By Ashley M. Casey
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, families have had to modify work, school and other activities to make them socially distant and quarantine-compliant. The Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways, which began its 2020-21 membership season Oct. 1, is no exception.
GSNYPENN and the 20,000 Scouts, leaders and other volunteers in the council’s territory of Upstate New York and part of Pennsylvania have been finding ways to stay connected in person and online.
Through staff-led virtual troops, the local council is offering the traditional troop experience of earning badges, participating in activities and, yes, selling cookies for girls in kindergarten through grade 3, which encompass the levels of Daisies and Brownies.
Join Girl Scouts
Girl Scouts serves girls in grades K-12. Annual membership is just $25 and financial assistance is available. To search troop opportunities in the NYPENN Pathways service area, visit gsnypenn.org/join or text LEAD to 315-766-2268. The council is also looking for caring, trusted adults to serve in a variety of volunteer roles. Visit gsnypenn.org/volunteer for more information.
The GSNYPENN council serves Allegany, Broome, Cayuga, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Oswego, Otsego, St. Lawrence, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne and Yates counties in New York, in addition to Bradford and Tioga counties in Pennsylvania.
Want to help make a difference in girls’ lives? Have questions about registering your girl for Girl Scouts? Need help finding a troop? Contact the council’s Customer Engagement team at 1-855-213-8555 or [email protected] to get started.
“Studies show that Girl Scouts improves girls’ confidence and makes them better prepared for life’s challenges. Our program is dedicated to helping girls become leaders as they discover new interests, strengths and abilities. While taking part in engaging activities focused on STEM, the outdoors, entrepreneurship, life skills and more, girls discover new ways to make their communities better through Girl Scouting. Best of all, Girl Scouts is a journey that families take together with their girls. We look forward to welcoming new girl and adult members to our council this member year,” said GSNYPENN CEO Julie Dale.
Newcomers to Girl Scouts can attend virtual meet-and-greets to learn more about the program as well as virtual dance parties and robot-building sessions. Caregivers, troop leaders and volunteers can sharpen their leadership skills with virtual volunteer enrichment sessions.
In addition to virtual programming, GSNYPENN is offering some in-person activities throughout its 24-county coverage area in Upstate New York and two counties in Pennsylvania. Families and small troops can have a Girl Scout camp to themselves for a weekend with staff-led activities such as archery, orienteering, or Halloween- and “Harry Potter”-inspired activities. Activities and prices vary depending on the Girl Scout Adventure Center hosting the camp. Visit gsnypenn.org/en/events/event-calendar.html to register.
Here in Baldwinsville, Troop 61239 recently held its bridging ceremony, marking the transition from Daisies to Brownies. Normally, a bridging ceremony takes place at the end of the school year, but the girls of Troop 61239 wanted to wait until they were able to gather in person. The ceremony was held outdoors Sept. 30 at Lysander Park.
The troop, led by Lisa Orth and Shannon Houston, generally meets every other week at Kerri Hornaday Park in Radisson. Their daughters, Victoria Orth and Julia Houston, are two of Troop 61239’s six members.
Troop 61239 has opted for largely outdoor activities rather than virtual meetings, as the girls get plenty of screen time on remote learning days and coordinating Zoom meetings for a gaggle of elementary schoolers can be chaotic. The Scouts and their parents wear masks and maintain social distancing.
“We’ve got to stay outside as long as we can,” Orth said.
The pandemic, which exploded around the end of Girl Scout cookie season this year, has put a damper on some of the fun.
“We were planning to go camping this spring. That was our plan with our cookie money, so that was kind of a downer,” said Houston.
Houston, who teaches at Van Buren Elementary, said she sees the isolating effects the pandemic has had on her students.
“Even though the girls go to the same school, they don’t get to see each other and play together at school. They’re basically [spending all day] at their desks,” she said.
Houston and Orth have planned out about 12 badges for their Brownies to complete this year.
“It’s a good project to work on as a small group. It’s so much easier to do it with two adults,” said Orth.
The GSNYPENN council has provided troops with “challenges” to keep them busy and engaged.
“One of the challenges was to stay connected. It was all these ideas on how to stay connected with your friends even though you can’t be together: writing letters, sending messages,” Orth said.
Staying connected with Girl Scouts does not mean a family has to join or start a troop, which can be a huge time commitment, Houston and Orth said. GSNYPENN offers individual girls the opportunity to join as “Juliettes,” or independent members. Juliettes — named for Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low — can earn the same badges as a regular troop does and can attend regional Girl Scout events.
“You would certainly be welcome at all council activities,” Orth said.
While gatherings like the annual cookieWOW! kickoff might still be off-limits because of pandemic regulations, small troops and families can still have the full Girl Scout experience. Orth referenced the council’s family retreat opportunities.
“When does the whole family get to go to Girl Scout camp?” she said.
See the sidebar for more information about joining Girl Scouts.