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Giving Tuesday


December 1, 2015 is #GIVING TUESDAY. A global day dedicated to generosity and giving back. Many not-for-profits use this day to kick off year end giving campaigns to solicit donations to support our mission and keep our organizations functioning. If you haven't already contributed, or even if you have, we hope you will consider an investment in the girls of GSSA.  Please ask your family members, friends and coworkers to support our girls and join us in this Season of Giving. We have a new online giving platform that is safe and secure.  It's easy to donate. Click here to make a one-time donation or to join our new monthly giving program. Our monthly giving program is an affordable way to support Girl Scouts using an automatic ACH withdrawal from your checking or savings account, or with a monthly charge to your credit card.  You can also use our printable form and mail in your donation.

Every day I have the opportunity to see what a girl can do.  It is pretty amazing.  Last weekend, Evie, a second grader, spoke to the board of directors of GSSA about her Girl Scout experience.  Evie tried camp this year for the first time.  She wasn't sure about spending the night, so she went the day camp route, so she could go home each evening.  The first day she arrived in her cowboy boots.  It's camp, so we encourage them to dress in whatever they desire.  At the end of the day, when her mother picked Evie up she asked whether or not the boots were hot. She admitted they were. Evie was concerned about snakes, which is really a normal concern and one we see daily. But, after a day at camp seeing no snakes, she summoned the courage to wear cooler shoes.  Her experience at camp was so fun she decided to invest her own funds and return for a second week and stay overnight.  It isn't every second grader who confronts her fears, finds she has the courage to do and try lots of things.  Evie is also learning the meaning of philanthropy. She saved her allowance money from her chores to donate to a charity - she chose to invest her hard earned $5 in Girl Scouts!  We want to thank Evie, because investing in girls will reap dividends years from now. Please follow Evie's example and support our girls.

We want to encourage you to invest in girls and your community for the future.  What sounds like fun and learning, actually results in women who are contributors to their community.  Just a few fun facts about Girl Scouts:  For every 100 girls who join Girl Scouts - 8 will enter a vocation learned through a badge or patch program, 12 will have their first contact with a church, 1 will use her Girl Scout skills to save a life, 1 will use her Girl Scout skills to save her own life, and 17 will be future leaders.  Consider a generous gift to GSSA on #GivingTuesday; it is a sound investment in our community. Because when a girl succeeds, so does society.


I was driving between service centers last week, pondering the differences between a volunteer who was especially frustrating and another who isn't.    Most of my musing was on the latter volunteer, whom I won't name because she would be embarrassed by the attention.  

I don't always agree with this volunteer, but she is always working hard to communicate.   She talks to everyone in the service center.   About once a month, she calls one of the camp rangers, just to see how he is doing.   If she has time on a Saturday and knows there are girls at camp, she will drive up to talk to the troop leaders and meet the girls.   This individual's daughter aged out of Girl Scouts many years ago, yet she has remained involved and engaged.

Over time, this volunteer and I have talked about the realignment that occurred eight years ago, a discussion that was very hard on volunteers, benefactors and girls in the Movement.   We have talked about staff members. She always reports those who are helpful vs. those who could use a reminder about customer service.    I don't always agree with her, and she certainly doesn't always agree with me.   We have different perspectives, and that's just fine.   We view the organization from different perspectives, but I value what she has to say, even if I don't agree.   I've been mad at her, she's been mad at me, but we have continued to talk to one another.   We communicate through thick and thin, which I appreciate.

I have an abiding respect for this person.   I appreciate the value she brings to me and my work, but my respect comes from the fact that she has done this hard work for years, and she continues to be focused on what is best for girls.   She would say, in a self-effacing way, that her work is mostly with troop leaders. Really, though, her work is central to what all of you do for girls.   It is through women like this one that the organization has changed the world through girls for many years.     And we don't thank this individual as often as she deserves.   As I said, she would find this embarrassing.   She is one of many, but she is very special.

