people who visit www.girlscouts.org and express an interest in volunteering will win $5,000 for their council.   There are lots of things we can provide the girls with for $5,000.   That would make possible some exciting programs that are currently beyond our budget.  Or we could purchase another zip line installation or three stand-up paddle boards for camp.   

Please help us make the world a better place by encouraging adults you know, who have an interest in girls, by encouraging them to volunteer by going to www.girlscoutsorg and clicking on volunteer.  It will take them to the volunteer page on our website where there is information on how to join us in growing girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place!.

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At this time of year, we are working to recruit new adults to work with girls.    Many adults find leading a Girl Scout troop daunting.   There's the paperwork just to get involved.  

As a reminder, we do this because we want the girls to be safe. You would be stunned at the number of adults who come back with issues that keep us from allowing them to volunteer.   After the paperwork, there's the online training.   Although not hard, it seems like there are plenty of rules involved.   Actually, becoming vetted to become a Girl Scout leader is probably the hardest part of the process.   The fun and value of the experience is being with the girls.

A number of years ago, I was with a brave Daisy leader who had a huge after-school based troop.   I was invited to do something with the troop.   When I arrived, there was noise and chaos -- girls laughing, playing, talking to one another. I wasn't sure what was going on.   After awhile, the girls quieted down and the meeting got underway.   I think I was there to talk to them, so we had a conversation.   Conversations with Daisies are always good happy events.    At the end of the meeting, there were crayons and coloring. 

When I talked to this courageous leader, she said she had learned the hard way that she had to be sure two things happened at each meeting. The girls needed time at the beginning of the meeting to play and talk, so she allows that.   Then, during every meeting, her girls wanted to color.   If they didn't get to color, they didn't enjoy the meeting, so no matter what the activity is at the meeting, they color.   It was so simple.

We had a volunteer come in to lunch the other day asking questions about what Journey book to start with.   The response around the room was the same.   Each Journey book in the series has something to offer, but it is best to talk to the girls and let them decide what they are interested in.   This, of course, was not the answer the volunteer was looking for, but the shared opinion in the room was you should find out what the girls want to explore, and then make decisions about books, materials, and activities.

I listen to many leaders complain about the Journey materials, but the girls really enjoy them.   Again, it is the same issue. Because the curriculum is not overly prescriptive, it affords a lot of latitude in the Journey.   This creates a vacuum for the leader until there's some meeting of the minds on what the girls are interested in.

When I worked in higher education, I was frequently surprised by the wisdom of the students with whom I worked.   They wanted to try things I didn't believe they could achieve.   I was wrong.   The best leaders and experiences are those where the girls have a lot of input on what they do to have fun and learn.   Those are the girls that stay with the program, and those are the girls who achieve in many areas.   Believe the maxim ... and a girl shall lead you ... because she will. 

We all know that going to an event requires preparation.  

There are things that we find handy to take with us, and there are items we must take with us.  

There are also items we must leave with our at-home contact.

And finally, there are Hold Harmless Forms that must be on file at the Council

What are these must haves?

What are the must haves for an event or trip?

·         Health History Forms (sealed in envelope with each driver)

·         Parent Permission Forms

·         Hold-Harmless Forms (originals on file at Council)

·         First-Aid trained individual with a First-Aid Kit

·         Troop roster with emergency contact numbers (with each driver)

·         Maps, destination address & phone numbers  (with each driver)

·         Trip itinerary (with each driver)

·         Copy of reservations, confirmation letters, etc.

 

Who else needs stuff?

The Council needs the original Hold Harmless Form for each person

 

The at-home contact needs

·         Troop roster with emergency contact numbers (with each driver)

·         Maps, destination address & phone numbers  (with each driver)

·         Trip itinerary (with each driver)

·         Copy of reservations, confirmation letters, etc.

 

 

Prepare in advance to make your Scouting life easier!

·         check Safety-Activity Checkpoint for each type of activity and make sure you have the correct ratio of adults to girls

·         verify every girls is a registered member and every adult is registered & approved

·         for day trips, notify SU contact of travel plans and verify that you have copies of    driver's license and auto insurance cards

·         if a vehicle is rented, complete a vehicle rental application form

·         for overnight trips, complete the Overnight Trip/Camping Application

·         Remember, caravanning (following a lead driver) is not permitted - everyone should have directions!

 

When we have everything we need, we can relax and enjoy the event!

 

 

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When we did realignment between the councils in 2007, we found that our volunteers, parents, and constituents wanted quick access to information.   That information ranged from how to do things (which is why we created this Virtual Volunteer blog), to timelines, deadlines, and programs available. 

