Thursday, December 18, 2014

Giving Confidence for the Holidays

A gift can say a lot of things, but what we usually want it to say is "I care." When you have a Girl Scout in your life, you look for every opportunity to give her new experiences that'll let her see how amazing she is and all the potential she has. We can't say enough about how camp is the the best embodiment of Girl Scouting. But don't let us do all the talking! Here is a post written by our Camp Texlake counselor, PJ, about why giving a Girl Scout camp for Christmas (or Hannukah, or Kwanzaa or just because!) is the gift the keeps on giving.

________________________________________________________________________


I’m really excited that our summer camp guide debuted Tuesday, December 9 so that you have the chance to actually start planning what’s coming up this summer, just in time for the holidays! I know what you may be thinking, “Who in the world wants to talk summer camp around the holidays?” Well, I’d like to invite you to think about Giving the Gift of camp this holiday season to a young lady in your life. Here are just a few reasons why:

Recent studies show that the satisfaction of having a fun experience far longer, especially with children, than the instant gratification of getting stuff.
Less clutter in your house (hey, whatever keeps the house clean!)
Physical health benefits – The most obvious is getting exercise, but did you know the large amount of time spent outdoors at camp raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues? Kids spending time outside has even shown, in clinical research, to help improve distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness!
Mental health benefits- Learning leadership skills, building confidence and discovering independence are just the tip of the ice berg for what girls learn at Girl Scout Camp. Camp experiences help kids learn life skills and even become more resilient to life pressures and stress 

This post would be days long if I listed all of the benefits camp has to offer, so I suggest you check out my favorite list for yourself. 

Now I know getting a piece of paper isn’t as much fun for kids to unwrap, so I polled a few Girl Scouts and here are some suggestions from actual Texlake campers for getting camp as a gift this year:
Give a stuffed toy along with a homemade gift certificate for camp. If your girl picks a horse camp, for example, give her a stuffed horse. Bonus, she can take the stuffed animal to camp when summer comes!
Let your camper choose the camp. One girl I spoke with wanted to get a “gift card, a camp [guide] and how much money I can spend” so she could pick her own camp!
Give a journal (for older girls) with some fun pens. One camper told me “I want to write down all the things I want to do at camp and check off the list.” 
Give a camera along with the camp registration so she can start thinking about capturing memories. Disposable cameras don’t cost too much and digital cameras from almost any budget are available for girls who are ready for those kinds of electronics. 

What holiday gift suggestions do you have for giving the gift of camp confidence this holiday season? 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Seniors Go Tech! - Helping Every Age Stay Connected

This month's featured Gold Girl Scout is Rachel Freeman who focused her efforts on helping senior citizens learn how to use technology to stay connected and active with their communities. Congratulations on becoming a Gold Girl Scout, Rachel!
______________________________________

My Gold Girl Scout Project, 'Seniors Go Tech!', was designed to provide senior citizens the knowledge and hands-on practice with technology so they would be empowered to maintain and expand their connections with family, friends and their community.  Medical studies have shown seniors who remain socially connected live happier and healthier lives which benefit everyone around.  Technology is one way to help senior citizens can stay connected but many do not know how to use a computer, the Internet or smart phones.  

Although the retirement centers I worked with provided free internet access, only one offered access to community computers and none provided any type of technological support or education to their residents. I created lesson plans and held classes, as well as individual tutoring sessions on several topics including Introduction to the Internet, Introduction to GoogleUsing Facebook, iPads, iPhones, Email and Kindle for two local retirement centers.  As part of my project I created 'how-to' handbooks for the senior centers and local community groups so others could continue presenting the technology classes I created and possibly expand on the topics.

The 78 senior citizens who attended Seniors Go Tech! classes and tutoring sessions are now able to use their technology much more effectively. In the long-term they will become more connected with their families, friends and communities.  At one Seniors Go Tech! class I met Muriel. Muriel told me she was invited to meet some friends for lunch but she wasn’t going to go. When I asked why not she said she didn’t know where the restaurant was. I told her we could find the address and directions on the internet using her iPhone but she replied she couldn’t read maps very well any more. When I explained to her we could have Google Maps give her verbal directions on her iPhone she was so excited.  We found the address online, programmed the address into her phone and she drove off to meet her friends. I am happy I was able to help her learn how technology can work for her. In the future Muriel will be able to meet her friends for lunch, dinner and movies. She can share what she’s learned with her friends and they will all maintain their connections with families and friends and their community.

Seeing my new friends successfully using technology—some for the first time—was very rewarding. Seniors Go Tech! helped them learn to retrieve voicemail messages, send pictures, texts, emails and “surf the web” with confidence.  I was thrilled to help all of them learn how technology can help them in their daily lives and keep their social connections strong.




Monday, December 15, 2014

Meet the Team: STEM Programs Manager, Mitchell Whittier

Hey Scouts! I’m Mitchell Whittier the STEM Programs Manager at Girl Scouts of Central Texas. I’ve been a part of the Programs team since July 2014 and am super excited to be working here. “How did you get to be in this position with Girl Scouts?” I get this question a lot (probably because I’m a guy), so let’s get to that first. Thankfully, guys can be Girl Scouts too!


I earned a B.S. in Physics from the University of Denver. And, I earned a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Washington where I developed a love for experiential education. A year of my program was at a magical place called IslandWood, a school in the woods. At IslandWood, I was able to teach science on the shores of the Puget Sound, in the forest, up in a tree-house, and on a suspension bridge. I've also had the amazing experience of teaching science in the heart of the Rocky Mountains at the Keystone Science School. There, I had the opportunity to teach ecology, geology, and astronomy while hiking in the mountains, cross-country skiing through a forest, and breaking the rocks of the Rocky Mountains. 

