United Way and Girl Scouts walk hand-in-hand

Published 12:59 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Girls of all ages volunteer within the community, build leadership skills and have the freedom to tailor their experience within the Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama.

“A core element of the Girl Scouts is service,” said Molly Smart, director of public relations and marketing. “The Girl Scout experience is very different as you go through the program. It’s tailored to each girl and what she’s interested in.”

There are eight troops here that meet at churches and other places around town. Not all members are required to be part of a troop. Facilitators do programs at the schools to cater to these girls.

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“There’s a lot of different ways we interact with the United Way,” Smart said.

Girls work with the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Easter Seals, food drives and homeless coalitions. The United Way funds the Girl Scouts $377,000 a year, partially covering the $2 million budget.

“It’s one of our largest revenues,” Smart said. “We appreciate all the support of the United Way.”

This cost supports 30 counties in southern Alabama, encompassing more than 9,000 girls from kindergarten to high school seniors.

Troops also earn funds from the annual cookie sale. The sale will kick off on Jan. 5, 2010, for presale, and will be available in February until March 14. Girls learn about financial literacy through the sales, and can choose a plethora of different means to spend the earnings.

Funds from the projects can be used throughout the year, spent half on service projects and half on a trip, or as one troop did, save the money from brownies to seniors and take a trip to Europe with their mothers.

Girl Scouts has also formed an alumni association “for girls who were in Girl Scouts who want to reconnect,” Smart said.

After completion of a Gold Award and the program, girls can choose to be a lifetime member or an adult member. The Gold Award is the highest award given for a service project.

Girls start on this award at age 15 and culminate the project by the end of their time as a senior member.

The Girl Scouts also offer a summer camp program in Eclectic on Lake Martin and in Citronelle with horse riding. Girl Scouting categories are as follows: daisies, kindergarten; brownies, first to third grade; juniors fourth to fifth grade; cadettes, middle school; seniors, ninth to tenth grade; ambassadors eleventh and twelfth grade.

Formed in 1912, the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. is preparing to celebrate is 100th anniversary. “I know it will be big,” Smart said. Congress recently passed a bill including a commemorative coin as part of the festivities.

“They’re a great organization for girls to get involved within Dallas County,” said Jeff Cothran, executive director for the Selma and Dallas County United Way.

The United Way has raised $215,535 of the $350,000 goal for the year.