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One of my favorite holidays is the Fourth of July -- not only because it is during the summer, but also, as with many, I'm a patriot. There's something special about Independence Day that transcends fireworks, picnics, and family fun

What is interesting about my work is the many people I work with are patriots, too.    Girl Scouts learn about the American flag.   They learn how to handle it, how to post the colors, and how to respectfully discard a flag through a flag retirement ceremony.   If you have never experienced one, they are well worth it.   I was invited to a retirement ceremony a number of years ago in Dothan, an event I will never forget.   The girls who participated did a wonderful and respectful job, reading about the colors and what each meant.

One of the longstanding tenets of Girl Scouts is honor and respect for country.   It has been one of the elements of the leadership program that has been present for more than 104 years.   The girls in the room have spent the time to learn about the flag and what it means -- white purity and innocence, the red hardiness and valour, and the blue or chief, vigilance, perseverance, and justice.    Have a great Fourth of July holiday and take a minute to remember the meaning of the holiday.

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It is with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement as the CEO of Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama.   For those of you involved many years ago, you may remember that I was hired as the first CEO of GSSA at the point of the merger discussions.   What I found was, although there were many issues to address merging councils, the joy of working with girls, and the many wonderful volunteers and staff made the hard parts of the task very rewarding.

I have served as the CEO for the past nine years, and believe this is one of the best jobs on the planet.   I believe the leadership experiences girls gain from their Girl Scout experience is unparalleled.

As some of you know, I have had a "commuter" marriage for the past nine years, flying to Kansas City one long weekend a month to be with my husband.   After a 30-year career in higher education and nine years in Alabama, it is time for me to move into a new phase of my life, allowing others the opportunity to experience the joys of working with girls and shaping tomorrow's leaders.

The current plan is that I will serve until the Sept. 30, which marks the end of our fiscal year.   Know that I will always cherish the nine years I have spent with the many wonderful girls, volunteers, parents, and staff of GSSA.  

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Ready to think about doing some running?   We are hosting a THIN MINT SPRINT in Mobile on August 20.   We have presented this event before, and it is always a lot of fun, whether you are a runner or not.   We try to make it a healthy event, so you can run, walk, jog, or whatever you choose for the fun of it.   It is a sanctioned event by the Port City Pacers, in case you are in search of points for a qualifying event.

This year, the THIN MINT SPRINT will be held within the University of South Alabama's campus.   It is a family-friendly event, so bring the kids, bring the spouse, or bring the troop (or all three!).   Because it is within the confines of the USA campus, it should be a safer event than the usual road race.   We also plan to have a health fair in addition to the other activities of a run and fun run.

It should be some early fall fun right around the time of the beginning of school, so consider putting it on your calendar as a family outing. It's a great way to have some fun and support Girl Scouts at the same time.

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It is week 2 of resident camp, and I am surrounded by giggles, learning lashing, watching swimming lessons, and the canoeing is about to begin.   Each year, I'm struck by the value of camp for girls.   We are emphasizing outdoor skills this year, so girls are learning to build fires, outdoor cooking, and other survival skills.   These skills will last a lifetime.

I'm always stunned and amazed at what they will try, given just a gentle nudge and watching kids do it.   This includes putting your face in the lake where you cannot see the bottom, working your way up on a stand up paddleboard, going down a zip line, or spending the night in a tent.   Although for us, some of these things seem like no big deal, facing your fears can be daunting at that age.   For some it is spiders, for others snakes (I'm still no real fan of snakes), and for others it is the dark of the night outside in a tent.   It is always amazing to see how they summon the courage to face down what scares them, confront it, and become a confident skilled leader.   It is good to never underestimate the power of confidence built at resident camp.


While others are spending their summer gaming, watching television, or texting, we have a large group of girls who have gone cold turkey from their electronics, and heard the bullfrogs and cricket frogs, cicadas, and birds instead.   They have hiked, learned about the outdoors, sung songs, and become tomorrow's leaders.

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The end of the school year has again rolled around very quickly. It is amazing how time flies by in the blink of an eye, and it is simply amazing.

This time of year, we receive many invitations to end of the year events and activities, which are always so much fun to attend. It is clear that you do so much for our girls, and I want to take some time to say thank you to those of you who make this endeavor possible.   Recently, I have been privileged to be in the presence of some tremendous volunteers.   I have witnessed great recognitions for the girls; girls who have learned to speak in public, finding their own voice, and accomplishing great things.   We have seen girls making wonderful end-of-the-year mementos that will have meaning and value for them.

We have seen girls walking across bridges, moving into a different part of their journey, and exploring new paths.   We have had the opportunity to celebrate all the girls who have earned their Bronze, Silver, and Gold awards.   But we also have seen hundreds of girls earning all sorts of badges.