I have also taught Math and Science in classroom settings at Jesuit College Prep in Dallas and Kirby Hall School in Austin. And, I have been a high-dosage tutor at Martin Middle School, Burnet Middle School and LBJ Early College High School here in Austin as well. Most recently, I taught MCAT Physics courses for students wanting to apply to medical school.

Okay, enough of the boring stuff. Let me tell you more about me, the person. I am an outdoor enthusiast. I love doing anything active and fun outside. My newest favorite pastime is Ultimate Frisbee, but I also really enjoy riding my bike, hiking the greenbelt, swimming in Central Texas’ amazing swimming holes, and especially camping and backpacking. I have an eight-year-old German Shepherd Mix, B-Dog, who likes going on adventures with me. But, he’s slowing down in his middle-age and can’t go on the big adventures anymore.

As far as downtime, I enjoy a good board game with friends and family--no, not Monopoly! Newer more awesome games like "Settlers of Catan" (not that new anymore) and "Dominion". I love reading science fiction; my favorite novel is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (I know, I know…the movie wasn't very good).

In my youth, I was an active boy scout. Earning the Eagle Scout award gave me some amazing experiences and I highly value the role scouting has had in my life. I’m so excited to be a part of the GSCTX family. Thanks for allowing me to share my passions for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Scouting with you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Roxanne Flores "By empowering [girls], I empowered myself"

Roxanne Flores - Killeen Sister Cities Service Unit


I was a girl scout from first grade to sixth grade. I actually earned my Bronze award and loved the process. My family moved from Germany to Louisiana which put an end of my Girl Scouting years. There was not an active Service Unit in my small town in Louisiana, so my Girl Scouting came to an end at that point. I picked it back up when my daughter was in the first grade. I was not a leader then, just a parent volunteer and I loved it. My daughter's troop disbanded during that year and my daughter was placed on the waiting list. I was told the list was over a year long and the only way my daughter would get in a troop immediately would be for me to become a Troop Leader. I honestly was scared at the time because I didn't think I could fit it in my schedule. Thankfully, I was wrong and this was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

 As a troop leader my goal was for the girls to try new things and make new friends. The first rule we set for our troop was that our girls be from different schools. We wanted them to make new friends and step out of their comfort zone. In hindsight, I am happy I made this rule; I think of the friendships that I now have because of Girl Scouts. Melissa and Tobi are some of my closest friends and we would have never known each other if not for Girl Scouting.

Girl Scouts has affected my life completely—personally and professionally. On a professional level, I work as Volunteer Services Youth Coordinator. I was able to use my experience as a Troop leader when I applied for this job. I had the administrative experience but being a Girl Scout leader prepared me for events as well as working with volunteers. During my time with the service team, I was an event coordinator and that taught me event planning. Now I plan many events over a year. When I first started my job I relied heavily on the experience and trainings I had with the Service Unit.

On a personal level, my life has changed drastically since I became a Troop Leader. The first part was leaving an abusive marriage. It is funny to me that I was so wrapped up in the situation, that I did not see how bad it was till I started stepping away and educating myself through activities built the girls’ self-esteem. By empowering them, I empowered myself. I asked myself one time , " How can I be a great role model and show them a strong woman when I am in this bad situation?" I left the marriage and have never looked back. I completed my education and received my degree.   To this day, the girls don't know how much they helped me! I am in awe when we go somewhere and the girls immediately pick up or clean an area because they learned a Girl Scout always leaves a place better than it was before. I see the confidence these girls have when they speak in public and how they try different things because change is good. I see the girls following the Girl Scout law on a daily basis. Girl Scouting is not an activity they do once a week but instead a standard of how the live their lives.


I am the mother of three children; Devon is 18 years old, Olivia is 13 years old, and Shiloh is 1. My son has had cancer twice in his lifetime and I admire his zest for life. I never hear him complain and whenever I feel like complaining, I think of everything he has faced or is facing on a daily basis. I am engaged to be married this month and look forward to the day. I received my Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Texas Women's University. I am actively involved with the Special Olympics as a volunteer and am also a proud parent of an athlete. I am a board member of Killeen Sister Cities Osan Korea, Killeen Chamber of Commerce Public Education Committee, and Friends of the Killeen Library, Keep Killeen Beautiful, and Relay for Life. I have been a Girl Scout Troop Leader for 7 years, and this is my fifth year on the Service Team. I have held several positions with the service team: Event Coordinator, Area Delegate, Secretary, FOGS Chairperson, and Media Communications Chair. I work full time with the City of Killeen and I will hit the twenty year mark in October. I enjoy my job tremendously and love coming to work and love the spirit of Team Killeen.

Sensory Mural Station: Helping Children with Severe Disabilities

Gold Scouts

The following entry was written by Elizabeth Geisinger, and covers her Gold Award Project "Sensory Mural Station." Learn all about why she chose this project, the challenges she faces and the satisfaction she gained from it! Amazing work, Elizabeth!
__________________________________________________________________________



A thousand words could not describe the Gold Award and the journey it takes to get to it. I recently received my Gold Award for a Sensory Mural Station I created for Rosedale School, which helps students with severe disabilities.  I began my journey towards the Gold a little over 2 years ago. When I first came up with my idea, to paint murals on the portables at Rosedale, I was elated.  I got my proposal approved and immediately began planning and researching what to do. By the end of year though, I had to change my project because it was expected the portables would be removed so I decided to build a mobile sensory station. I was still excited and researched Adaptive Learning and eventually built the station.  However the school year came and I began procrastinating my project. I lost motivation to finish my project and couldn't convince myself to do it. However this past year, with the encouragement of leaders in my Service Unit, I pushed myself to complete my project. I painted the various mural scenes and attached the sensory objects. I finished it and turned my paperwork in by the end of September. While the journey will have bumps in the road, it is all worth it to finish your project and feel an overwhelming amount of joy when the letter comes and says “congratulations”.