This is but one individual in this organization who changes the world everyday because of what she does for others.   Each of you do this often and change the world this way.   I am around girls who talk about their Girl Scout experience.   They talk about the fun they have.   They talk about the activities they participate in.   This would not be possible without you.   This organization would not continue to grow and thrive without you.   As we take the time to examine what we are thankful for, it is for each of you.   Thankful that you are kind and generous enough to use your time to invest in the girls you care about.


It is hard to believe, but cookie time is just around the corner.   I was reminded of this when our public relations cookies arrived last week.   It seems like yesterday that we saw the last year's cookies head out the door.   Last year was a great sale; the girls did a tremendous job, as you did as leaders, and parents.   Thank you for that.   We hope to have an even better year this year.  Before we do that, though, I thought I would run through a few reminders.

Cookie training, which has a fun lemonade party theme in honor of the Lemonade cookie's 10th anniversary this year, is a good program to attend if you can make it fit into your schedule.   We have a representative from the cookie baker with us to talk about the changes they have made and new things on the horizon for the year.   This year, ABC Bakers has worked very hard to make the online ordering experience a better one for those using it, as well as you, so there are some improvements there.   Last year, our online sales generated less than one percent of our total cookie program, while most councils saw a 5% increase in sales through the online opportunity.   Clearly, there is room for growth there, and it is not as complicated as order taking and delivery.   If you have relatives and friends that live outside the GSSA footprint, here's your chance to garner some sales from them.

As always, it is good to have the leadership responsibilities outlined for your troop and service unit.   We have some great leaders in service units who can speak to how they are organized if you need pointers.   If so, please send Cheryl Miller an e-mail, and she can get you in touch with those tremendous volunteers, she is at

With the retirement of Chris Shavers, Teri Eversole will be running the entire cookie program, and as you can image, this is a huge task.   Teri can be reached at, or you can call either office and use extension 1302.   Please let us know if you have needs so we can address them.

Last year GSSA was left with more than $40,000 in excess inventory.   I realize it is often hard for you to predict what your needs will be, so we err on the side of having sufficient inventory.   This year we will be working with our inventory management more closely.   You can assist us greatly in this effort by always submitting a planned order.   This helps us pull what you need and assure we have the types of cookies you need on hand.

We had some folks take more cookies than what they could sell,  which is never a good thing, so we will be watching more carefully how much is taken out on the initial order.   We want the girls to be successful; we want you not to be cussing about cookies littering your entire home for the duration, so we will assist you in ordering wisely.

This year, we will be adding some drive through cookie booths around the council.   We have been working on safety rules to make this safe for your girls and a success.   We have targeted high-traffic locations throughout the council's footprint that we can get access to.   Look for those on the booth scheduler.   If you have any contacts that you believe would provide good drive through locations, please contact Meghan Cochrane at, or call and use extension 2907.

As an educator, I'm always impressed by and want to encourage you to use the curriculum materials that go along with the sale.   ABC Bakers provides some great materials for girls to enhance their learning while doing, so try to use their on-line resources, they are really great!

We plan on doing a special segment called "Cookie Bites" throughout the program to communicate about changes, issues, good ideas, and how the program is progressing.  Look for those in the GSSA Weekly during the sale.  You also can sign up to receive reminders via text message on your phone.  To do that, please email Jennifer Thrash, director  of membership development, at


Recently, I was reading a biography of Juliette Gordon Low, who was an interesting and pioneering woman on many levels.  Even as a child, she was considered kind and good-natured, but eccentric.  Many of her experiments in kindness went awry.  Unlike other girls of her age and social position, she loved to hike, play tennis, and ride horses.  Again, areas atypical of her social station for the times.  Undaunted, she always felt she needed a purpose in life.  After meeting Robert Baden-Powell, she started what is now today's Girl Scouts.  When she saw how the many activities built self-confidence in girls, she found the purpose in life she was seeking.

How often do we see someone else who is a tad eccentric, enjoys activities her peers do not, and has a kind heart although things don't always work out?   We don't always know what lies ahead for the girls we serve.  But among them there will be more Juliette Gordon Lows, we just don't know it.  We can only hope all the girls we serve have the courage, confidence, and character to change their world as she changed hers.

