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Girl Scouting adapts to the changing times



Published: Sun, August 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Troop leaders are taking on more projects and different topics to promote interest in the Girl Scouts.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Things sure have changed since Elizabeth Wilson's days as a Girl Scout.

She mainly remembers crafts and camping when she joined Brownies, the Girl Scout program for ages 6 to 8.

But her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah, has adopted a green sea turtle, worked with computers and completed public service to earn her Brownie badges, called Try-Its.

"I would have never dreamed when I was a Brownie that it would become this," said Wilson, 36, who is the leader for her daughter's troop in the Laurel School District, Lawrence County. "The leadership has changed and I think we have a lot more responsibility. We have to be very flexible and work with diversity."

New plan: That's the message leaders in Lawrence and Beaver counties are trying to get out with a new plan to attract more girls, volunteers and donors to Girl Scouting.

"We are lighting a fire under everyone. In Girl Scouting, this is our 90th anniversary and we are doing a lot of good things," said Joyce Lewis-Andrews, executive director of the Girl Scouts of Beaver and Lawrence Counties Inc., the organization that supports troops in both counties.

The national Girl Scouts have adopted a new theme -- "New Opportunities for Every Girl -- Everywhere" -- and local leaders say they are taking it to heart.

"There are pockets of girls that we need to reach that have a difficult time going to troop meetings," said JoAnn McBride, the newly elected president of the scout council in the two counties.

While the council boasts that one in every six girls living in Lawrence and Beaver counties are involved in Girl Scouts, leaders say they need to continue reaching out.

Individual approach: Among the new initiatives is to encourage individual members, called "Juliette" members, named for Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low. Juliette membership allows them to attend activities they can make and like and not be pinned down to weekly meetings.

Lewis-Andrews said they have seen a 38 percent increase in individual members in the last year.

"It usually happens with the older girls, but we've seen girls as young as fifth grade drop out because of competing activities," she said.

She noted they are also open to volunteers who can't be there on a regular basis but may only want to commit a few weekends of camping or a project a year.

Flexibility is all part of keeping Scouting interesting and relevant, the leaders say.

McBride said there's been a concerted effort in the area to develop themed Girl Scout camps that can cater to the interests of different girls.

They are working on making Camp Elliot in Volant, Pa., more sports-oriented, while Camp Keystone Tall Trees in Kittanning, Pa., has focused on horses, she said.

Wilson said the leaders also are taking on subjects that pertain to different things that affect the girls such as exercise, health and sex education.

"We don't assume everyone's going to grow up, get married and be a housewife. We have to supply different and new topics," she said.

Fashion forward: There is even a new, sportier look for Girl Scouts.

The national Girl Scout Council has adopted new uniforms that replace the green and brown jumper dresses with cargo pants and stretch tops.

"Girl Scouting is not just one formula anymore. It can be a lot of different things. One thing in Beaver and Lawrence counties, we are expanding opportunities. It's really giving girls a lot of different options to grow and the volunteers as well," Lewis-Andrews said.

cioffi@vindy.com




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