Recently in CEO Category

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I'm sitting in my favorite office, the downslope between the Rec Hall and Echo Lake at Camp Scoutshire Woods.   There's a group of girls behind me singing songs while they felt wool over a rock.   It isn't everyone who has an office with this type of wonderful music as they work.   They are all happy, giggling and talking.  In front of me, the view  is of girls who have practiced being rescued from the dock; now they are on all types of kayaks, pedal boats, stand up paddleboards, and canoes.

We are nearing the end of another week, and everyone is having a good time.   I'm not saying they aren't hot sometimes, but they swim, boat, make crafts, zip line and cook out.    This is a great time of year because the staff is able to see girls in action, growing, changing, and leading.

I was on a GSUSA CEO call recently when another CEO said they had done a survey in her council and found that camp was a niche area.   She noted that there  are longtime Girl Scouts who believe in the values that camp imbues, but others' interest in Girl Scouts is related to STEM.   We try to provide a great camping program for those girls who have the sense of adventure and enjoy the great outdoors.   We also work to offer a large number of STEM programs at the council level throughout the year, as well as other opportunities that lead to earning badges and patches.

We hope to offer more opportunities for girls to experience STEM and the great outdoors throughout next year, because the opportunities to learn while outside are limitless.

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It is always a meaningful to take some time to reflect on the girls who have gone before us who have made a difference in the lives of others.   Katie Leutzinger was one of those girls.   She loved Kamp Kiwanis on Lake Martin, and she was s devoted Girl Scout. She was taken suddenly from her family and friends on July 14, 2004, while she was still so young.

After her tragic passing, Katie's family and friends started s memorial fund to create something in her honor at Kamp Kiwanis.   She spent many summers at this camp, where she developed courage, confidence, and character.  

 

We are pleased to announce that we will dedicate the Katie Leutzinger Memorial Observatory at Kamp Kiwanis in her honor on June 28, 2015.   This observatory, though not large, provides an opportunity for girls to search the stars and heavens while at Lake Martin.   The telescope can be mounted in the observatory, but it can also run a computer that can be viewed by girls and others close to the observatory so many will be able to enjoy the thrills astronomy has to offer.


We are delighted the Leutzinger family agreed to this tribute to their daughter and sister so that all girls who spend time at Kamp Kiwanis can continue the wonderful experiences their Girl Scout, Katie, had there.

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My office has sunlight peeking through the pine, there are some bugs around, mostly ants.   As I write this, I can hear the girls behind me working on getting through a spider web exercise requiring communication, cooperation, and teamwork.   This is when being the CEO of Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama has maximum benefit.

So far the homesickness has been minimal, the giggles and singing constant, and the food pretty good.    The girls have been on horseback, racing around the island in their kayaks and canoes, and working on improving their swimming skills.

The girls who did the sampler camp have gone home, but many did not want to leave because they were having such a good time.    This is what we love to hear -- that the fun and some autonomy from their parents is welcome.   It is always good to have your daughter be confident and independent.

We have talked about whether Girl Scout families would like an opportunity to come up to camp and enjoy what the girls experience.   We discussed having a week or two each summer where we would have the waterfront and canoe area available and folks could come up with their families and have some fun.   That means you would have to manage your own cooking needs, but something we were discussing.   If you think you would like to do this, please send us an e-mail at communications@girlscoutssa.org.


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It's summer, and for us, it's time to say farewell to two longtime Girl Scout staff members who are retiring.  Both worked for their respective legacy council prior to realignment, weathered the realignment storm and have been behind the scenes working for the girls of this council for many years.

Karen Doss works in the Mobile office as director of strategic planning.   Her responsibilities are lengthy and wide ranging, but can be summarized by grant writing, applications to United Ways, and whatever else is necessary to bring funds into GSSA.   She came to Girl Scouts of the Deep South in Mobile from the Cahaba Council in Birmingham.   She has worked in various capacities through her 16 years with GSDS and GSSA.   Karen has five children and 8 grandchildren and will have plenty to do in retirement.   I want to thank her for her service to the girls of this council.

Chris Shavers is in the Montgomery office and is best known through her work with the Cookie Program.   Chris was with Girl Scouts of South Central Alabama and then GSSA.   She works with Fall Product, product sales in the council shops, and the Cookie Program.   There is a lot of fun in store from Chris in retirement, as her husband retired recently; between him, her four children, and six grandchildren, she will be a busy lady!  I want to thank her for her service to the girls of this council.