Happy Birthday to our Founder, Juliette Gordon Low, who was born 155 years ago this week!


GSUSA recently worked on introducing new badges using girl voting and input to determine what badges to pursue at what age level.   One set of badges revolve around the outdoors.   Girl Scouts has always been a leader in outdoors education, so this was a perfect match for them.

The Girl Scout experience offers prime forests, hiking trails, lakes and opportunities for girls in the outdoors.   My own view is that we offer some of the most pristine and best property in the State of Alabama.   We boast four very different camps, with differing opportunities at each.   I recognize they are not necessarily proximate to one another, but each has something unique to offer.

The Civilian Conservation Corps built Camp Scoutshire Woods, just a quick 45-minute drive from Mobile, when the economy was really a wreck during the Great Depression. The original buildings and lake were developed only from materials taken from that property, which is one of the things that make it unique and special.   The lake has a spillway that empties into a stream that is fun to wade in.   There is a wonderful hiking trail around the perimeter of the camp with different side trips that offer pitcher plants, a bog, and other interesting opportunities to see nature.   The frog pond on the property is wonderful, with a variety of frogs calling for mates throughout most of the year.   Our rangers have been rebuilding the porch on the recreation hall to bring it back to its original look using hand-planed Cyprus planks.

Camp Sid Edmonds in Bay Minette had a great deal of its pine plantation clear cut in the summer of 2014.   The result is an opportunity to really understand how a pine plantation works.   The quail are abundant, as are the snakes if the weather is conducive.   The inner part of the camp property was left intact, so you can still canoe in the large lake, have a campfire at the fire ring at the Scott House, or hike the perimeter of the lake.   The pine plantation will be replanted after the holidays, so we will be seeing first hand how the pines mature.

Another illustration of a good pine plantation is at Camp Humming Hills.   This is our largest property and has three lakes; one of which requires a very lengthy hike and is deep in the woods.   Humming Hills has the most unique dock I've ever seen, seemingly put together when the builder either didn't have a level or didn't care if it was hilly.   The pine plantation at Humming Hills is 3.5 years old, so the 117 acres we planted illustrate how quickly loblolly pine can mature under good conditions.   This property is the highest point in Coffee County, so you can see forever if you are on Tower Hill up high enough to get a good scan of the surrounding beauty.   The wildlife there is very abundant.   There's long been conversation about a jaguar seen there.   This has been met with some skepticism, but not long ago someone not far from Humming Hills did capture the photo of a jaguar on their game camera.   Humming Hills is located to the north of Elba.

Kamp Kiwanis is a property situated on the western arm of Lake Martin, near Eclectic.   It boasts 2.5 miles of Lake Martin shoreline.   It has two sloughs and islands.   One of the islands is accessible all the time, the other serves as a great place for spending the night during a survivor camp, but can be reached when the lake level is lower in the winter months.   If aquatic endeavors interest you, Lake Martin is the place to go.   It houses the council sailing program and pontoon boat.

For a mere $15, you can become a Girl Scout and for modest fees access all these properties by attending council programs, or with your troop or service unit.   During this time of year when many are talking about their hunting and fishing camps, I always think the girls and adults I have the privilege of serving really have "camps."   They have some of the best properties and opportunities the State of Alabama has to offer.   If you love the outdoors, being a Girl Scout is the best investment you can make.


Fall is clearly in the air. Some mornings are cool and crisp, and the trees are just starting to take on another color. However, there seem to be plenty of leaves in my driveway each evening. Darkness seems to be earlier than before. It always seems to come on so quickly.

Each year at this time, I try to do my annual reminder that girls, parents, volunteers need to be registered, not just because we want them to be registered, but for their own protection and safety.

I recognize sometimes that registering can certainly be a challenge. The system was down last week without warning. We weren't notified, either, and found out through calls from many of you. We regret any inconvenience this caused. With registration comes insurance, so it is important that you and all those who participate in Girl Scout activities are registered. Being registered matters because, if there is an accident and you are not registered, you are not covered by Girl Scout insurance. The same is true of parents and others attending events.

