August 2014 Archives

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School has commenced, and it's a good time to be reminded of things that might have faded during the summer.

 

It is important to register your girls as Girl Scouts.   If you have girls who participate but are not registered, they are not covered by GSSA insurance.   You might think, "Well, we aren't doing anything dangerous."  However, you would be surprised how many claims we have annually from simple accidents.   I was stunned to find some girls not even registered prior to the start of the cookie program.   The problem is that, if something happens, this impacts you personally and won't be covered by our insurance, so registering girls who participate is important.

 

When we have space and the opportunity, we try to include tagalongs and siblings, but GSSA pays additional insurance for those individuals.   We cannot allow these children if we don't have tagalong insurance because they are not covered if an accident occurs.   Please respect our request when a program or training description indicates no tagalongs.   We don't do this to be offensive, but it increases the cost of the event to have them present, and we do it only when it is appropriate.   We have already turned someone -away who brought tagalongs to a recent event. 

 

We subscribe to all Safety Activity Checkpoints provided by GSUSA.   We have requested that some of those regulations be changed, such as the one which states that those who cannot swim are not allowed to canoe.   However, we expect you to comply with those regulations.   Each ranger has been provided with a new notebook outlining the various policies and regulations on GSSA properties.   It is not their role to enforce those regulations, but they do have a notebook with the documentation that applies to their camp.   If you have questions, they have this at their residence.   Please check because we have been told about some flagrant violations from last year that we cannot have continue this year.   Most of you are excellent about complying with these rules, so this applies to those few who aren't obeying the rules.

 

We work hard to assure the safety of the girls with whom you work.   We vet the adults and work to assure we don't do anything that would put the girls in harm's way.   Last year, I attended a couple of events where the parents/troop leaders were present, but not tuned in.   The beauty of our program is that girls experience time with adults who can shape them to become contributing citizens.   Try to be present with the girls you are chaperoning; it is a gift they will not forget.


Most of the time when I'm around girls and volunteers, I'm always impressed with what

some of you do with the girls in your charge.  There is a great deal of interest, caring, nurturing, and learning that happens.   It is always beautiful to watch.   Thank you for all you do.

 

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Once upon a time, I was lucky enough to work for a brilliant Jesuit priest.   He was a genius.   I was a young dean and not sure I was impressed with his constant stream of ideas.   I was the resident skeptic.   My mentor had been a trusty, reliable, predictable boss.   This new president was handsome, charming, energetic, and enthusiastic about everything.   I don't know if you have ever had a friend like this, but he was constantly invading my personal space.   One entire basketball game he practically sat on my leg, until I finally asked him to move over, whereupon he laughed.   He knew he was sitting on my leg. He just wanted to see how long I would tolerate it.

Over the years, I learned that working for someone who was a genius took a lot of time and energy.   Some days it took me awhile to even figure out what he was babbling about, but I learned to love him.   I believe he was the perfect boss for me at a time when I needed to be moved out of my comfort zone and confront some change.

One of the maxims he believed, which I now embrace, is that you will not change unless you are standing at the edge of the cliff, looking down into the abyss, with someone nudging you to go over.   When you look down and see what could be ahead, you will make the dramatic changes necessary to stay on the top of the cliff.   His point was always that change is good.   It is hard, but it also makes you better.   His advice to us was that we would work smarter, and during his tenure there, we did.

This is a year filled with change for the Girl Scouts, also.   As with the Southwest Alabama United Way defunding, declines in other funding sources, a lackluster cookie sale come together, we have to make some changes.   Staffing is our largest expense, followed by fixed costs of properties.   The check for the electric bill I signed this afternoon for one month was more than $6,700.   That is what it runs each month across our properties and that was just one power company.   We have many.

This year we will be looking for ways to maximize the girl experience.   We want to continue the quality programs we offered the girls, but do it smarter and less expensively.   We want to increase the number of girls; we do this because we believe the Girl Scout Leadership Experience changes lives.   I see this daily.   We want to provide the type of support to our wonderful volunteers that they desire.   We have attainable goals for this year.

I was looking over the edge at the abyss as I worked on the budget.   As we have staff leave, we won't be able to replace all of those positions.   As I look at a long list of equipment volunteers would like at camp properties, we might not be able to afford many of those this year.   However, with that said, as we work to increase girl numbers and the quality of our offerings we are optimistic about what this year holds for our girls.   I will keep that list for after the cookie program.  You will experience some changes this year.   You will see the staff working smarter and aimed to achieve better customer service and the best year possible for your girls.   Change is good! It moves us forward.