None of this would be possible without the time, devotion, and commitment of you as a volunteer.   Someone, like you, who is willing to step up, takes the time from your schedule, and serves as a leader.   We recognize your time is valuable and something that you can't get back.   But as we watch the many wonderful events and activities you plan, coordinate, and invest yourself it, it becomes clear that you are investing in the growth of the girls you work with, you make your own community a better place, and change the world.

Thank you for being a volunteer and a wonderful person.



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Now's the time to take some of the cookie proceeds your troop has left and register your girls for next year.   I'm always amazed at how few folks take advantage of early bird registration.   Troops that are intact and ready to go in the fall practically have their pick of the use of all our camps, since camp reservations don't usually ramp up until October. This means there are all sorts of good opportunities to use camps and do things in the early part of the school year.

Early bird registration, as with all Girl Scout registration, comes insurance coverage.  If you are not registered, you don't have Girl Scout insurance coverage.   Your troop, by being registered, can sign up for the fun and exciting council events we have scheduled for the fall.   The program staff is busy working on plans for fall (yes, it does seem really early, but they start now).   Some of the new events in the works are two Journey weekends, a day program at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and so much more!

Also, if you register now, this is simply one less thing to remember in the fall.   We know that, when school starts, everyone is in need of your funds for one thing and another.   Consider it, your girls get an early bird patch if you register by June 17.

Click here for more information on Early Bird Registration.

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We had a wonderful time celebrating those Girl Scouts who earned Bronze, Silver, or Gold awards this past year.   Since it was the 100th anniversary of those awards, our staff planned two wonderful recognition events.

The first event was held in Mobile.   Gigi Baroco, our council archivist, put together a wonderful display of requirements for the various awards and some great uniforms.   It was amazing how captivating the displays are for girls earning awards.   

At that event the girls receiving their Gold Awards were Huntir Bass, whose project, Team Red, White and Blue, was to present a Gold and Glory 5K Run/Walk to benefit veterans.   Amerie Gramelspacher focused on Suicide Prevention and Awareness for her high school by doing a number of activities to heighten awareness of prevention possibilities.    Abigail Legge's project, the Buddy System, matched high school tutors with elementary school children in need of tutors to improve Math and English skills, as well as serve as role models.   Morgan Mitchell's project, Delicate Embrace Angel Gowns, took donated wedding dresses and remade them into bereavement gowns for children who do not make it out of the hospital.  Nicole Nobles did Barks for Books, where students at Spanish Fort Elementary School read to Hoss the dog, an excellent nonjudgmental listener.   Jeralynn Servos' project, Give a Book, Build a Future was creating a reading corner at the Prodisee Pantry where children can be read to while their parents are shopping at the food pantry.   When they are done, a book can be taken with the child.

Some of the recipients elected to speak, thanking those in the audience for their support.   Receiving these awards is not only about what the girl achieved, but it is done with the assistance of others.

The second event was held in Montgomery a week later.   This one featured Lt. Col. Keisha Douglass as the speaker.   Lt. Col. Douglass is the battalion commander for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command for the same area of GSSA's footprint.  Her remarks were to "be your best self.   You can accomplish anything."   Part of her point was that you can accomplish anything, but it is important to have mentors and a support system.   Lt. Col. Douglass enlisted in the Army as soon as she graduated from high school as a private.   After 10 years serving in the Army, her superiors suggested she attend Officer Candidate School.   This was not what she had wanted, but with much encouragement she did and has completed three degrees and continued to move up in the U.S. Army.   She was such a hit that she was mobbed after the event for autographs and photos.

The Gold Awards in Montgomery included Abby Campbell, who, through her project Baby Showers for Women's Hope, solicited needed items from the Auburn community to give to single mothers who live in poverty, to help them to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their children.   Elizabeth Prior's project, Parkerson Mill Creek Awareness Campaign and Restoration, focused on identifying Parkerson Mill Creek and working with the City of Auburn and Auburn University to recognize where dumping into the creek went and its ramifications.   Lucy Puranen did Operation Treble Clef, where middle school band participants are paired with high school band participants to encourage retention of band members.

Thanks to Jeannie Napper, Karen Edmondson, and Melinda Stallworth for their work on making these events a success.

Both of these events were well received and highlight that you should never under-estimate what a girl can do.   All these projects were simply amazing.   We are very proud of all our award recipients.

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It is that time of year when Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March #1 wafts through the air.   There are graduation parties and newly-minted graduates deciding what the next step is in their life journey.   Having spent 30 years at a university, I know that it also means a very large graduation ceremony with way too much food, lots of family, photos, and hopes for good weather.

When you look up the definition of commencement, it is a beginning or a start.   Other words used to define it are an opening, a launch, an initiation, an inception, or in Alabama terms, a kickoff.   As we reflect on what all the Girl Scouts who are graduating this year, we look back on the many things they have accomplished.    We have seven Gold Awardees graduating this May.   We have thespians, musicians, athletes, and all of these girls can do anything, as illustrated by the fact they are still participating in Girl Scouts.

