liz-2015.jpg

It is always nice to be up close and personal with volunteers over a sustained period of time.   I have many opportunities to interact with volunteers, but not over days or weeks.   A shout out to the volunteers who were wonderful and worked at resident camp this summer, doing all sorts of great things and made camp that much better this year.   Rusty and Gwen Black, Caroline Breshears, Elizabeth Conner, Vivian Martin, Tina Savell, and Dana Jones were so very helpful during the camp season.   Thank you for sharing your gifts with the girls.

It is always interesting during the summer to listen to the girls talk about their troop experiences and Girl Scout experiences.   I am always amazed at the wide variety of experiences and adventures these girls have with your planning and assistance.   I found the girls at resident camp this summer to have a high sense of exploration, confidence to get out of their comfort zone, and knowledge about the natural world.   I listened to some girls talk about different types of bugs.   We had another girl who wore her cowboy boots because she was fearful of snakes.   Then when PANDA had a small chicken snake, she decided she would face her fears.   Later she told me she wanted to "kiss it" which we didn't let her do.   But the difference between hot boots to thinking the snake was really cool convinced me of the capacity for girls to grow and learn through these experiences.   Most of their Girl Scout experiences are within your trusty care.

As the summer winds down and we start to turn our attention to fall it is good to be reminded why working with girls pays such tremendous dividends.   The girls I saw all summer were curious, happy, brave, and inquisitive.   Thank you for all you do to make this possible for all the girls we have the privilege of serving.

liz-2015.jpg

We are on the other side of the hump on summer.  As in my youth, time seems to be relative, with summer waning faster than the rest of the year.   Where does the time go?   Where does the summer go?

I have returned to the four walls of my office to work, instead of my preferred office with no ceiling, walls, or windows -- simply a chair, my laptop, and the sounds of summer fun at camp; girls singing, laughing, playing, canoeing, swimming, zip lining, hiking and having fun.

As an educator, there is nothing more gratifying than watching girls have fun while learning.   The hands-on, experiential learning that camp provides is a great gift.   It is wonderful to watch older girls, who have been Girl Scouts throughout their lives work with younger girls to show them what they have learned.   They share their wisdom, knowledge, and gifts with others and it is a beautiful.   Some of the skills they have been part of Girl Scouts for more than 100 years.   New colors, new materials, and new ways of work have made other longtime skills pertinent for today's girls.   My neon-colored paracord neck lanyard for my glasses is evidence I'm cool.   The fun small kayaks the girls use quickly provide them with paddling experience in a buoyant boat that makes canoeing in a larger aluminum canoe so much easier.   The stand up paddleboards become an entre to windsurfing and other aquatic skills.

Some of what girls experience at camp will be remembered for a lifetime.   There are new friends, new songs, new skills and thrills that make summertime so special.

liz-2015.jpg

Some days at Camp were HOT.   The temperatures may have been soaring, but you couldn't tell by what was going on around me. From my "office" on a porch near Lake Martin, I saw so many girls growing and having fun.

I saw girls in the pavilion learning new songs.   Another group near the tetherball were playing something akin to Marco Polo on land.   Behind me the whir of the zip line continued as girls tested their mettle by giving it a try.   In the cove, there was a group taking out the sailboats for the first time.   The temperatures were high, but you could not tell by the girls I was surrounded by -- all making the best of their summer vacation having a ball.

Camp has been great this summer.   The camp staff has been excellent!   The food has been incredibly good.   One of the staff noted that the food is so good we have not seen hardly any homesickness, because there is a direct relationship between comfort food and feelings of home and safety.   Amanda, our new staff member who is running camp, has brought some fun new ideas and traditions to the experience.

We have worked hard to assure girls are learning skill building in all their activities.   They can play some, but canoe time is getting into the water, learning to swamp the canoe and developing others skills. Just in case you missed it on our social media, the girls had a contest at Camp Scoutshire Woods between two groups under the swamped canoes singing Crazy Moose. It is hilarious!   We were discussing how quickly girls pick up skills if provided the opportunity to give things a try.   We had the Sunfish out this afternoon, and the instructor was stunned how a couple of the girls were rapidly proficient by just watching and listening to the instructions.   Girls are simply amazing!

On one day, I was over at the swim dock taking some video of the girls in swim lessons.   The lifeguards said in a couple of cases they weren't sure one or two of the girls would progress.   But with sheer determination and hard work, one in particular is really becoming a proficient swimmer.   The staff was amazed and delighted.

We work very hard to return your camper as a girl who has become more independent, proficient, and confident.   They have had fun, but they have also established some skills that will stay with them the remainder of their lives.

Would you like to learn to sail?   We have a sailing program, and it is about to become better and larger!  We have long offered sailing on Lake Martin on selected weekends each spring and fall, with the longer and more exciting Sail Away camp following resident camp that is devoted strictly to sailing.  Now, we are about to offer even more opportunities within this pathway program, and participation in a traditional troop is not necessary.

Sailing is a lifetime sport that involves the ability to swim.   It is an active sport and can provide hours of enjoyment being out on the water, watching the weather patterns and learning to read the wind to power the boat.   We have a large fleet of sailboats of different sizes and types from Sunfish to an O'Day that sleeps 8, so we offer lots of different types of craft to learn on.

Rusty and Gwen Black, volunteers who live in Opelika, will be expanding the sailing program this year.   They will announce sailing days during some weekends when they will be up at Lake Martin available to teach sailing to those girls who would like to learn to sail.   The cost will be modest, and they will coordinate via an e-mail list serve when they will be at Kamp Kiwanis. Even beginners, starting at age 9, can join in the fun and learn to sail a Sunfish! Also, if you have friends who want to sail and are not Girl Scouts, they simply can pay the $15 GS registration fee, and they can sail, too!

If you live close enough that you don't mind the commute to Lake Martin and would like to participate, please contact us at communications@girlscoutssa.org, and we will create the e-mail list.   It should be a great time!

liz-2015.jpg

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.

liz-2015.jpg

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.

liz-2015.jpg

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.


liz-2015.jpg

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.

liz-2015.jpg

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.

liz-2015.jpg

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.