I am a Girl Scout drop out. I’m not proud of it; but I am. I quit Girl Scouts the summer after my Mom died; I was 11. I could have stayed involved, but entering Middle School and becoming “motherless” was more than I bargained for. So, I quit. Which might explain, why, after all these years later, I am one of their biggest advocates. I have been my daughter’s troop cookie manager for the past 5 years. And when one of the girls asked how long I’d been in scouting, I fessed up and told them that I quit at 11 (they were 14 at the time). They gave me a hard time; but I told them they had to stay involved because I did not. I whole heartedly believe in Girl Scouting and all that entails. And I am really fortunate, that my daughter has chosen to “stick with it”, when I could not.
So, when I read Indiana Lawmaker Bob Morris’s ignorant comments about the Girl Scouts being a “radical organization that promotes abortions and homosexuality”, my head almost exploded and flew off my shoulders (if you know me, or have met me on the tennis court, you can probably visualize this happening). Not to mention that entire hubbub about the troop in Colorado who allowed a “transgendered” child to participate in Girl Scouts. Hmmm. Let’s see: tolerance and acceptance over exclusion and hatred? Which would you pick? And while, this 100 year old, “pro Girl” organization doesn’t need me (a Girl Scout drop out) to come to its defense, I feel I must.
If you do not have a daughter or if you are unfamiliar with Girl Scouts you might only know that we sell incredibly addicting cookies once a year. But what else? What do we do with ALL THAT cookie money? (FYI we make .55 cents on each box we sell; the rest pays for the wonderful product itself). Here’s my chance. This is what I know about the girls I know, the girls you would be proud to know, the girls who, one day we can only hope might run this country.
My daughter and many other scouts from Royal Oak serve on the Mackinac Island Governor's Honor Guard. The program began in 1929, when the State Park Commission invited eight Eagle Scouts, including young Gerald Ford, to serve as honor guards for the Michigan governor. In 1974, when Helen Milliken championed the Girl Scouts the program was expanded. The program is popular, selective, and a long standing tradition. Scouts raise and lower twenty-six flags on the island, serve as guides, and complete volunteer service projects (such as scrubbing and restoring Civil War era tomb stones) during their stay. My daughter has also played the trumpet the last 2 years while serving on Mackinac Island. If you visit the island during the week of July 4th (the most popular week of the entire summer) you will see these scouts all over the island – and they can answer almost any question you might have about the island (even the most quirky, like “what time does the bridge swing over to the island?” – I’m not kidding).
Service projects comprise most of Girls Scout’s activities from serving meals at women’s and homeless shelters to making Valentine’s Cards for elderly residents of nursing homes. Radical? Oh, I don’t know. Let’s just call it “humane”.
The Gold award is the highest award you can earn in Girl Scouts (similar to the Boy Scout “Eagle Scout” award). It can be a difficult and demanding achievement. To earn this award I have known Girl Scouts to: collect and distribute prom dresses to at risk teenage girls, collect and distribute clothing to young women at “Alternatives for Girls”, created and distributed dental hygiene care package kits to Cuba, and acquiring and cataloguing 1600 books for the Ecorse Public Library. There are many, many more examples of how Girl Scouts have positively affected their community. These are just a few of which I am aware.
Last year, one of the girls in our troop sold over 600 boxes of cookies for the “gift of caring” project; these cookies were then sent overseas to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two years ago, our girls earned $300.00 in donations from cookie sales to give to Gleaners Community Food Bank. Our troop is small and only meets sporadically; but last year they collected and donated clothing, towels and hygiene items to a local homeless warming shelter. They donated their excess cookie supply to the Royal Oak First United Methodist Church Sack Lunch Program.
Our girls are not radical. They don’t have political agendas (well, not yet – I’m working on that). What they do have is intellect, compassion, humor, resilience and a willingness to be part of something bigger than them. The Girl Scout mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.
Famous Girl Scouts have included: First Lady Laura Bush, Senator Debbie Stabenow, First Lady Nancy Reagan, Secretary of State(s) Madeline Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Katie Couric, Barbara Walters, Jane Pauley and Marlo Thomas (just to mention a few). See for yourself here: http://www.girlscoutsni.org/pdfs/Girl_Scout_Alumnae_Famous_List.pdf
The Girl Scouts celebrate their 100th year birthday this year. They have positively impacted the lives of millions of girls. I’m not surprised by Representative Morris’s comments. We live in a culture where ignorance, vitriol and hate are commonplace and accepted. Thankfully, he is not a Girl Scout. He has no idea what he is talking about. And even though, I’m a drop-out, I know, see and live what Girl Scouting is all about. I’m lucky to know some pretty amazing girls, not to mention some really fantastic, knowledgeable and dedicated troop leaders.
Oh, and if you need cookies. I know where you can get them.