Meet the Team: SISTERS Program Specialist, Candice Stump

Hello wonderful Girl Scouts!  My name is Candice Stump and I’m a Program Specialist and my main focus is our "Stay in School to Enjoy Real Success" (SISTERS) at  Girl Scouts of Central Texas. I’ve been working with the Girl Scouts since March of 2014.  Before that, I worked as an Adoption Specialist and Child Welfare Case Manager for 8 years.  Prior to my time in child welfare, I was a Disaster Crisis Counselor for hurricane Katrina evacuees.  I hold a BA in Psychology from the University of Central Florida.  I have a lot of experience working with children from many different backgrounds and I truly love it!

I grew up in Florida where I loved spending time at the beach, swimming, snorkeling, and SCUBA diving.  I moved to Texas in January of 2014 when my husband, Greg, was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo. I have been married to my amazing husband for over 5 years.  We have 4 children and two Yorkshire terriers that keep us very busy.  I love to travel the world, SCUBA dive, sail, camp, backpack, and hike.  

One thing that most people notice about me is that I almost always have a smile on my face. Most people don’t know that there are two reasons that I’m always smiling.  One is because when I was in the 2nd grade I came home from school one day and told my mom that my school bus driver was grumpy.  My mom suggested that the next time I see my bus driver to try smiling at her.  Well it worked! Every morning and afternoon my bus driver and I shared great big smiles with one another.  I know it always brightened my day and I like to think it brightened hers a little too. The second reason is because of my ballet teacher.  She taught us to keep smile during performances no matter what.  Even if you don’t know all the moves or fall flat on your face just get right back up, keep smiling, and chances are no one will notice. So when you see me with a smile on my face I hope it brightens your day and, on tough days, I hope it gives you the courage to get up and try again.  

I am so excited to be working for the Girl Scouts of Central Texas. I love seeing the exciting things the girls are experiencing and achieving through the Girls Scouts.  I am constantly amazed at what the girls are up to.  I am also honored to bring Girl Scout experiences to girls that might not otherwise have this opportunity through the SISTERS program.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Girl Scouting is a Part of Me" by Lisa Deweese

Throughout the month of November, we've been urging everyone who volunteers with GSCTX to Invite a Friend and get them involved with Girl Scouts. There are so many reasons and  girls waiting to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, but they need YOU to guide them. Here is the story of Lisa Deweese, who has seen the benefits of Girl Scouting and volunteering many times over. 

Read about how it has influenced her life positively.Then Invite a Friend to start a troop and embark on the most exciting ride of your lives together!



"Girl Scouting is a part of me.  I have been involved for 45+ years, including 11 as a girl.  My blood may be a bit green.  

Girl Scouting has given me opportunities I probably would have never been offered. It allowed me to take on leadership roles that stretched my comfort zones, both as a girl, as a leader, and also a trainer.  The confidence I developed in Girl Scouting carried over into my professional life, allowing me to tackle bigger projects and positions.

Volunteering as an adult allowed me to make many contacts in the community which I normally would not have made.  It allowed me to get involved in the various communities I lived in as I moved throughout my career.   I started out to "help pay back" the time given to me by the leaders I had growing up.  Once I got involved as an adult, it kept me excited about the future.  Since I didn't have children, it allowed a path for me to still be involved with girls and their schools as well.

Early in my career, volunteering with Girl Scouts was considered good community involvement.  It probably played a role in promotions throughout my career, and put me in position to assume other roles, such as being the local Campaign Coordinator for my agencies involvement in the United Way  and service with the Ladies Auxiliary of the VFW.  I always said that Girl Scouting showed me how to be "flexible and adaptable" and that there was always more than one way to complete a project or tackle a challenge." 

- Lisa Deweese

Central Bell Service Unit

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Top Nine Reasons to Invite a Friend to Volunteer With You

If there's something we know at GSCTX, it's that friends make everything better! That's why we're encouraging you to Invite a Friend on the most exciting journey you've been on: being a troop leader.

We know you understand, dear troop leader. But in case you're surrounded by horses—AKA 'naysayers'—then point them toward this post and convince them otherwise:

Here are the top nine reasons to invite a friend to volunteer with Girl Scouts TODAY…

9.  There are LESS THAN 613 hours left to take advantage of the Volunteer Invite a Friend
offer. Hey—time flies.


8.  We’re trying to set a new record for onboarding volunteers in a single month! Help us recruit over 50 volunteers this month! Within our council, that's a little over one volunteer per county. PIECE. OF.CAKE.


7.  Did we mention all the Girl Scout gear you can buy? During the Volunteer Invite-a-Friend offer, when you invite a friend to volunteer with us, you’ll get a $50 coupon code to use at Girl Scouts’ Official Online Store.


6.  The more the merrier! Imagine having one more Girl Scout sister to share that box of Thin Mints with—no more eating cookies all by yourself! (It's ok, we do it, too.)


5.  There are 17,652 Girl Scouts at GSCTX… and another 30,000 girls nationwide who are sitting around waiting for you and your friend to step up and start troops for them.


4.  The best memories are the ones that make you laugh out loud! Make a "Happy Bank" deposit by helping girls from your area make memories and friends they'll keep forever.


3.  “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold…” Need we say more?


2.  It's been scientifically proven that laughing keeps you young! Forget expensive creams—girl giggles, silly stories, new experiences, and breaking out of your comfort zone are the real Fountain of Youth.


