When the words “Girl Scouts” are uttered, oftentimes thoughts immediately turn to Thin Mints, Samoas and Do-si-dos.
With the number of local Girl Scouts growing, volunteers are badly needed.
But an ever-growing population of active Union County Girl Scouts is proving they’re so much more than kids who dress in cute uniforms and travel door to door selling cookies.
Take 18-year-old Angie Holland, for example. Angie, who’ll graduate from the Union County Early College in the spring, has been involved in Girl Scouts since kindergarten. Throughout the years, she’s attended day camp, kayaked and gone camping. Most recently, she’s served as a mentor to younger Scouts and traveled abroad to experience foreign cultures.
Angie’s mom, Kathleen, helped lead Angie’s Girl Scout troop, Troop 1278, in a trip to Costa Rica this past summer. The girls participated in a handful of different adventures, like ziplining, kayaking and mountain climbing.
They also visited a school where they distributed soccer balls and school supplies, and spent time with the students.
“My favorite part of traveling is really being able to see culture, to see how they do stuff differently than we do,” Angie said.
Her mom added having trips like these give older Girl Scouts an opportunity to stay engaged with the program.
“One of the big things I’ve seen, even with my own girls, is when they get to middle school they start to lose interest and start dropping out,” Kathleen Holland said. “We’ve lost some (members) because they’re doing sports and other activities, but we’ve had several girls in our troop that wanted to stay. (These trips) help them stay interested in staying in Scouting and encourage them to (work toward) getting their Gold Award.”
Community service and leadership are both important aspects of being a Girl Scout, according to Katherine Lambert, executive vice president of the Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest Council. Scouts often do a handful of service projects, like food collection drives and environmental endeavors.
Recently, a handful of Union County Scouts also pitched in to help develop a large Girl Scouts environmental campus. Several years ago, the Girl Scouts Hornets Nest Council acquired a 700-acre piece of property in Iredell County, near Statesville. The council plans to turn the area into a state-of-the-art campus, with housing, camping areas, an environmental center and a 25-acre lake, Lambert said.
She explained the campus will have both screened housing with bunk beds and air conditioned/heated housing with bathrooms and a kitchen, as well as a separate dining hall built for 500. Girl Scouts will be able to participate in archery activities, walk trails and brave challenge courses.
“When (Girl Scouts) do activities together, they realize they’re part of something bigger than just their troop,” Lambert said. “They’re part of not only a local sisterhood, but a national one, as well.”
Lambert said the Girl Scouts Hornets Council currently serves about 2,600 Girl Scouts in volunteer-led troops in Union County each year, and sees an additional 600 Union County members annually in the organization’s outreach program.
The outreach program serves families in need through financial assistance, staff support and allowing children to become involved in Girl Scouts when they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity.
One of the biggest needs for Girl Scouts, Lambert said, is more volunteers.
“One of the most exciting things with (a growing population) in Union County is that our membership is trending in the same direction. But we’re experiencing the positives and negatives of growing pains,” she said. “Many families have expressed interest (in membership). Unfortunately, we do not have the equivalent number of volunteers to serve those girls. That is one huge need we have … for adults to raise their hand and say, ‘Yes, I’ll jump in and help in serving these girls.’”
Sherry Frerich, senior pastor of Hebron United Methodist Church in Monroe, recently started a troop for Girl Scouts in kindergarten and first grade and believes parental support and involvement is essential for Girl Scout troops, especially those who serve a younger age group.
“I really encourage parents to get involved,” Frerich said. “So many young people are disconnected with their families. This connects families.”
Although volunteers are typically women, Kathleen Holland said dads are welcome to step up and get involved.
“Ideally, it’s great to have other women involved,” she said, “but dads also can help be great leaders. Men aren’t discouraged.”
Want to help?
The Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest is looking for troop leaders and short-term volunteers, as well as occasional episodic volunteers. For more information on how to get involved, email Eren Tataragasi at firstname.lastname@example.org.