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Where did the summer go?   For me, this summer has reflected the adage "time flies when you are having fun."   I don't know about you, but we had a good summer.   Almost all of the staff was able to spend at least one day at resident camp, seeing what the girls are doing and working with them directly.   Sometimes, when you are dealing with the business aspects of Girl Scouts, you need to find and take the time to get out and savor what we really do, work for and with girls.   I saw some great learning and fun this summer. It was a joy.

School begins for much of GSSA this week and into next.   It feels like summers are just getting shorter and shorter.   I hope you had a chance to enjoy your children during their time away from school and that they are looking forward to the school year.

I spent most of my career working at a university.   The beginning of each academic year was marked with frenetic activity, some initial chaos, and the hope of great things to come.   There was not one year I was there that the hope of great things to come went unfulfilled.   I'm not saying every year was perfect or without its challenges.   However, I learned a lot from the students I worked with every year.

GSSA has some challenges this year, working to regain the lost girl members that resulted from the loss of United Way funding in the Mobile area.   We have new staff that we need to integrate.   We are always confronted with more girls than adults we can stretch around them.   Girls benefit from Girl Scouts programs; there is abundant evidence to prove the power of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.

If you know of anyone who would be a good leader or volunteer, please suggest Girl Scouts to him or her as a place to spend quality time with some of the best girls in the State of Alabama.   Each year by the end of September we have lists of hundreds of girls and no troop leaders, it is gut wrenching.   If you have additional room in your troop for additional girls, please let your local area field executive know.   I spent the summer watching how Girl Scouts can and do make the world a better place.

I hope you have high expectations for this year, and it holds the promise of great things to come.

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If you pay a visit to the Montgomery Service Center, you will see considerable chaos.   However, you will also see that the larger building, 145 Coliseum Boulevard is receiving a significant facelift.   This is thanks to the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery and the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery Foundation.    Through their generosity we are able to redo the floors, paint, and replace the front blinds.   We are hoping the new custom blinds will serve as some excellent advertising for us.   To help stretch the funding from this grant, employees from the Sherwin-Williams Company are donating their time to paint our office.  If you know a member of the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery, please go out of your way to thank them for their gift and express your appreciation at your local Sherwin-Williams store.

We are always appreciative of the generosity of others.   Baptist South Hospital Foundation will be providing the supplies for our First Aid kits this year.   Thanks to them for the supplies that expire annually and can be costly to keep updated.

We have received a couple of additional sailboats.   They have not arrived yet, but one is a fairly large boat and another is a sunfish.   Thanks to Dr. Mark Kassels and an anonymous benefactor for these generous gifts.

One of our volunteers who drove a car load of day camp girls this summer put us in touch with a local businessman who donated a pontoon boat to us on Lake Martin.   I have heard that the boat is much nicer than the one we owned.   Any interested troop is welcome to make advance arrangements with the ranger for a tour of Lake Martin in the boat, complete with his commentary on who lives where.   (Please make arrangements well in advance; your only cost will be the gas used by the boat while you are there.)   Our thanks to volunteer Caroline Breshears, who not only spent a lot of time assisting girls at camp, but also brought us this new boat.

In the Mobile area we are in the midst of our annual brand campaign with the Mobile Area Boy Scouts of America.   We work during the summer to remind our constituents that we no longer receive any funds from the Southwest Alabama United Way or the Lee County United Way.   We still receive generous support from ten other United Ways and United Funds, including Baldwin County, River Region United Way, Wiregrass United Way, and Lake Martin Area United Way.   So if you live or work in Mobile, Clarke or Washington Counties, please remember that if you previously gave to the United Way, Scouting appreciates direct donations.   If you have any interest in doing a pitch for Scouting at your own work place and work in Mobile, Washington, or Clarke Counties please let me know.

Fundraising is an adult activity and we appreciate the assistance of Girl Scout volunteers, alumnae and parents with cultivating support in our community.  We appreciate the leads and assistance many of you lend to us by giving us suggestions on businesses and others who are willing to make the world a better place by giving to girls.   We always appreciate those leads and your generosity and that of others.

Also, please consider shopping with our business partners and be sure to tell them you appreciate their support for girls. If you know of a business or organization who would like to join our list of distinguished partners or to learn more about giving opportunities, feel free to contact me at lbrent@girlscoutssa.org or Melinda Stallworth, Director of Advancement at mstallworth@girlscoutssa.org