We wish the Girl Scout graduates of 2016 a future filled with changing the world, one day at a time, one person at a time, and a journey filled with courage, confidence, and character.
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It is spring time, and we are working hard to get ready for the summer camp season while having lots of large camporees and end-of-the-year spring events for troops.   It is always a delicate balancing act to get things done and accomplished between weekend visits from girls.

Since I've received a lot of feedback recently about camps, I want to go through some of what is going on at the different camp properties.   We are fortunate to have four wonderful camp properties, nicely spaced across the council footprint.   Some of our properties are used very heavily, while others are visited less than six times per year.   Usage and wear and tear on a property does dictate how much of the council's resources are spent on a property.   Please understand that we don't have endless financial resources to put into properties, so we have to be strategic about what we spend and where we spend it.

This is the year of our ACA (American Camp Association) accreditation.   This involves a notebook filled with requirements that have to be fulfilled for a camp property to be accredited.   We go through this process so parents are assured we hold ourselves to a high standard.   We do ACA accreditation on the two camp properties where we hold resident camp, Camp Scoutshire Woods and Kamp Kiwanis.   Accreditation automatically triggers certain maintenance and repairs on each of those properties so they are as well maintained as possible.

Just as a reminder, mowing, weed eating, and working on roads with our heavy rains is often where the ranger spends the most time.   This is always an ongoing issue and one that requires immediate attention.

Kamp Kiwanis - As you are aware if you have been to this property lately, we have a new ranger, Mike Breshears.   He is working to juggle several items that need to be addressed at that property that have accumulated over time.   Add to that, due to some bad storms, his first priority was addressing some very large pine trees that came down in the Mariner unit and around the property.  Mike has been juggling some items in the kitchen and dining hall that need attention, while getting the camp property in better shape in general.   His list includes addressing roof issues in the Ranger bathhouse and the staff house.   There are electrical issues he has to attend to, as well.   He also is working to make things easier for the sailing girls by finishing the sail loft started at the Pioneer Unit.   The Ranger's wood/repair shop (which is not accessible to the girls) needs to be seriously decluttered which will take some to clear.  The two-year-old banana boat for that property is not holding air, so we are discussing options, since that is a very expensive item that has not held up with little use.

Camp Scoutshire Woods - Currently, this camp property does not have a full-time ranger.   Jesse Malone has been covering this camp, as well as Camp Sid.   Scoutshire has had a number of issues that have come about this spring that we are working to get addressed as rapidly as possible.   There is a water leak in the line on the path between Echo Lake and the frog pond.   This necessitates running a trench to determine where the break is and replacing the line.   That work is about to commence.   The line is broken in two places, so we have been trying to juggle that with camporees on that property.   Recently, the dishwasher felt the need to simply die.   We have been nursing that piece of equipment along for many years, so we are discussing the installation of a replacement.   But the hot water heater that feeds that dishwasher also isn't functioning well, so it is a combination problem.   We need to replace the coils in the air conditioning unit in the dining hall, so that is scheduled.   We are working on electrical issues around the camp and doing a lot of scraping showers and bathrooms of the peeling paint and repainting, so lots of work going on there.   Yesterday we discovered the camp tractor is not working and in dire need of repair. That is an essential item.  We plan to hire a ranger for that property after resident camp is over.   We are discussing purchasing a couple of smaller stand up paddleboards for the girls to try at summer camp.

Camp Humming Hills - We have been experiencing a number of issues at this camp, which is a little unusual.   The field lines for the septic system have been dug up, and we are working with a contractor to replace the field lines.   We had an incident with someone going through a tent floor, so we are working to address that.  We aren't using the lake at Humming Hills because of its murkiness, and the unused swim dock was no longer safe, so we had it removed.  We dropped loads of rock to stabilize roads.  A pipe under the road washed out in the spring rains, so that needs to be stabilized.  That camp property is used the least of all the council properties.

Camp Sid Edmonds - Fortunately, we have had few maintenance issues at that property.   We installed a new air conditioning unit at the Scott House earlier in the year.   We have also done some other maintenance work around that property, but generally it is in good shape.   We had some concern about the size and health of the trees on the 69 acres we replanted, so we have been watching those closely.

So, if you ever ask yourself where does all that cookie money go, the list above is a pretty good description of where it goes.   Most of these items are expensive and require qualified electricians, HVAC, plumbers, and foresters.   The rangers can do many things, but often problems require professionals for at least part of the solution. 

Also, we had tried to supply toilet paper and paper towels for our camporees.   Sadly, we will no longer do that.   When it was clear that more than a case of paper towels was taken recently, it seems more prudent to ask each service unit to provide their own.