We are in the process of reorganizing job responsibilities to cover those leaving us.   We will clarify who is doing what as we work through it over the course of the summer.

If you would like to wish them well, they can be reached at kdoss@girlscoutssa.org and cshavers@girlscoutssa.org.

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Each year around the cookie sale, our council staff is frantic trying to get all the pieces and parts of such a large endeavor managed.  However, in the midst of this we find we have girls who have not registered yet.   There are phone calls, going online, collecting money -- a bunch of pieces and parts that slow up getting to manage the cookie program.  Surprisingly, this is more of a problem with established troops than with new troops and volunteers.

This year has been especially problematic because we changed registration software back to the GSUSA platform earlier than anticipated.  This unexpectedly caused all our memberships for three years being sucked into the system, and then we had to peel out those who were not currently registered.  

We appreciate those of you who responded to our requests to check your rosters to see if they were accurate.   Thank you for assisting us, as we can only look at pages of names for so long.   We found some troops didn't have all their girls registered, despite having the receipts and lots of chaos, for you and for us.   Thank you to those of you who helped, and I apologize for the chaos.   We hope that is over and going forward you register and it all works smoothly.

We do want to encourage you to go ahead and register now for next year.   We have a lot of fun events and activities planned already.   I can't wait to attend some of them, as they sound like so much fun.   We have an archeology day planned at the University of South Alabama and another exciting Pi Day program at Auburn University on the horizon.  

Lots of councils encourage the use of the cookie monies to early bird register the entire troop so there is no gap in activities.   We would love for more of that to happen here, since we have lots of program opportunities in August and September that we can't take advantage of because folks are still getting reorganized.   The important piece of it is that with registration comes insurance for all Girl Scout activities. Without being registered, there is no insurance coverage.

Recently, we have had a lot of folks who are not approved and vetted for overnights that have to submit all the paperwork at the last minute.   This results in staff having to spend day and night trying to get this paperwork through.   It is frantic for the parents and volunteers who haven't submitted it and a nightmare for the staff.  But please don't get ugly if this has not been submitted at the beginning of the year, as requested, and we are asking for it.   We work very hard to be of service because you are a volunteer.   We usually have more than one camporee on any given weekend, and the havoc created when each camporee urgently needs many attendees to be vetted and approved is truly formidable.  In an effort to be more consistent, we will have one source of where and how that is done.  Please help us to help you by registering now.

We want everyone to have the opportunity to have fun, safe and a great time through Girl Scouts.

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This week and next week as I drive to and from work I'll play Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches.   It is a time of exhilaration and tears.   Commencement's definition, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is "a time when something begins."   I realize we sometimes see this as an ending, when, in fact, it is the beginning.

On behalf of all of GSSA's staff, I would like to congratulate the class of 2015   What an accomplished group of girls, soon to be young women that we have had amongst us.   I have had the privilege of attending ceremonies where these girls have been honored.   They will change the world, and they have learned how to do this through Girl Scouts.   They are headed in many different directions, but all are aimed at making a difference in the lives of others.

Hopefully, this transition to the next phase of life, the new beginning, will continue to include involvement in Girl Scouts.   We work with many collegiate women through programs facilitated partnership with us, especially those involved in the Kappa Delta Sorority, but we are not limited to that partnership.  If your Girl Scout experience has been a good one, consider remaining involved, even if it is the occasional assistance to a troop where you are living.   Many of you might remember how great you thought college girls were; remember that now you are, too, for younger girls.

Also a reminder, there is a large discount when you become a lifetime member of Girl Scouts upon graduation from high school.   I urge you to consider taking advantage of that.

On behalf of the more than 10,000 girls and volunteers involved in GSSA, we wish you every success in your future endeavors.   You will have times of frustration and times of great joy in your journey ahead, but we know you will do well because of the life skills you have developed through your many experiences and the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.

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Girls can do anything!   Each year we have a group of girls that are highly accomplished and do amazing things.   It is wonderful to see them grow over the years and watch them give back to their community through their award projects.   We have a great group of girls that provide all types of community service through their awards.

A large number of Junior troops earned the Girl Scout Bronze Award during the past year, and many more are currently working on projects in their communities. Here are a few examples from across the council:

  • ·         Daphne Troop 8186 is working on a permanent geocache course at Camp Scoutshire Woods for other girls to enjoy.
  • ·         Troop 9349 from Enterprise helped the local animal shelter by painting some of the rooms and collecting needed items.
  • ·         Troop 9261 in Ozark created an outdoor education garden at their school that included upcycling milk jugs into automatic watering containers, painting stepping stones, and leading a group of more than 50 students to plant a variety of plants.
  • ·         Loxley Troop 8393 volunteered and collected items for a horse rescue shelter.