Our program opportunities and Other Opportunities change daily, so moving all this information to the internet made sense.   Our website, www.girlscoutssa.org, is not just for the troop leader and service unit managers, it is for you, too.   It allows you to know what is going on, understand how the program builds girls of courage, character and confidence, and for us to test ideas and program suggestions.

Our GSSA Weekly e-newsletter contains the latest information about new programs, events, upcoming deadlines, and other information to make your Girl Scout's experience a success. 

Sign up for GSSA Weekly
delivered each Thursday to your email in-box.
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You are also welcome to follow us on Facebook, where we post last-minute opportunities that we hear about, run the occasional contest, and receive opportunities for participation from other troops across the country!

In addition to our weekly e-newsletter, we have a full-time staff person who is available to you to respond to your questions, concerns, and other issues.   She works across the council and is the expert on Safety Activity checkpoints, how to deal with difficult parents, and how to effectively run a Girl Scout troop.   If you have questions or concerns that need answers, please call Cheryl Miller, our volunteer training and communications manager.  Her phone number is 334-312-0433.   She is a great resource for you and works with volunteers -- all day, every day.

We are in transition as we get our new software, E-Council, up and running.   If you are a returning volunteer with a troop, give E-Council a try.   I had someone say last week that this is the best thing she has seen in years.   We are still working on the program module, so stay tuned for that segment to be live.   We will continue to ask for the Hold Harmless forms to be done on paper, so we can track them.   As we work our way into the software, we expect this to be online also, but not this year.

We want you to have access to the best resources available to make your troop and girl experience excellent.   You will find all types of resources on our website, www.girlscoutssa.org.   It does change on a daily basis with new program listings, so this is the real-time way to stay tuned to what all is going on.

We believe we have a great program year ahead. Please let us know if there are things we can do to assist you.

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It is a week to remember fallen heroes -- a week of patriotism and reflection.   While we reflect on those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom, it is always good to take stock of ourselves, as well.  What would we have done?   What do we do to make the world a better place?

I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with our volunteers last week.  This is always a delight because I have the privilege of working with some extraordinarily gifted people.   I never cease to be amazed by GSSA volunteers.   So why do they do what they do?

When you examine the literature of volunteering, you find that most people volunteer because they are patriotic.   They are altruistic, and this is their way to improve their community and give back.   Other reasons are that those who volunteer have strong values, and they hope to install values in those they work with.   That is very clear with GSSA volunteers, and we see this illustrated everyday.   Others want to better understand themselves and others.   I am certain every one of our volunteers has learned something from the girls with whom she works.   They are also looking for personal growth.

The literature says volunteering is good for the body and the mind.   If you have ever spent any time with a Daisy troop, you certainly understand the good for the body part of that experience with a room of girls full of boundless energy.   Volunteering brings new friends, new relationships and a better understanding of the community.

Finally, volunteering makes you happy.   As someone who works with girls and volunteers in this endeavor, I know the girls you work with are enriched by their interaction with you.   Hopefully, volunteering with girls is fulfilling, and you know, every time you work with them you are making a difference in the lives of others.   As you take stock of what you do in the world this week, know that you matter to someone else.

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As we look toward next summer, we are taking stock of this year's camp programs and offerings and looking at new possibilities.   There has been a resurgence of family camps, so one of the questions we have is whether, if we had waterfront staff, would you be interested in a family "staycation" at one of the Girl Scout properties?   There is a lot to do at most of the properties, but with the increasing cost of gasoline and vacations, we see this as a value added opportunity for parents of Girl Scouts.

Another conversation we have been having is whether to allow parents to attend camp with your younger Girl Scout.   Allowing your daughter to spend time away from home with someone they don't know can be daunting, so one of the discussions we have had is a session that might start on Friday evening, with the parents staying until Sunday evening, and then allowing the girls to stay on without a parent into the week.

The third alternative we have discussed is, rather than spending the night at camp, offering a day camp program.   You would drop your Girl Scout off at our office, and she would be taken up to camp every morning for a week.   There would be girls spending the week, but the girls who come from the office would participate in the same program, other than the overnight segment.

We are always looking for ways to increase girl participation in camp.   We believe being in the great outdoors is a learning opportunity that should not be missed.   We are also looking at a winter camp session during the end-of-the-year holidays, and if we have sufficient interest, we will run that session.

Please let us know your thoughts on camps for your Girl Scout at communications@girlscoutssa.org.   Thank you for your input.

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