We also adhere to GSUSA's Safety Activity Checkpoints on all activities that girls participate in. Their experts on risk management review these regulations fairly frequently to update them. There is always some tension between what girls want to do and the attendant risks. This summer there was a lot of changes and modification to those regulations. If you are responsible for an event or activity, please take a look at these rules to find what can and can't be done. These can be found at, on the right hand side on the clipboard under FORMS are SAFETY ACTIVITY CHECKPOINTS, or you may click here. If you have any questions regarding those, Cheryl Miller is the council's resident expert, and she can be reached at or 334 272-9164, extension 2302.

We have been working hard to make training for you easier, many of the more technical trainings, such as basic camper training or canoe training, can be done ahead of time with the practical in-person portion of the course being completed in a shorter span of time, but you have to do the homework ahead of time and get it submitted. For more information about that, please contact Cheryl Miller. We are delighted to have a large number of volunteers already trained in camping skills and canoe for this year. It's always fun to get the girls in the outdoors during the fall while the weather is wonderful. We sometimes do have cancellations for the camp properties, so don't assume the camp isn't available for day use or an overnight. If you want to use a camp property, visit the Properties page on our website, or call either Service Center, Montgomery for Humming Hills and Kamp Kiwanis and Mobile for Camp Sid Edmonds and Camp Scoutshire Woods, and they can assist you on the reservation.

We hope you can find many opportunities to get yourself and the girls you work with outdoors and out in the woods.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place.



Do you ever feel like doing program activities for your Girl Scout troop is just too overwhelming?   We have some tools to assist you!

First, the goal of leader training is to provide you with a background of our program, as well as the myriad of rules that keeps girls safe and protects you as the leader or parent.   We are now doing this training on line, to save time and travel.   An e-mail response should have been sent to you so you can participate in one of those training sessions.

Participating at the service unit also is a resource for you to find other troop leaders who have great ideas and can provide good advice on things that often don't work with girls.   It is always good to remember that, if you ask the girls what they want to do, they have lots of ideas.   Often negotiating with them about what they want to do might seem to be a trial. However, that is a good exercise in honing leadership skills.   It might not feel like it at the time, but it is.

Our website, is another great resource for ideas, programs, and other opportunities.   There are forms available on the website.   You can subscribe to the GSSA Weekly e-newsletter, which arrives on Thursday.   It highlights council programs and camping opportunities, with upcoming deadlines highlighted.   It is the source of changes in policies and procedures.   We often have last minute opportunities so they are posted there.   There's a weekly blog about things happening around the council.   It is filled with resources for the troop leader and parent.   There are FAQs, since many of your questions are the same or similar to others.   To sign up for the GSSA Weekly e-newsletter, check fill in the STAY INFORMED megaphone in the middle of the landing page.   On the website under the EVENTS and PROGRAMS section is a calendar of council events and another calendar called Other Opportunities, which highlight events around the council that girls would enjoy.

We offer lots of training opportunities, so you can become experienced on areas you might not have done before, i.e. canoeing, camper skills, archery, or zip lining.   Those can be found at

We don't want you to become frustrated with difficult parents, like those who do not pay for fall product of cookies. We are here to assist on such issues.   If you have problems with a parent or someone in your troop, Cheryl Miller works with troop leaders and parents to address and resolve issues.   She can be reached at or 334-312-0433.   She is often on the telephone, so if you receive her voice mail, leave a message and she will return your call.

We want you to have fun being a troop leader or parent.   Working with Girl Scouts is a learning experience for everyone involved, even the adults.   We have an enhancement program for leaders, called the Leader License, which rewards troop leaders for continuing to attend training sessions, do online training or fill in paperwork on time.   Information on the Leader License can be found in our Ready, Set, Go! document.

If you have questions or concerns and aren't clear where to direct them, please call one of the service centers and those who answer the phones can direct your question to the appropriate staff member.

Thanks for all you do to make the world a better place through girls.


I heard a story recently about a troop leader that said something to a girl in her troop so withering that she spent the rest of the day sobbing.   I heard this from the parent, who was frustrated that the adult didn't understand the power of her words over this child for whom she is an authority figure.  

