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It seems hard to believe that it's already time to start planning for resident, but it certainly is.   We have reviewed the comments from girls, had some discussions, and now we are working on what to offer for next summer's resident camp sessions.   To remain aligned with GSUSA, we are continuing to focus on core outdoor skills.   It is a return to some of the long held and cherished values of the Girl Scout program.   Since we don't know what outdoor badges will be offered, we are working to focus on all those program opportunities girls voted on for the 2015 program.

To answer our most often asked question, yes, we will continue to offer the horse program.  We will also continue to offer swimming lessons, so girls can increase their confidence and abilities in and around the water.   In a state that has lots of water, it is important for girls to have swimming skills and confidence around those skills.   Day camp worked for a number of girls who didn't want to spend the night, or their parents weren't comfortable with it.   We had some great successes there with a number of girls returning for a resident camp session, so we will offer day camp again.  Brownie Sampler is another great way to introduce your daughter to camp if you are concerned about the length of a full session.   Leadership camp will also be returning as part of the program.

One of the interesting things I have learned the past few years is that girls who have attended camp for years don't necessarily possess some of the outdoors skills we might expect.   Few know how to build a campfire, for example.   Outdoor cooking skills are somewhat limited.   We have done a great job with survivor skills, so GPS, compass, and some of the outdoor hiking skills are good, but others have not been part of the program.   Our current thinking is we will work to integrate more of those into the program for all girls.

My own foray into Girl Scouts was serving as the assistant director of a summer resident camp, so I understand and resonate with the values camp provides.   Last summer Karlyn Edmonds, COO, and I were able to spend our summer at resident camp.   What a tremendous gift that was.   We were able to see on a daily basis girls who were not deterred by their size, their skill level, their anxiety, or their fear.   One day I watched one of the smallest girls in her group take on the task at hand, master it, do it well, and then show her friends how to do it.   It was simply amazing to watch.

As we work to shape the summer program, we are in search of girl input.   If your daughter or troop has thoughts about the camp program, please contact us at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

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Do you or your girl have a story to tell about how Girl Scouts made a difference for you?   Girl Scouting has changed the lives of millions of girls, volunteers, and parents.   We know there are some wonderful stories in southern Alabama, and we want to share with others how this had benefitted you and your family.   We will be using your stories of inspiration in our publications, reports, and media.  

Between November 17 and December 17, we are having a contest, asking for your most moving stories.   For those who win in each category, we will offer a $50 Walmart gift card.   There are two categories: girls, so the story needs to be written by a girl and/or with assistance from her parent; and the other category is volunteers.   The stories we use are the stories from you, so please share generously.

For our end of the year letter, we shared two different stories about girls, but we are always stunned and amazed what girls can do and that comes from you.  Here is the link with the details.

Let others know some of the wonderful things that happen through Girl Scouts.

Giving Thanks

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Too often, we get drawn into the chaos of our daily existence, which is consumed with lots of small issues and little time to focus on the large events of the day.    Then, when everyone is in bed and things are pointed toward tomorrow we are simply spent.

Recently, one of our Girl Scouts was seriously injured in a terrible accident on her way to school.   We all stop and take a collective gasp.   In the blink of an eye, her world was changed, along with that of her parents and her siblings.   It was likely a day when no one gave a minute's thought to something devastating happening.

You probably know someone who is battling cancer or some other disease or issue that could be terminal.   We can learn from those individuals.   I have a friend who has battled breast cancer for about four years now.   The operative word is "battled."   Early on, she told me that she decided, rather than spending her time pondering her demise, she was going to treat everyday as a gift to be enjoyed and savored.   She told me she no longer "searched" for happiness on a daily basis, she got up and savored the happiness that came to her everyday.   She enjoyed her walks with the dogs, and the time with her spouse, her family and friends.   She became grateful for every day she was given because it was a gift.   She stopped and smelled the flowers, listened to the birds singing, and watched the changes of the seasons.  What if we reoriented our perspective of dealing with the issues life presents and decide everyday was a gift and live it that way?   Would we not be surprised by the daily miracles around us that we don't take the time to savor?

At this time of year when we give thanks, we want to thank you for serving as a role model to the girls (and children).   These times will not be forgotten.   Girls will learn from the gifts you gave them for the rest of their lives.   Giving of your time and yourself is a gift.   It is a higher order gift because it transcends the daily trivia and provides the opportunity to savor the potential of those you interact with.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom, your gifts, your insights, your time and your talents.

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Giving Tuesday

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December 2, 2014, is GIVING TUESDAY.   Giving Tuesday is a day during which the philanthropic community works to highlight not-for-profit organizations and encourages the community to give to their favorite groups.