1.   Before you came along, your girls were waiting for someone to be their role model. There are girls still waiting for that role model to come along. Invite a friend to make a difference in these girls’ lives today!


Once you've invited a friend to start a new troop, let us know RIGHT HERE!Have a question? Contact membership@gsctx.org.

Girls Are Waiting For You, So What Are You Waiting For?

After the New York Time's article about the change in focus at Girl Scouts, another by NPR and a blog post by GSUSA, it's evident that the Girl Scout movement is facing adverse times. 

The problem we have right now isn't creating interest from girls, or the decline in Girl Scout membership. Girls are ready to make new friends, go on adventures, learn new skills, sing songs and to feel empowered time and time again. They need capable leaders who can take them on these new experiences, hold their hand when they need it and let go when they're ready. They need adult role models that will provide the support they need to develop the self-reliance and confidence they need to face the ever-changing landscape and challenges we're still faced as women. 

Being a troop leader is NOT an easy task. It takes time, energy and lots of effort. But anyone that's ever seen a girl smile after completing her first High Ropes course or witnessed the surge of confidence a whole troop gets after returning from their first back-packing trip can tell you it's worth every bit of work. Because while you help these girls grow, you're growing, too. The satisfaction you gain from knowing that you're making a real difference in girls' lives is far too big to describe, but anyone that does it can tell you it's true. And that's worth more than all the Thin Mints in the world. 

To become the role model your local Girl Scouts will never forget, click here. To Invite a Friend to become a troop leader, click here.




Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy birthday, Juliette Gordon Low!

Juliette 'Daisy' Gordon Low was a pioneer, advocate and a hero for girls in her time. Her efforts have transcended through time and we find ourselves now reaping the fruits of her work and carrying her legacy. But Daisy was also once a girl, going through the same experiences all girls face. Her life beyond Girl Scouting was full of friends, family and experiences that helped her become the woman we so greatly admire.


Juliette Gordon Low: Girl Scout, sister, friend, woman.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Destinations deadline approaching!

Destinations applications are due to Emily Magnotta by November 1st! Pass this out to any older girl, Service Unit Director or troop leader you know!


For our GSCTX council specific information , read the destinations manual. It will answer all of your questions regarding travel!

Remember these are girl-only trips! We know you’d love to share these experiences with everyone, but these trips are JUST FOR YOU! Sorry, Sparky the Dog will have to stay, too.

LAST DAY FOR Destination applications due to Emily: November 1, 2014 (PDF only! Scan and e-mail to emilym@gsctx.org) If you choose to submit an application after November 1st, you will not be eligible for funding from GSCTX. Please include your name and trip in the subject line. One trip per e-mail when submitting paperwork please!

Application information:
Council name: Girl Scouts of Central Texas
Council contact: Emily Magnotta
Council phone: 979-774-0050
Council address: 909 Southwest Parkway East College Station, TX 77845


Girls that receive funding from GSCTX will be required to speak at 2 destination experience days next fall.

I would be happy to answer any and all questions you have regarding the destinations program!


Ready…
Set…
Travel!

Girl Scouts in Wimberley participate in flag retirement ceremony


On Sunday September 28th, 2014 Girl Scout Troop 1429 participated in a flag retirement ceremony with Boy Scout Pack 127 of Wimberley, Texas.  The  Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Commander, the Chaplain, and additional members of the VFW were in attendance with Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. 

The girls participated in  the proper way to retire a flag: the stars where cut and separated from the stripes.  Members of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts took turns speaking about each stripe in front of the audience as the flag was being cut and stripes were burned. After all 13 stripes where burned, 'Taps' was played and the stars where burned.  

This troop event was designed to enhance patriotism and respect for the flag, all while the girls learned important flag history.  Troop 1429 is led by Ms. Angie Haston, of Wimberley, TX, and is a proud member of Girl Scouts of Central Texas.


Volunteer Spotlight: Kathy Beifuss, keeping the Service Unit together


"Kathy Beifuss serves in numerous positions on the service team and she stepped forward to serve when there was a re-organization of their service unit (SU) made by the council.

A while back, the SU was hit with a blow in leadership. Kathy quickly stepped up to assist new leadership, which allowed the unit to stay together. She not only maintained it, but made it stronger over the next two years. The Girl Scouts in that SU would have suffered had it fallen apart. It would have taken a huge effort to rebuild it.  Then, when a second round of leadership changes occurred, this volunteer kept the SU together once again!  

She has wonderfully served the Bryan-College Station SU in more capacities than her assistant director position calls for: Silver Award consultant, travel application approvals, facilitator in camping and program levels, communications, troop problem solver, SU date reminders, she ensures cookie sales information is submitted, and is also the Camp Howdy site crew and camping manager. 

Kathy Beifuss is a strong, silent (unless it involves tent folding) force, who helps keep a large metropolitan SU together, providing girls the fullest, most rewarding Girl Scout experience they can have."

Kathy is a treasure to Girl Scouts of Central Texas and we couldn't be more proud of her. Thank you for all your hard work, Kathy!

Today's volunteer feature was submitted by Debra Turner, a troop leader and SU Troop Organizer for the Bryan-College Station SU. Thanks, Debra!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Discover, Connect, and Take Action: Girls Change the World"—GSCTX at the 2014 Girl Scouts national convention


"On Wednesday, October 15th Texas bound girls headed for Salt Lake City, Utah. Why you ask? For the 53rd annual Girl Scout National Convention, of course! 