Thank you, Jesse Malone, for coming to the rescue to serve as the ranger for two camps for a few months.   We appreciate his commitment to the girls of this council.


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Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.   For those of you who have met me out and about, you might know that I was often accompanied by someone gold.   She was a rescue golden retriever who wasn't necessarily the healthiest pet, but an animal that loved to be around girls, camps, and council events.

What I have often learned in life is sometimes others know more about what is good for me than I do.    After living here two years with no dogs, I contacted Gulf South Golden Retriever Rescue to see if they had a golden retriever for me.   I had a lengthy discussion with their volunteers (who, by the way, are wonderful).   My criteria was that I needed a dog I could have around the girls.   Because I travel a lot, my dog would need to be happy in the car.   Also, I needed one that I could have in the woods, when I am there alone and with others -- in other words, a dog that would not run off.  They discussed the different goldens they had available at the time and decided they had one that I should look at.   So one April Saturday I drove to New Orleans and met a foster parent, Alicia.   This was clearly an interview.   The question is whether I could handle the dog and whether the dog would connect with me.   This is when I met Amber.

Amber was given her name because of her large and beautiful amber eyes.   The vet in the animal shelter in Houma gave her that name.   But later decided, after having her there for a long time, she should be put down.   She had heartworms, a raging yeast infection on her back that smelled, and two types of parasites.   The vet declared Amber "unadoptable."   Despite this pronouncement, the angels from Gulf South Golden Retrievers went to the animal shelter to fetch Amber.   Alicia took her to her house, where she had two goldens of her own.   She said the first night Amber would not come inside off the deck.   When it started to rain, Alicia went out with a leash and finally pulled her into the house.   Amber was very polite, not getting on the furniture or doing anything offensive.   With much love and lots of veterinary care, she was nursed back to some semblance of health.   She had one true love in life, a tennis ball.

Alicia decided that Amber and I were compatible, so I put her in the car, and we drove back to Mobile, stopping once en route.   She was quiet, attentive, but polite, and somewhat distant.   I learned quickly that she wasn't all that healthy.   After work everyday I would take an hour-long walk up Spring Hill, through the Spring Hill College campus, through the golf course, and then back to my apartment.   The second time I did this I thought I was going to have to leave her and get the car, she could not walk that far.   What I learned was she was still sick and really was never able to walk a lot, unless it was at camp.

Over time I discovered that Amber was a wonderful companion.   She was independent and reserved, but a wonderful teacher.   Because she had this yeast infection, the hair did not grow on her back, so when a girl would see her from the front, she looked very pretty.   But once you were close, it was clear she had some imperfections.   The girls would ask, and I would always explain that it is really what is on the inside that counts; sometimes what you see on the outside can be misleading.

Her teeth were broken, and she never wanted to smile because of those broken teeth.   The vet said she as likely left out on a chain and probably had chewed the chain to get off and that broke her teeth.   Even though her teeth were jagged and rough, she never curled her lip at anyone.   You could crawl on her, do anything you would want to her, but she was never aggressive with anyone.

Amber had a special affection for babies.   The first time I met her we went down the street to visit a baby.   The baby rolled a tennis ball to her nose.   She nudged the ball back to the baby, who giggled with delight.   How did she understand that was a baby and needed this more gentle care?

Amber and I traveled thousands of miles in the council car.   She loved the car rides.   She would get into the back, onto her "throne," and fall asleep, getting up to turn or stretch only occasionally.   When we arrived, she would check to see where we were and get out and go about her business, knowing we traveled to many different locations.   As she got older she would bark and "ask" to go out in the car if she didn't feel like she was in the car enough on a particular day, especially on the weekends.

Amber loved to go to camp.   I would stop, get out of the car, and she would look around to see what camp we were visiting.   She loved all of them, although she always had some trepidation around Lost, the very large dog at Humming Hills; not because she didn't like him, just because he is so large.   But days at camp were always welcome days, she would run, sniff the air, and see what she could find.

Again, sometimes we don't understand who becomes a friend.   Her favorite dog was Scout, a pug belonging to "Woody," our longtime volunteer and sailing camp director.   She and Scout would play and frolic together.   I never understood it. Scout could stand underneath Amber's stomach, he was so short, and she was so tall.   But she was always excited to see Scout, and he loved to see her.

She was good with girls that are afraid of dogs.   They would come near her, often scream, she would never flinch.   She would never do anything other than accept them and their lack of familiarity with a kind and gentle look.   She became the ambassador of what a good companion animal can be.

Amber was my companion for the past seven years, working for GSSA to bring joy and love to those she was around.   Two weeks ago she passed to walk across the rainbow bridge.   Where she will have a mouth filled with tennis balls and peace.   Thanks to all who loved and cared for her during her years with me.

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