The Girl Scout Silver Award is earned by Cadettes and is a stepping stone for the Gold Award. Here are a few of our excellent projects from this past year:

  • ·         Troop 9750 from Dothan recycled plastic grocery bags to make plastic yarn, which they crocheted to make sleeping mats for the homeless.
  • ·         Troop 7309 worked with a low-income daycare in Auburn to improve the facilities and provide additional resources and activities for the children to enjoy.
  • ·         A member of troop 9157 in Prattville sewed more than 70 colorful pillowcases to comfort children in an orphanage in Bulgaria.
  • ·         Satsuma Troop 8517 created a "Read Across America" curriculum for their middle school library. They identified and compiled a list of books from all 50 states to encourage students to read.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award in Girl Scouting, and is only open to Seniors and Ambassadors. Here are two of our recent Gold Awards:  

  • ·         Rebecca Pober from Daphne produced, directed, edited and screened a professional documentary on domestic human trafficking, which can be seen on the website she created: againsthumantrafficking.com. In order to create her documentary, she made contacts, fundraised, conducted on and off-camera interviews.  Afterwards, she has given and continues to give presentations to highlight this issue.
  • ·         Amerie Gramelspacher's topic for her Girl Scout Gold Award was suicide awareness and prevention. She spoke at churches and events, conducted a suicide awareness and prevention 5K, purchased a curriculum for the health classes at her school, and purchased signs for the middle and high schools. Throughout the project, she partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Thanks to Amerie's efforts, the elementary, middle, and high school teachers in Thomasville now receive annual suicide prevention and awareness training hosted by the AFSP.

Rebecca and Amerie have been nominated by our council for the National Young Women of Distinction (NYWOD) award, given by GSUSA to 10 exceptional Gold Award recipients from across the nation. GSUSA has done some great work to improve the highest awards.   Rather than having the National Young Women of Distinction awarded every three years at the national convention, that will change to annually.   In addition, a benefactor will be providing funding for a $10,000 scholarship for each NYWOD.  Girls who have earned the Gold Award are eligible to be nominated for NYWOD by the Gold Award Committee of GSSA.

As a reminder, GSSA has a group of trained volunteers who work with girls on their Gold Awards.   This committee reviews girls' applications and materials.   Because it is a group of volunteers, we try hard to respect their time, which means paperwork needs to be submitted well in advance of deadlines so the committee has the time they need to conduct their review.   The new working deadlines for 2015-2016 awards are as follows:

Quarterly deadlines for all Gold Award submissions

·         February 1

·         May 1

·         August 1

·         November 1

Graduating Ambassadors

·         February 1 deadline for proposals

·         May 1 deadline for final reports


Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama is fortunate to have a great group of volunteers and girls committed to community service. Last year GSSA girls earned 112 Bronze Awards, 27 Silver Awards, and 6 Gold Awards, representing more than 4000 hours of service in their communities. Girls also earned 44 Service Bars for Community Service and Service to Girl Scouting, representing more than 1,400 hours of service.

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We work hard to supplement the funds girls bring in through the cookie program with a wide variety of events, activities, and other fund development initiatives. Recently, a volunteer inquired about these activities, so I would like to go through some of them to make you aware of the many things we do to increase opportunities for girls.

EVENTS

ART SHOW AND SALE  - Daugherty's Gallery and Frame Shop in Mobile is hosting a benefit art show and sale for GSSA.   There will be a wide variety of art available in all price ranges and budgets.   The art show and sale is a casual browse through their gallery this weekend.   Drop by for some refreshments while looking at some delightful art and making a purchase.   Daugherty's Gallery and Frame Shop is located at 857-A Downtowner Boulevard in Mobile, the times are Saturday, May 16, from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday, May 17, from 1 p.m.-5 p.m.   A percentage of the sales will benefit the girls of this council.