Twenty representatives made up of girls, volunteers, staff and board members represented Girl Scouts of Central Texas among the 6,000 participants in the week-long conference. Scouts who are members of GSUSA flew in from all over the world to participate in delegate sessions, Girl Scout leadership institute (GSLI) activities, meeting with collaborators, and listening to inspirational speakers. International guests and Girl Scouts were welcome too, introducing our girls to Girl Scouting outside of the states. Our GSLI girls represented the entire council area and were chosen to work on projects in their communities from the information they gained at the convention. 

Right now, our girls are working on such topics as addressing basic needs, education, teen violence and gender equality. Discover, Connect and Take Action was the theme of the conference and after meeting our new board, learning great ideas and sharing general practices our girls, staff and volunteers are ready to Take Action and change the world! The next conference will be held in Columbus, Ohio in 2017."

Thanks to Emily Magnotta for sharing the excitement of the national convention with us. We can't wait to see the projects our Girl Scouts will take on after this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Girl Experience Special Announcement: Outdoor Badge Voting


Girl Experience Special Announcement! When asked what the girls should do, Juliette Gordon Lowe responded, “What do the girls WANT to do?” During the national convention, GSUSA announced that starting in the fall 2015 program year, girls will be able to enjoy new outdoor badges and they want your input into what those badges will be. Girl Scout Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes and Seniors will vote first on an outdoor badge content area (i.e.: Outdoor Recreation, Outdoor Environment, or Outdoor Survival). Once there is a majority vote on the content area, girls will vote on the actual badge topic (i.e.: Hiking, Camping, Trail Blazing, etc.). Click here for more details!

This is going to be great!




Dripping Springs Girl Scouts Help Helping Hands Food Pantry

Dripping Springs/Wimberley Girl Scouts came to the rescue of a current protein shortage at the Helping Hands Food Pantry! Brownie Autumn P. from troop 406, and Cadette Sarah H. from troop 755, used donations from local Girl Scouts to fill a food cart to the point of overflowing with canned meats, fish, beans, peas, nuts, nut butters, dried beans and peas, hearty meat soups for the those in need in the Dripping Springs  area. These girls are setting the example for other community organizations and individuals to help make the world a better place through serving food nutrition for those that are down on their luck.

Following that trend, in early November, Dripping Springs/Wimberley Girl Scouts will contribute time and energy to the upcoming Empty Bowl Project, an effort that will feature area chefs at their best. This annual family-friendly event invites the community to select their favorite locally crafted ceramic bowl—many made by Girl Scouts— and fill it with gourmet soup & bread, and listen to live music while enjoying their meal. 

This year’s event will take place on Sunday, November 2, 2014 from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM at Sunset Canyon Pottery located at 4002 E. Hwy. 290 in Dripping Springs, TX 78620. Proceeds from the event will benefit Helping Hands, Inc. in providing food and aid to those in need.

Dripping Springs/Wimberley Girl Scouts is a 350 girl member unit organization, which specializes in growing girls into leaders through community service, and teaching girls skills in personal leadership that will last them a lifetime.  The area parent organization, Girl Scouts of Central Texas, serves 46 counties with  over 17,000 girl members who are making the world a better place. Girl Scouts make a lasting impact in the communities where they live!





Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Enriching the Lives of the Elderly: A Gold Award Project for the Aging

Gold Award Girls

The following entry was written by Leah Hook, and covers her Gold Award Project "Enriching the Lives of the Elderly." Learn all about why she chose this project, how she accomplished it and what it's doing to bring joy for a particular group in her community. Amazing work, Leah!
__________________________________________________________________________


For my Gold Award project, I created a bird and butterfly sanctuary in the main outdoor garden (the Rose Garden) of the Wesleyan at Scenic Skilled Nursing, Rehabilitation and Memory Care facility in Georgetown, TX. This entailed providing appropriate habitat for the birds and butterflies by creating new garden beds of native plantings that attract wildlife as well as installing a variety of birdhouses and bird feeders.

My project addressed the social and emotional needs of the 165 aging residents at the Wesleyan.  As in most health care facilities for the elderly, many of the residents there spend a great deal of time in their rooms, secluded from the other residents.  In medical terms, they are "socially isolated."  The bird and butterfly sanctuary enticed them to come outdoors more often to enjoy the beauty of nature. It also provided them opportunities to socialize with more of the residents and guests.  The enriching activity of bird- and butterfly-watching allowed them to develop both new hobbies and new social connections, thereby reducing their isolation and loneliness.

Over a year's time, I completely renovated the Wesleyan's Rose Garden which serves as the main gathering place for residents and guests.  This involved a great deal of manual labor (of my family, volunteers, and me): we weeded all existing beds, pruned all trees and shrubs, removed leaves and debris, planted new ground cover, drew new garden borders, developed landscaping plans, and selected and installed new native plants and a decorative garden trellis. The other part of my project entailed the the creation and installation of birdhouses, bird feeders and a butterfly house in order to draw wildlife to the gardens.

As the culminating activity, I presented a bird-watching program to the residents in which I educated them about the birds most common to Williamson County and their unique characteristics and calls.  This enabled them to identify the birds that are frequenting the Rose Garden.  Along with a slideshow presentation, I also created a bird reference guide, The Georgetown Chorus, of the ten most common birds to visit bird feeders and gardens in the County.

The most successful aspect of my 110 hour project was increasing senior resident's interest in coming outdoors and viewing the numerous birds and butterflies within the Rose Garden.  The overgrown, weed-filled, poorly maintained Rose Garden is now a beautiful, thriving bird and butterfly sanctuary teeming with life.  Some of the residents are participating in the project by adding birdhouses, bird feeders, and plants of their own.  Most importantly, the residents are interacting with each other as they talk about the new plantings and the different birds and butterflies that are drawn to the sanctuary.  With the new activity of bird- and butterfly-watching, they are building common interests and connecting socially.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Meet the Team: Program and Travel Specialist, Emily Magnotta

Howdy friends!