Sometimes we forget that words can be powerful, and they can hurt, even though that was not the intention.    As someone who worked in higher education for a long time, I'm accustomed to older students, who frequently use humor as a form of friendship and banter, so I understand how something said in jest could be misunderstood or taken in the wrong way.   But not everyone understands that, particularly our youngest children, and we always need to be careful to recognize it when offense is taken.

We want girls to have a fun time.   We know the program teaches girls skills.   Our task is to build confidence, assist them with character development, and develop courage.   When I heard this story, I thought of one of my favorite Barbra Streisand songs, written by Stephen Sondheim. The lyrics resonate in this case, as well as many others.

Children Will Listen

How do you say to your child in the night

Nothing is all black but then nothing is all white?

How do you say it will be all right

When you know it mightn't be true?
What do you do?


Careful the things you say

Children will listen

Careful the things you do

Children will see

And Learn


Children may not obey

But children will listen

Children will look to you

For which way to turn

To learn what to be

Careful before you say

"Listen to me"

Children will listen


Careful the wish you make

Wishes are children

Careful the path they take

Wishes come true

Not free

Careful the spell you cast

Not just on children

Sometimes the spell may last

Past what you can see

And turn against you

Careful the tale you tell

That is the spell

Children will listen


How can you say to a child who's in flight

Don't slip way and I won't hold so tight?

What can you say that no matter how slight won't be



What do you leave to your child when you're dead

Only whatever you put in it's head

Things that your mother and father had said

Which were left to them to


Careful what you say

Children will listen

Careful what you do it too

Children will learn and see



Guide them but step away

Children will glisten

Temper with what is true

And children will turn

If just to be free

Careful before you say

"Listen to me"

Children will listen

Children will listen

Children, children will listen


Why aren't more girls Girl Scouts?   This is an issue we grapple with on a regular basis at the council service center.   The short answer to that is, not enough adults are willing to step up and serve as leaders.   Each year every one of our field executives and their associates returns to the office with a story about how they held a recruitment event and no parents would volunteer to serve. It is hard to conceive that there girls waiting to be Girl Scouts simply because we cannot find enough adults to help.

At this time of year we are busy negotiating with troop leaders to add girls to troops who join, and there is no troop around for them to get into.   The parents won't do it, so we start our waiting list, which some year's reaches as high as 2,000 girls.   It is hard to understand how there can be at least 2,000 girls who want to be Girl Scouts who can't because of the lack of adults.   This time of year we are searching for those adults who want to have a good time with girls.   Is it hard work?   Well, it might be, although we have more materials to make it easier to start a troop.   It does require some time up front to become vetted so we are sure the girls involved are safe and we have appropriate safeguards in place for them.

You do not have to be a parent to serve as a Girl Scout troop leader, although most are because it brings a group almost automatically.    We are interested in any adults who have the desire to make the world a better place through girls.   We have recruitment events scheduled all over the council, you can see them listed on our Facebook page.   But, if you are interested in becoming a Girl Scout troop leader, contact or call either service center and ask for a membership staff member.

We would love to have no waiting lists of girls this year that we wind up turning away because there are no adults interested in spending time with them.   It is fun and fulfilling work.


It is with great sadness that I share with you the passing of longtime Camp Humming Hills ranger Ed Smith.  Ed passed away peacefully in his sleep early Tuesday morning after a prolonged illness.   


Ed served our council with great spunk and dedication for eight years, and along with his wonderful wife, Wanda, made many beneficial changes to this camp property.  He was a hard worker, who loved Humming Hills as if it were his own.


Ed was a friend to many of our staff, and his loss will certainly be felt both by us and our Girl Scout family.  Personally, I will remember Ed's easy smile and kind heart. As many of you know, Ed always liked to pretend to be something of curmudgeon, but underneath that, he really just loved his camp and all of us, and he demonstrated this in hundreds of ways. I'll miss my dear friend and colleague.  He was truly an original.


Please join us in thoughts and prayers for his family during this difficult time.

-- Karlyn Edmonds, COO


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