 M3 - MANICURES, MASSAGES AND MERRIMENT - This is an ADULTS-ONLY event, scheduled for Friday, June 12, at Virginia College - Montgomery, 6200 Atlanta Highway. This event is organized by members of On My Honor, the Montgomery area Alumnae Association. We are so grateful for the hard work and dedication of this committee.  Last year was the first for this event, and it received rave reviews. You are sure to have a great time. Bring some friends, have some fun and leave looking and feeling great.  Guests can score some great items at the silent auction and enjoy delicious food donated by restaurants and caterers from throughout the River Region. The fun continues with manicures and massages by the students of Virginia College School of Cosmetology and School of Massage Therapy and is topped off with delicious pairings of cocktails inspired by Girl Scout cookie flavors, prepared by local bartenders! Tickets are $40 each. For tickets, please call the Montgomery office or tickets are available at our online shop. Plans are being made for a similar event in the Mobile area.

MEMBER CARDS

We have a new benefit to offer our outstanding supporters who donate $35 or more - the MemberCard. Click here for Information on how this great program works, and some of the amazing deals! This card offers a variety of deals, including 2-for-1 specials, discounts at local restaurants, performances, attractions and more! Just a few of the 2-for-1 deals include Red Brick Pizza (Enterprise), Down By the Bay (Fairhope), Butch Cassidy's Café (Mobile), Eastside Grille (Montgomery) and so much more. The card is valid for one year, so get your card today and begin saving!  Visit http://membercard.com/landing/gssa.cfm to check out the latest listing of participating businesses. Once you have your card, download the MemberCard mobile app to find available discounts, distance to participating businesses, and more! Let us know if you have any suggestions for other local restaurants or attractions you would like to see included.  

CALLING ALL AMAZON SHOPPERS! - Shop for great deals and support GSSA at the same time. For those who prefer shopping on line, sign up for AmazonSmile at smile.amazon.com, which is the charitable arm of Amazon.  Simply visit smile.amazon.com,  search for our name "Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama" and make us your charity of choice.  You may also see our name listed as Girl Scouts of the Deep South (we are working with AmazonSmile to make the name correction). You can even use your existing account, and Amazon's website will remember your charity selection.  Signing up does not cost you any additional money and a small percentage of all your sales is donated to Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama. As these donations add up, they will help us in our efforts to secure matching grant funding and help us with our continuing work to support our girls.

PLANGPlanG is another way to shop online with a purpose.  PlanG has partnered with more than 250 major brands to transform everyday shopping into acts of purpose. Simply shop online and earn free giving dollars for Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama!  It is really simple! Go to myplang.com to sign up, designating "Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama" as the recipient of the funds.  Then tell others about the impact you are making in the life of girls in southern Alabama. PlanG makes it easy for you to share your experience and ask your friends to help make a difference in a girl's life, too!  

INSCRIBED BRICKS 

Honor a loved one, troop leader, volunteer or special occasion with a brick paver a Kamp Kiwanis for generations to see.  For $50 purchase a brick paver and personalize it.  It will be placed around the Sawyer-Weil pavilion at Kamp Kiwanis.  Inscriptions are limited to twelve characters on three lines.  Some troops purchase multiple bricks to increase the size of their message. To purchase your brick, visit the gift page of our online shop. or call the Montgomery office to learn more.

RESIDENT CAMP SCHOLARSHIPS

- Each year we do an annual camp appeal seeking support from our current donors.   In memory of Cadette Girl Scout Emily Dunnam, GSSA's Board of Directors approved the establishment of the Emily Dunnam Camp Scholarship. Emily was an active Girl Scout from Fairhope, who loved camp and the outdoors. She enjoyed canoeing, nature walks and playing in the spillway at Camp Scoutshire. Before disbanding for graduation, members of Troop 8442 used their remaining troop funds to help establish this scholarship to honor Emily and give other girls an opportunity to enjoy camp for years to come. This fund will sponsors one Brownie or Junior, and one Cadette or Senior (leadership or CIT program) to attend camp each year. 


DINING OUT, ANYONE?

Zea Rotisserie and Grille in Mobile is supporting Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama.  Every second Wednesday of the month in 2015, from 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Zea will donate 10% back from sales to GSSA when you show them our flyer.  The flyers are available at the Mobile Service Center at the front desk, or you can download them here. Grab a few flyers and enjoy the dining experience. Schedule your next meeting our gathering for the second Wednesday at Zea to enjoy some wonderful food and support Girl Scouts all at the same time.

These are just a few of the many activities we are conducting in our efforts to increase funding and program opportunities for our girls.   We hope you can support them and help us spread the word to your family and friends.  Thanks for all that you do!

liz-2015.jpgGirl Scouts of Southern Alabama enjoys partnerships with local Army representatives through a number of projects and initiatives.   They have evaluated the tower for us at Camp Humming Hills around safety and stability.   They also have installed a set of three navigation courses for us at Kamp Kiwanis.  