My name is Emily Magnotta and I'm the Program and Travel Specialist in Bryan/College Station. I have been with GSCTX since March 2013. Prior to my time as a staff member with GSCTX, I graduated from Texas A&M in 2009 with a BS in Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences specializing in working with at-risk youth and youth with disabilities. I traveled the world for three years all through Girl Scouting before I landed back at GSCTX!

I love to travel, hence my extensive resume in Girl Scouts. I have been in the organization since I was five years old and have done everything from getting my Gold Award, attending 8 destinations, working and directing as camp staff, working as an independent contractor for GSUSA, to finding my nice and comfy home at GSCTX.

My hobbies are sewing, classic Hollywood, spending lots of time with my dog, Money Penny, and running in races. In my spare time outside of GSCTX I am a volunteer firefighter and CPR instructor. I love working with my brothers and sisters within the department to learn about something new each week! Firefighting is super cool!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Volunteering Doesn't Just Benefit Girls

As Girl Scouts staff members we don’t always see the impact Girl Scouting has on an adult volunteer – at least not as it happens. So, I felt privileged to see this happening with one volunteer.  

She joined Girl Scouts to help with her daughter’s troop, but wasn't sure she was quite up for the challenge of taking on the role of leader.  She is an introvert by nature; could hardly talk to other adults sometimes.  However, she understood the importance of her responsibilities  and took them on in order to become a better leader. 

She attended the council’s leadership training, sat in the back, and took it all in.  During a break, several experienced volunteers were talking and joking with the staff members that were there.  She stood on the other end of the porch – listening quietly.   When something funny was said, she would just smile, but she never quite joined in.

The next encounter with volunteers and staff members, she continued learning.  However, this time during the break she took a position a little closer to the action.  It took her four or five training sessions and a couple of years, but now she had mustered up enough courage to walk her way across that porch!  She began to talk and to share with others. 

Eventually, she joined the Service Unit team. Then, she undertook the role of a volunteer trainer.  She went on to became a Master Trainer and then a member of the council’s staff.  She insisted on working for free and had to be persuaded to take a paycheck.
Today, she is a lifetime Girl Scout and has worked for two councils for approximately ten years!

Sometimes, we forget that Girl Scouting can make a huge impact on adults as well!  We assume that all adult volunteers just have “what it takes.”  They do have the drive and the understanding that what they do is crucial, but there is also a lot of growth to take place when adults are in the picture.  

I know that Girl Scouting has impacted my life in a way that few people would realize. 

Let this be a reminder to slow down and spend time with volunteers!  You may be surprised at what you learn.  By all means, don’t be too quick to judge that shy lady in the back; she may surprise you!

-Lana Turner

Monday, September 22, 2014

Meet the Team: Awards Specialist, Miranda Sterling-Rains


Greetings, Girl Scouts! My name is Miranda Sterling-Rains and I'm the Awards (Bronze, Silver, Gold) Specialist for the Girl Scouts of Central Texas. I've been with the Council since December 2013.  Before that, I worked for the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles for two years.  I hold a Master's Degree in Organizational Leadership and a BA in Theatre.  I have a lot of experience working with children and I really enjoy it!

Here's a little background on me that you won’t get from reading my resume:  I have two black belts, one in Tae Kwon Do and the other in Shotokan Karate.  I currently train in kickboxing and Krav Maga.  On September 30, I will celebrate my one year wedding anniversary with my husband, Alec. We have two rescued dogs, Roxy and Henry (photo attached). We also have 3 adorable nephews and one beautiful niece - courtesy of my older brother and sister.  I also love to go SCUBA diving, fishing, snowboarding, camping, hiking…practically anything outdoors or athletic.  

My husband runs a martial arts school and teaches children and adults in Pflugerville.  I also love improv and theatre.  In LA, I performed with an improv group at Comedy Sportz and have been in several (small) professional productions.  With my training in martial arts, I also performed and choreographed fight choreography for theater and independent film.

I love providing our girls with opportunities that they may not have outside of Girl Scouts, expanding their horizons, and letting them see that they can achieve anything.  With the Gold Award, I love seeing the girls grow throughout the course of their project, from the beginning to end.  The leadership, passion, creativity, and determination they demonstrate is awe-inspiring.  I’m so proud of what our girls do!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Helping Sick Kids Sleep Tight

My name is Brittany M. and I am working on my Silver Award project. When I prepared for it, I knew that I wanted to help little kids.  I noticed that whenever I travel, I always carry a pillow with me. It makes me feel safe and, because it’s in the shape of a heart, it reminds me of my home because my house is filled with love.  

Thanks to a migraine, I ended up in the emergency room last year.  I was pretty uptight and boy, did I miss my pillow!  My mom and I came up with the idea of sewing pillow cases to give the children whose families stay at the Ronald McDonald House so they would have a one of their very own.   I wanted to make sure that when kids have to come to the hospital for treatment, they can carry a little piece of “home” with them so they can sleep tight.  I also wanted to teach others to sew these pillowcases so that more people can donate them to their local Ronald McDonald House.  My mom helped me think through this project and helped me stay motivated when the timing was tight.   While my original goal was 25 pillowcases, I am excited to say I will be donated 52 pillowcases! 

If you want to do a similar project, contact the Ronald McDonald House nearest you (http://www.rmhc.org/).  You can connect with local sewing groups, quilting groups, or maybe even your local cloth/hobby store if they give sewing lessons to see if they will provide the sewing machines (as well as someone that knows the machine to help you since they are all different).  Make sure you plan far enough in advance so others can come and ask for material donations or look for material on clearance.

