‘Year of the Girl’ a quantifiable success

by Jim Longworth

In an era when symbols and slogans grab more media attention than substance and success, Girl Scouts of the USA have quietly wrapped up a year of meaningful and measurable service to the communities they serve.

2012 marked the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting in America, and was declared “Year of the Girl.” Frankly, though, I didn’t pay much attention to that declaration at the outset. I figured that the celebration would consist of a banquet, a photo op with some girls being congratulated by a mayor or two and a report on cookie sales. Boy, was I wrong. Check that. Girl, was I wrong.

For their part, Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont challenged its troops to a “Year of Service.” In a press release, CEO Marcia Cole said, “Locally, our focus is to encourage today’s girls to become tomorrow’s leaders. We embrace the opportunity to influence and develop our next generation of girls, where they demonstrate courage, confidence, and character to make the world a better place.” Not surprisingly, area Girl Scouts took that challenge to heart. What they accomplished from October 2011 through September 2012 is nothing short of amazing.

In their “Make the World a Better Place” service project, more than 300 troops consisting of 2,800 Girl Scouts from central and western North Carolina donated 7,702 bags of goods to Goodwill, and 10,000 pounds of food to various food banks throughout a 40-county area.

Their 100th Anniversary Celebration Service Project netted equally impressive results. According to a Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont press release, more than 4,000 Girl Scouts attended the council-wide event where they collected more than 4,000 pounds of clothing. That effort, combined with the other service project, brought the year’s total to 7,085 pounds of clothing and household items collected for Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina.

Meanwhile, Second Harvest Food Bank alone reported that Girl Scouts collected more than 4,400 pounds of food. According to the Food Bank, that represented 3,600 meals for 43 families, and brought the total year’s collections by Girl Scouts in our region to 14,508 pounds of food.

Then there was the American Red Cross Service Project. Ac cording to Cole, 356 Girl Scouts participated, collecting 1,700 names and contact information. “If everyone who was solicited by our girls gave just one unit of blood, over 7,000 people in need of a transfusion could be helped,” said Cole.

Throughout 2012, 368 troops reported that they completed between one and 10 service projects, totaling 41,642 hours of additional community service. But nothing was more representative of Girl Scout public service than their “Do a Good Turn Weekend Service Project,” which took place April 20-22.

In just one weekend, scouts were challenged to do good deeds and then report their results to their local Council. In that two-day period alone, 3,178 Girl Scouts participated, donating 8,957 hours of service. The state of North Carolina calculates those volunteer hours had a value of $168,391. During that weekend, Girl Scouts from our area volunteered for everything from trash pick-up, to washing cars, to planting flowers. “Those who benefitted from our girls’ generosity included a special needs class, an Alzheimer’s unit, the Ronald McDonald House, homeless shelters, and more,” said Cole.

In March 1912, Georgia native Juliette Gordon Lowe held the nation’s first Girl Scout meeting with just 18 girls in attendance. According to the Girl Scouts website, Juliette believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually by engaging in community service. I believe Lowe would have been proud of our local Girl Scouts this year, and gratified to know that in an age of reality TV shows and facebook, young ladies in our area spent their time doing, not watching. By all standards, the Year of the Girl was a resounding success. Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont has done a great job shaping their young charges into responsible citizens. And, oh yes, the cookies were great too.

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).