Last week, I was one of a number of guests and educators of the U.S. Army and the Army recruiting battalion at Fort Benning, Ga.  I welcomed an opportunity to see what the Army does.

What is interesting about this tour is how much what the US Army dovetails with our own mission and values.   The Army imbues the values of leadership.   We teach values to Girl Scouts.   We teach respect for the flag, and for those who have given their lives for our freedom, and the importance of being good citizens.   All values the Army teaches its new recruits.

The point of this tour is to assist those who work with youth to understand the requirements and opportunities available to them through joining the US Army, or any other branch of the service.   We used to believe if you can't make it in college, join the Army.   Well, that is no longer the case.   The US Army wants the brightest and the best.   They want to top of the high school graduating class.   They offer more than 150 different occupational specialties.   Much of their orientation is computer technology.

The equipment, simulators, training facilities and opportunities are stunning.   Their mission to protect us involves increasingly complex technology and equipment.   Having an opportunity to see their facilities first hand is mind blowing.   Fort Benning itself is equivalent to a medium-sized city with what is as complex as one of the largest universities in the United States, with education of all types being conducted daily.

We had the opportunity to fire virtual rifles and machine guns.   We were able to crawl around on Abrams and Bradley tanks and then get in a tank simulator and try to hit a target.   Trust me, it isn't very easy.   We sat through a lecture for the Airborne on what happens when your parachute gets tangled.   Some of the options there weren't very attractive.   We heard from the Lt. Col. who trains the infantry and visited their dining room and living facilities.   During their 14-week training, the living facilities are pretty sparse, with the emphasis on getting in shape and eating healthy.   We attended a graduation ceremony for a group that had completed Basic Combat Training.   We also had a guided tour of the Infantry Museum, at the entrance of Fort Benning.  Finally we were able to attend Rangers in Action, a show that should not be missed if you ever have an opportunity to attend.   There was lots of blowing things up, rappelling up and down 40 foot towers, walking across high structures, zip lining down long cables into the water, and finally dropping from a helicopter into an area and then being picked up later.   It was fantastic, and we missed part of it because of the large number of school kids there that day.

If you have an opportunity to tour Fort Benning or any other military installation, it is both eye opening and educational.   All those we spoke to possessed a seriousness of purpose.   They understand their mission is to defend our freedom.   Hooah!


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It is spring, which means it's time for us to start planning for next fall.   It seems hard to believe we start now, but we do.   We are always looking for new and educational events and activities for our girls to participate in, and this year we had a number of new programs offered across the council.  

The general criteria for the council to offer a program is that it should be something a troop individually cannot do or do easily.   In addition, it needs to be attractive enough for folks to travel from one part of the council to another because it is not cost-efficient to use the girls' money to plan council events for less than 50 girls.   Because of this, most events will be larger, that is always desirable.   If you have some thoughts or ideas of good events that you believe girls would like, please let us know at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

This year, we had some great new events that have received excellent reviews.  Auburn University hosted an equestrian day for the girls and a fantastic Pi Day event that was filled with all sorts of hands-on science experiments.   Recently, we had a day with the dolphins in Gulfport, which filled twice, and the girls loved it.   We also had a new program at the zoo in Gulf Shores.  

Again, one of the caveats in planning events is they must attract people from around the council.   We have worked at hosting a number of programs in the Wiregrass area and have been disappointed they didn't make the minimum attendance required.   .

We will be starting to do some strategic planning, involving volunteers, always looking for ways to make the Girl Scout experience better for the girls we serve, so be on the lookout for those questionnaires and surveys in the near term.

As we work through our girl numbers this year, we find that some folks did not register until the cookie program.   Just a reminder on this, for now and I will do so again in the fall.   If you are not registered and participate in activities and there is an accident, you are held liable, not GSSA.   So you do that at your own peril.   The $15 price is a small price to pay for insurance coverage in case there is some type of accident.

We are also working on getting things ready for summer resident camp.   We will have a commuter option for those who do not want to spend the night.   Again, we take girls from the Mobile Service Center to Scoutshire Woods and the Montgomery Service Center for Kamp Kiwanis to be cost efficient.   We found last year that we had a number of girls who were able to enjoy camp this way.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place.   Please share your ideas on programs you would like to see.