Local Troops Help Globally

Local Troops Help Globally

Girl Scout cookie sales go to more than scouting needs.

When members of Girl Scout Troop 4515 learned of the devastation caused by the tsunami in Southeast Asia, they knew they wanted to do something.

They just did not know how.

"Immediately following [the tsunami] that week, almost every troop in our council came forward asking how they could help," said Jenna Wood, field director, Association 51, Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capitol. "Girl Scouts are very responsive to natural disasters and things like that."

Wood said because the council received so many calls from troops asking how they could help, the decision was made at the national level to change a policy stating money raised by Girl Scouts could only go toward Girl Scout activity funds.

"We took this to the national chapter and they waived that rule for this cause," said Wood.

Since then, troops across the country that want to help have been raising money through the Girl Scouts most famous fund-raiser, cookies.

PREPARING FOR UPCOMING cookie booth sales Feb. 27 and March 12 outside the Fox Mill Giant and Blockbuster, respectively, members of Troop 4515 discussed briefly at their Feb. 17 meeting how they wanted to attract buyers to help their efforts.

In addition to making large signs advertising proceeds benefiting tsunami relief, co-leaders Filiz Roser and Beverly Lesser discussed "cookie booth" etiquette with the fifth-graders.

"Don't bombard people when they come out of the store," reminded Lesser. "What do we say when someone says no?"

"Thank you and have a nice day," the group of eight girls chimed.

As their main fund-raiser for future activities — including camping trips, hikes and a scheduled rafting trip this spring — under normal circumstances, 60 cents of every cookie box sold would go toward the group's activity fund.

But, because they wanted to help those in need, Roser said 15 cents per box sold will be donated to tsunami relief efforts.

"The [Herndon] area sells more cookies than any other area," said Roser, adding the girls had already sold well over 200 boxes of cookies to family, friends and parents' co-workers.

With 10 members in their troop, the girls in Troop 4515 are only one of 219 troops in their association — Association 51, or Ashgrove West.

Made up of different associations from counties in Maryland and Virginia and all of the District of Columbia, there are 23 associations that include 4,184 troops in the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capitol.

Wood said because there are so many Scout participants in Fairfax County, there are seven associations that are divided by elementary schools.

Wood compared this to Prince William County, that only has one association, adding because there are multiple associations in Fairfax County, Association 51 is average in size.

"The council has one of the most diversified memberships in the country," she said explaining when the council was created various communities were combined. "The merger brought together farming communities, small towns and several larger cities — the area is rich in ethnic groups."

In the Herndon area there are three units that serve the expanding elementary-school population.

Roser said Troop 4515 has fifth graders originally from Floris and Fox Mill elementary-school areas and Nysmith School, although some have relocated to other schools, but remain in the group because of friendships built.

Her daughter, Jenny Roser is one member who transferred to Oak Hill Elementary School, but stayed with her troop because she had been a member since kindergarten.

"I like doing the activities," she said about her favorite part of being a Scout.

ALTHOUGH FAMOUS for its cookie sales and secondly community service projects, Lesser said the Scouts actually do a number of activities.

"There are different ways to approach the Girl Scouts," she said. "Some girls are into winning badges at first, but pretty soon they come to realize badges aren't the only thing."

In addition to earning the widely known scouting badges — of which there are more than 100 — Girl Scouts also have the option of earning Signs, the next achievement, and then the Bronze Award, which is the highest accomplishment they can receive at the junior level.

"The Bronze Award is a service project that is in-depth," said Lesser explaining at least 15 hours of work are required, of which half must be spent planning, to achieve it. "If they see a need out there in the community, then hopefully, through the Girl Scouts, we will be able to encourage them to go out and meet those needs."

Although already thinking about the welfare of others with their tsunami donation cookie sales, Lesser said she hopes the girls will only continue to expand their giving nature as they mature.

"I think it's important to encourage them to do community services and encourage them to take care of nature," she said.

In addition to generating awareness about good citizenship or nature, Girl Scouts also build a positive awareness of self.

"From my point of view," said Wood, "the most important part of Girl Scouting is empowering girls to be the best that they can be and to reach their full potential."

ALTHOUGH ADULTS see the full potential young women can achieve through the Girl Scout organization, the members of Troop 4515 right now only see the fun.

"I like the Swaps," said Priscilla Thai, a troop member for five years, about one of the activities where the girls get together with other troops to meet and exchange trinkets. "I also like the Girl Scout cookies, both eating and selling them."

"I like how we help and do community service," said Snigdha Kumar, a troop member for three years. "If I wasn't in the Girl Scouts I wouldn't do it."

One community event the girls recently completed was a Brownie Overnight, where they joined with other local troops at Trinity Presbyterian Church to play with younger Brownie members and teach them games.

"I liked the Brownie Overnight," said Sara Delaney, a member for four years, who echoed troop members Mickey Lee and Sarah Solomon's comments.

"I liked our trip to [Washington, D.C.] to the National Geographic," said Bethany Lesser, a member for six years. "We got to see an oyster digested and a clam dissected."

Kari Marshall, a member of two years, said she enjoyed helping hand out water during the Reston Triathlon.

Although they only meet twice a month, it is clear by watching one of their meetings that the girls in Troop 4515 are friends and already understand the concept of teamwork that Beverly Lesser and Filiz Roser try to instill in them through their activities.

"The thing I enjoy the most about the Girl Scouts is just spending the time with the girls," said Beverly Lesser. "They're great."