MATERIALS   NEEDED: (If connecting with a sewing group, they will likely have most of the items below except the material and thread.)
·         Material 45” x 36”
·         Thread
·         Pins
·         Sewing Machine
·         Measuring Tape
·         A pair of scissors
·         Seam Ripper (optional)
·         Seam Gauge (optional)

1.     Choose a material that is washable as well as soft if being used for a sleeping pillow (not just one for decoration). 

2.     Second, fold the material inside out in half hot dog style (length-wise), otherwise it might not turn into a pillow case; I am speaking from experience when I say that it will turn into a blob and you’ll have to unstitch it.

3.     Line up the edges and trim off the salvage (the part at the sides of the material that sometimes has little pin holes or white space with no pattern). Cut off any ragged edges, too.  It’s easier to sew if it is a straight seam and it looks nicer, too!

4.   Pin the short side, starting from the folded corner, and the long side putting pins in as shown below. Make sure to only pin one short side, otherwise there won’t be a hole to put the pillow in. You can put pins about 1-3 inches apart depending on how comfortable you are with keeping the material together.

5.     After you are done pinning both sides, you are now ready to start sewing. Make sure the color of thread you are using matches the material, including the thread in the bobbin (the round thing below is filled with white thread).  (To determine how to thread the sewing machine and load the bobbin, see the instructions for your specific sewing machine.)



6.   Like you did with the pinning, start sewing the end where the material is folded over, keep about  ¼-½  inch away from the edge and make sure to lower the foot (that flat silver thingy that holds down the material to keep it well…flat). Hold the thread while you sew the first few stitches (then you can let go.)  After you sew about 5-10 stitches you are going to do what is called a back stitch where you go backwards for a few stitches and then continue forwards.  This keeps the thread from pulling out.  (See video below for steps 6-8.)   TIP:  Keep your fingers out of the way!  The needle is really sharp and accidents can happen fast.  (Thankfully, I don’t speak from experience).

7.   Continue to sew a ¼ inch seam along the pinned edges only as seen in the video. When you get about an inch away from the end make sure to keep the needle down and lift up the foot. Once the foot is up you are going to turn the material to the long side.

8.   Put the foot down and you can begin to sew again. This time you can go all the way to the end of the material and just like you did in the beginning, you are going to back stitch at the end.


9.  After sewing both sides you are going to lift the needle and foot and carefully pull the threads out a few inches.  Cut the thread close to the cloth…just don’t cut the cloth!

10. To make the hem for the opening of the pillowcase, you are going to fold over the open end about 2 ½ inches all the way around, while it is still inside out.


11. Fold ½ inch of material under the top. This will give you a 2 inch hem.



12. To keep the hem neat, you can use a seam gauge (shown below) or a ruler to measure 2 inches.  Pin tucked material all the way around with the pin head sticking out, through the first and second fold so it doesn’t unfold.  Make sure not to pin through both the top and bottom parts of the pillowcase or you’ll get to put the seam ripper to use and take out what you sewed!




13. Then open up the pillowcase and sew the hem.  Don’t forget to hold the thread!  Put the foot down so you can sew ¼ inch away from the double folded edge and start sewing. Be sure to back stitch after about 5-10 stitches in and then continue on until you have gone all the way around.




14. When you come to the end you are going to overlap the stitches and back stitch again. After all the sewing is done, trim the loose threads and turn the pillow case right side out.  You can also get creative in adding trim or decorations to the pillowcase if you want to. Just remember to use things that would actually be comfortable to sleep on!

Wash your pillowcase and donate!  Happy sewing!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Troop 352's ALS #IceBucketChallenge !

The wonderful Girl Scouts of troop 352 bridged from Brownies to Juniors on September 2nd and as a closing to this exciting occasion, they decided to hop onto the ALS #IceBucketChallenge bandwagon. Watch this hilarious video and remember, a Girl Scout is ALWAYS prepared.


video


You have 24 hours!

-GSCTX

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Girl Scouts has made a difference in my life


Alice Piri is a volunteer from Concho Pearls Service Unit and has been a part of Girl Scouts for many years. Being part of Girl Scouts not only has enriched the lives of many, many girls, but has also changed her life for the better. Read about her experience below:

_________________________________________________________________________

I was about seven or eight years old when I first heard about Girl Scouts in second grade. I wanted to join, but at that time only “city girls” were allowed to join. I was a farm girl and absolutely devastated by that news! Elementary school years passed but by then I had focused on 4-H instead. 

In 1972, while living in Great Falls, MT, a few 4th, 5th and 6th grade neighborhood Girl Scouts asked me to be their sewing advisor. I thought sure, “I can do that!” So each girl came over and sewed a poncho for their Junior Girl Scout Sewing badge. What lovely ponchos! At that time I had a daughter who was 1 ½ years old and I was expecting to have another child in August, 1973.

These girls made such an impact in my life with each one having such a personality that was different and special from the next one. On the night I was about to go to the hospital, they called me over to one of their homes and had a surprise baby shower for me. To this day, I still remember the banner they made for me that said, “We are all bananas about Alice!” I have kept in touch with their parents all of these years and actually visited their families three years ago.

I may have mentored hundreds of girls throughout the thirty five plus years in Girl Scouts, each one bringing their special uniqueness and various skills to the troops I worked with. Each girl touched me in a special way and the impact has followed me all of my days in such a positive manner. I remember one girl struggled with dyslexia, and she wanted to earn the highest award in Girl Scouts- the Gold Award. She was concerned she couldn’t write what she was doing properly on her forms. I decided we could get an audio recording of everything she said and she was one happy girl! This boosted her self-image to a higher level!

