March 2014 Archives

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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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