We are working on a goal of raising $1,000 for GSSA during the GIVING TUESDAY campaign.   If you want to give an end-of-the-year gift, please consider going online to www.girlscoutssa.org/invest and make your donation to us that day.   We have been promoting Giving Tuesday through our social media with #unselfies, in hopes to increase what we raised in 2013.

Donations and giving are changing from the more traditional end-of-the-year letters to social media, crowd sourcing, and other approaches.   GSSA recently received $5,000 from Wind Creek Casino Wetumpka from a video the girls submitted and was voted on by social media.   Just as retail goes on-line, and we can order most anything from our telephone or computer all hours of the day and night, we can raise funds through Giving Tuesday, which is a type of crowd sourcing.

We work to solicit gifts for the girls through a wide variety of sources.  Over time, however, we have left a couple of United Way organizations due to their funding cuts (Lee County and Southwest Alabama, Mobile) and funding has been reduced from some of the others because of a tough economy.   Government agencies after sequestration have reduced funds to agencies so some of the quality programs we have long provided have gone away because of funding cuts.   Despite all of this, we have a large number of people who give generously to us annually, so girls can reap the benefits of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.

Give on Giving Tuesday, tag us in your #unselfies, and encourage your friends to give to make the world a better place through Girl Scouts.


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We work at "girl speed," which in my world is often really fast.   As we work to attract girls to the pre-eminent girl leadership program in the world, we are asking for girls' input.   At the recent GSUSA National Convention, there was considerable work done around girls' outdoor experience and what they want in a changing world of outdoor opportunities.

GSUSA is rolling out four new outdoor badges next year.   As a part of that process, we are asking girls to vote for what they prefer to be involved in.     The first vote by girls will be around what content area the badges should be in.   The choices are Outdoor Recreation, Outdoor Environment, or Outdoor Survival.   Voting on that extends until November 30, and this can be done by going to Girls Choice - Outdoor Badge Voting. Please encourage their girls to voice their opinion!

Once the results are in from girls on the content area, then they will propose various possibilities within that area for girls to vote on, such as hiking, camping, trail blazing, etc.  The voting for that will run from December 1 - December 31, 2014.   We want to provide girls with the opportunities to learn and develop they outline.   We also want to continue to work at girl speed and make the Girl Scout Leadership Experience one they have a voice in.

Let your voice be heard, go to Girls Choice Outdoor Badge Voting to vote on the content areas before November 30.   Once the content area is identified, return to vote on the actual badge topic. The final results will be announced on March 15, 2015.

Thank you for your input.

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Who doesn't like to spend time with their friends?   I attended a women's chamber luncheon last week, and they have to number where you sit so you won't just sit with your friends during this luncheon.   They were up front about it, saying, "We want to get you to meet people and make some new friends."   Clearly, sticking with your friends happens at every age.

Girl Scouts is about making new friends and keeping the old.   As we work with girls, we find they want to participate with friends they are familiar with.   We believe that the work you do with your troop changes lives.   We are in the midst of the I Can't Wait to Invite a Friend campaign to increase the number of girls' whose lives are changed by Girl Scouts.

At last count, we still had 450 girls waiting to be placed into troops because we do not have enough adults willing to spend their time with wonderful girls.   I attended an event in Union Springs recently, and asked a mother why she became a troop leader. Her response was, "My daughter asked to be a Girl Scout and I decided becoming the troop leader was one of the things I could do for her."   What a beautiful response -- something she can give to her daughter.  

I realize everyone can't do this, but every year our girls' needs are unmet; not because of their desire to be a Girl Scout, but because we don't have the adults to serve them.    "I can't wait to invite a friend" provides a $50 coupon code to the GSUSA Online Store for the current volunteer and a free resource pack, which includes a Girl's Guide to Girl Scouting, Adult Insignia Tab, Official Girl Scout Membership Pin, WAGGGS Official Pin and new Official Volunteer Pin as well as journey book for the new volunteer.  Please help us change the world through girls by identifying someone else who can give of themselves to girls.   They do not have to be the parent of a girl, they can be retired, an aunt, a dad. We welcome all.

Thanks for all you do, help by inviting a friend to be a Girl Scout.

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Do you know where those lyrics come from?   They are from God Bless America.   What you do is to stand beside girls and guide girls.   This week is STAND BESIDE HER week.   This is an initiative to change the negative messages about women and girls.

How many girls have been discouraged or suffered put downs while trying to lead?  39%   At what age does a girl's self-esteem peak?   At 9 years old, think about that for a minute, your peak self-esteem is reached at age 9, 4th grade.   Sixty-seven women rate having a mentor as highly important to their career, however 63% have never had a mentor.   Five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.  

The data is clear from the Girl Scout Research Institute that Girl Scouts does make a positive difference in the lives of the girls involved.   Stand Beside Her is a call to action initiative to mentor, support, and develop women and girls; to end comparison and competition and create a more collaboration and support for one another.

Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts, understood the power of mentoring, support, and collaboration to create support for other girls and women.   Look at what she built.   An organization that has transcended time and surely what she had imagined.   Consider the millions of girls and women who have been changed by someone who chose to STAND BESIDE HER and guide her.   What a wonderful gift.

Recently I was listening to some actor speak on television, when asked about something frightful that happened his response was "I cried like a girl."   At that moment, it hit me as a pretty offensive comment.   I doubt that was his intention, but he didn't think about it and what we say does reflect our values.   As we consider who we are and how we want to change the world, consider committing to changing the self-esteem of the girls you touch.   Consider the power that serving as a mentor, building positive relations among girls, and appreciate each girl for her talents, strengths, and uniqueness.

State of the Girl

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Girl Scout Research Institute conducts  cutting-edge research with respect to girls.   They put out reports with their studies findings and results.   Recently, they completed a report ranking girls by different metrics in all 50 states.   The metrics were physical health and safety, economic well-being, education, emotional health, and extra-curricular activities.   The composite rank for girls in Alabama is 30th.

In an effort to better understand this ranking, let's work through the individual metrics of this research.   Girls in Alabama rated their physical health and safety 33rd in relation to the other 49 states.   Their rating compared to others states on economic well-being was ranked 34rd out of 50.   Sadly, their ranking on education was 40th.   On extra-curricular activities, their ranking was 26th, and on emotional health, their ranking was 21st.   This is how the research came to a composite rank of 30th out of the 50 states.

Burrowing down more into the data, 37 percent of girls 10 to 17 were overweight or obese.   Roughly 8 percent have experienced neighborhood violence.   Twenty-six (26) percent of school-age girls live in poverty in Alabama.

As we examine the education segment specifically, roughly 33 percent of 4th grade girls are proficient in reading and 19 percent are proficient in math.   Only 45 percent of 3-4 -year-old girls are enrolled in pre-school.   Women ages 18-24 enrolled in colleges at 46%, while the national average is at 48%.   As an educator, I find these results troubling.   We can do more.  We can improve those outcomes.

As the Girl Scout Research Institute Report titled The State of Girls:  Unfinished Business asserts, data is not destiny.   Girl Scouts is aimed at providing the tools and skills for all girls to develop to their full potential.   The work you do with girls strengthens how girls can reach their goals and improve their lives.   Thank you for your work, hopefully this accentuates the need to continue and work to impact more girls through Girl Scouts.   To learn more about this report and others, visit www.girlscouts.org/stateofgirls.

New Troops

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So, are you new to Girl Scouts?   Does it  seem overwhelming?   Don't let the catalog of rules, paperwork, and online training be daunting.   The point is to have fun with girls!  Share what you know.   Allow the girls to decide things they want to do from one meeting to the next.

I had a leader invite me to her troop meeting the first year I was here.   It was delightful.   She was very talented and had 40 Brownies in her troop.   She said she planned activities, crafts, songs and educational activities for each meeting, but the girls would come up and ask if they could talk and color.   She learned very quickly to have plenty of ideas on hand, but she gave the girls time to talk to one another and color.   Sometimes we underestimate the value of talking with your friends at the end of the day.   One of the salient values of Girl Scouts is a group of girls working with one another.   They learn to make decisions about what they want to do.   They learn to work with one another when they don't always agree.   Sometimes they argue, but what I hear over and over is they learn by those experiences, as well as the many opportunities to earn badges and patches.

There are tremendous ideas, resources, and program ideas available for you, which could be what look like mountains of information to sift through.   We find different leaders find ideas in different places.   Some use this Virtual Volunteer blog, a place where you can use the "search" function (in the upper right hand corner) to find information.   Others prefer to use the Journey books and curriculum materials.   Others use online resources, which are plentiful.(Check out our great Pinterest boards!)  We are always happy to assist with questions, Cheryl Miller is our Volunteer Liaison. She can be reached at 334-312-0433 or CMiller@girlscoutssa.org.

Some troop leaders take their troop to council-sponsored events, while others don't attend them often.   The council-sponsored events are programs that are more easily done across all troops that are hard for an individual troop or service unit to host.   Good examples are the sleepover on the US. ALABAMA, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab program or the McWane Science Center.   If your troop needs resource individuals, we have lists of those we can provide.   We also have a list of lifeguards and certified archers.   We let you make arrangements with those individuals directly.

Subscribing to the GSSA Weekly e-newsletter is a good way to get an idea of different program deadlines, Other Opportunities we don't host but believe would be good opportunities for girls all around the council and beyond.   The website, www.girlscoutssa.org, has the forms, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and a wide variety of other information.

We hope that the fun you can have with girls motivates you to accept the challenge of working through the elements to obtain your Leader License and have a blast!