This summer, one of the San Angelo Girl Scouts—whom I mentored on her Gold Award Project—went to Africa on a mission trip. She took 100 pillow case dresses with her that were made by her and the sewing team.  Helping these girls could make anyone feel good and it continues to keep me focused on what is important in life. Imagine how the African girls are feeling with new dresses from America, made by Girl Scouts!!

We all need to remember the power of doing well by doing good. Each of us, in our own lives, will be faced with challenges, road blocks, problems that we didn’t anticipate or expect. The way in which we deal with adversity will be influenced, to no small extent, by how we deal with others along the way. What we get will depend a lot on what we give.

When you get to be my age (which, for some of you, is really old, though it doesn’t seem so old to me anymore), you will find yourself beginning to ask, “Did my life make a difference?” That’s the day of personal reckoning. I think the only way to face it is consider, every day of your life: How can I do something for somebody else? How can I give back to others? It may be teaching or becoming a doctor. You may be successful in business (no matter what your career path) and always have the opportunity to give back. The chance to give time, money, your heart and soul will always present itself. Paying it forward is the best policy and comes back to you in more ways than one. When you’re presented with new beginnings, you should keep your eyes open for those opportunities to give and embrace them as a sure way of doing well.

It has been a privilege to serve in the Girl Scout program.  25 of the years were spent traveling with my military husband and family from various duty stations and even serving abroad. Each move meant finding friends and without a doubt we found them through Girl Scouts (as well as Boy Scouts)! Our three children needed it as much as I did. There was no way we were going to be lonely and Scouting provided the extended family we needed while away from our families.  I am more thankful how each girl, adult and volunteer has enhanced and enriched my life in a special way.  The Girl Scout song “Make New Friends, but keep the old, one is Silver and the other is Gold, A circle is round and has no end, that‘s how long I want to be your friend” is so true! ‘Forever’ is wonderful with all the friendships we have made throughout the years!

Alice Piri
Adult Volunteer Girl Scout
Concho Pearls Service Unit

We appreciate every single one of our volunteers and everything they give our girls to life them up! Change a girl's life and change your own. Invest in girls. Change the world. Volunteer today!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Troop Talk - Troop 350, Girl Scout sisters and BFFs

When you meet Troop 350 you can’t help but notice their enthusiasm and joy. The excitement that surrounds them is electric and the happiness is evident in their faces. You can see it in their troop leaders’ faces, too. 

Every single girl in this troop is happy and excited to be together and every single girl here is a friend to the other.

Troop 350 has 9 Juniors, of which we met five and their two troop leaders, plus a troop mom. Linda Luehrmann is one of the leaders and the one in charge of re-registering the girls for this upcoming Girl Scout year. Thanks to her decision to use online Early Bird re-registration, the troop was drawn and won a chance to come to the Kodosky Center and have a quick chat with us.

It’s easy to see how much fun these girls have together—they were actually on their way to tour Whole Foods after their quick talk with us.

Lto R. back to to front, clockwise: Lauren S, McKenzie W.,
Anika L., Kennedy Y., and Aleezah S. 
Their troop leaders are just as enthusiastic—they have been friends for years and have similar Girl Scouting trajectories. They were both Girl Scouts and then as alumnae, both volunteered before they became moms and are now volunteering again. What a wealth of experience they bring to the GSCTX family!

The girls in this troop quickly showed us what a giving nature they all have. One Bronze Award project they are bouncing around revolves around Dell Children’s Hospital:

“We were thinking about having a toy and book drive for the kids staying there,” said Lauren S. “We also want to babysit when we’re twelve,” is another  one of the things Kennedy Y. is looking forward to with her troop sisters. “It’s just fun!!” said Anika L. “I can’t wait to go to water parks and visit camps."

When asked what else they couldn’t wait to do this year, there was a resounding agreement about camp. These girls enjoy all aspects of camping, but above all being out in nature, experiencing different facilities and meeting new friends makes them bubble up.

L to R, back row: Lauren S., Kennedy Y.
Middle row: Linda Luehrmann, Gina Saeed, and Becky Carter.
Bottom row: Anika L., Aleezah S., and McKenzie W.
One other thing they are very excited about is being able to talk to younger Girl Scouts about earning badges. They have a strong mentoring focus and want to be there for smaller girls who might need some encouragement or guidance. Talk about fulfilling the Girl Scout promise!

These girls know a thing or two about fundraising, too. Their re-registration was covered with troop funds. Speaking of re-registration, their troop co-leader, Linda Luehrmann was pleasantly surprised with how easy and straightforward it was to get the girls back in the system. “It took me about 30 minutes to re-register 9 girls,” she said. “I would recommend it to other troop leaders. I’d ask ‘why are you using paper?”

It makes sense that these girls are so goal driven—their troop leaders are accomplished and have a strong focus on achievement and helping the community. Becky Carter, their other co-leader loves the leadership potential Girl Scouts offers “…it opens doors, builds self-confidence, opportunities […] taking charge of trips, supply lists and food, taking on a leadership role. These are things the girls do because they learn how to do it in Girl Scouts.”

As for Gina Saeed, Troop 350’s troop mom, she has had a great time watching her daughter, along with other girls, grow more confident and get to partake in all the great things they do.
None of the amazing adventures they like or want to do would be possible without their troop leaders and moms who selflessly volunteer their time and energy to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.

Thank you, Troop 350--Lauren S, Kennedy Y., Anika, L., Aleezah S., and McKenzie W. for coming by and chatting with us. It was a pleasure to meet you all and we hope you meet all your goals and that you get to go camping as much as possible.

And thank you Gina, Linda and Becky—we are all lucky to have you in our council, leading our girls.


Are you up for the challenge? Be the role model she’ll remember forever—join Girl Scouts of Central Texas and volunteer today. Make a difference in her life AND yours.