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Serving Others — The Girl Scout Way

Ask anyone on the street these days about what they think about when they hear the words "Girl Scouts," and the answer will likely be a resounding "Cookies."

Maybe it is because the area just accepted delivery of hundreds of cases of those once-a-year delights and residents are now enjoying the long-awaited treat. But even if the same question was asked in June when cookies are just a memory, the answer would probably still be just as deafening — Cookies.

But ask any Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette, Senior Girl Scout or troop leader in the Fort Hunt area and their answer will be different. Girl Scouts is about much more than just cookies. "I wanted to be a Girl Scout because it looked like fun," said Michelle Arleth, a Strafford Landing Junior Scout.

Sara Link, a third grader, agreed. "Brownies is fun — I love meeting new people and helping where I can." "Girls Scouts brings girls together as the Olympics brought the world together," said Caitlin Moniz, another third grade Brownie.

Celebrating its 90th brithday on March 12, the Girls Scout movement has always been about serving others. "Service is one of our most gratifying activities in our troop - helping others build self esteem," said Celia Boertlein, Senior Leader of Troop 874. Julie Grady, Junior Leader of Troop 128, agreed. "Service is a very important part of our troop. Scouts learn quickly that they can make a difference in their communities."

Since Sept. 11, the entire country has responded to the need to help one another. The Fort Hunt Girl Scout Service Unit which is comprised of Stratford Landing, Fort Hunt, Waynewood, Hollin Meadows, Carl Sandburg and West Potomac schools has done more than its fair share of coming to the aid of the community.

In direct response to the 911 tragedy, Brownie Troop 922 baked cookies for the Red Cross and donated troop funds to an emergency relief fund for families. Junior Troops 128 and 2459 are shipping off cases of Girls Scout cookies to troops in Pakistan/Afghanistan while Brownie Troop 4395 sent baked goods to a Marine Platoon on an aircraft carrier.

Daisy Troops 4332 and 3399, Brownie Troops 4554 and 4395, Junior Troops 128 and 472 donated their dues to the Afghan Children Fund that the White House set up to aid the children in Afghanistan affected by the war. Cadette Troop 211 wrote letters and cards to the rescuers at the World Trade Center site to show their gratitude and support. Troop 900 made more than 100 Christmas cards to brighten up the holidays of troops stationed in Kuwait. Thank-you posters and cookies for local fireman and police were delivered by Junior Troop 2459. "A very rewarding activity — the girls appreciate the sacrifices of those who protect us and wanted to let them know how much," said Susan Green, a junior troop leader.

Although the tragedy brought service to unprecedented levels, Girls Scout service has always been evident and abundant in this community. Last fall many troops, including Brownie Troop 922 and Junior Troops 2459 and 128, collected food at meetings and donated to the food ministry at Rising Hope United Methodist Church and to UCM.

To get a more hands-on experience, some of the troops actually delivered the food and restocked the shelves themselves. Brownie Troop 900 helped out with their neighborhood school's food drive by sorting and organizing thousands of cans of food. "This was the girls favorite activity," reported Sandra Dalal, troop leader. "They enjoyed working together and being in charge."

Recently, Senior Troop 874 provided holiday decorations and Valentine's Day-themed placemats for all 100-plus patients at Mount Vernon Nursing home. Oak Meadow Nursing Home residents also enjoyed Christmas wreaths and songs provided by Brownie Troop 2241 and Valentines cards made by Daisy Troop 4585.

In February, the Eleanor Kennedy Shelter on Route 1 was the recipient of more than 400 bagged lunches provided by Senior Troop 874, Junior Troops 472, 128 and 2459 and Brownie Troops 900, 4554, 2241 and 1849. Collecting and donating toiletries to both the Kennedy Shelter and New Hope Housing were also a project of Cadette Troop 211, Junior Troop 2459 and Brownie Troop 4554. Together, these three troops distributed more than 300 bags of toiletries to the homeless. Baby quilts were hand-made by Troops 4554 and 900 and Daisy Troop 4585 and donated to infants at the Carpenter House, ABC Quilts for Charity and New Hope Housing.

It is clear the Girl Scouts serves the community with enthusiasm and selflessness. Commenting on the good deeds the Scouts perform, Fort Hunt Brownie Morgan Maniglia explained: "Ithink it (the service) is so helpful to the world. People who are in need can just have the Brownies help them out."