Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana Perseveres During the Pandemic
Courage, confidence and character — these are the core elements that Girl Scouts groups focus on building in each member. This has been their mission for more than 100 years, since the organization was started in 1912 by Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low, who organized the first Girl Guide troop meeting of 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia.
Membership has grown to 3.7 million currently.
Today, as we all know, is a much different landscape compared to the early 20th century. Even in this age of COVID-19, the Girl Scouts organization is still present, like a comforting old friend, assuring girls everywhere that we can push forward through this worldwide crisis with courage, confidence and good character – and they’re still right here in our city.
Though its main headquarters is in New York, one of the Girl Scouts local headquarters is here in Louisville, off of Lexington Road. In fact, Louisville is home to the first unofficial Girl Scout troop, which was organized in the summer of 1911, by an 11-year-old named Charlotte Went Butler. This was even before the organization was officially founded in Georgia. It wasn’t until five years later that the official Girl Scouts reached Kentucky, with the first documented troop in Scottsville. Within a year troops formed in Owensboro, and later in Paducah, Louisville and New Albany.
As for that first troop in Louisville, it had 10 girls (already forward-thinking, meeting in a group of 10 or fewer people), and it was led by a teacher in the Louisville school system. She was referred to as captain at that time, and the assistant leader was lieutenant. The 1920s was a good time for women and Girl Scouts, as the war had ended and women had finally won the right to vote. Girl Scouts could be seen camping in the summers along the Barren River, jumping in to ride the waves from the sternwheelers.
In 1933 day camps were held at Cherokee, Iroquois, and Shawnee city parks (neither camp exceeding 26 girls), and this is when the first training course for Brownie leaders was held. It wasn’t until 1936 during the Great Depression that the first official sale of commercially baked Girl Scout cookies occurred, despite years of cookie baking before this pivotal moment. In the 1940s Girl Scouts went international by taking part in “Bundles for Britain,” an American Red Cross project that assisted in the war effort.
The Girl Scouts organization has been operational through the pandemic via curbside pickup (for badges earned, supplies and cookies). They’re also working hard at delivering online content for members and those seeking possible membership – or comfort.
They operate just as they have been, even without being able to gather in large groups. Online, the organization offers programs and activities for the appropriate grade levels, including Daisy (K-1), Brownie (2-3), Junior (4-5), Cadette (6-8), Senior (9-10), and Ambassador (11-12).
Girl Scouts also hosts virtual movie nights and virtual gatherings where lessons are still taught as though everyone were learning together, and members can share activities they’ve done and ways they’ve earned new badges.
The official statement from Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana (GSK) is that “there is nothing we take more seriously than the safety and well-being of our girls, volunteers, and council staff.” Therefore, there are guidelines they are taking very seriously, as mandated by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Kentucky Department for Public Health.
There are still fun events going on, like the “Man Enough to be a Girl Scout” competition, where members could submit their choice of a man who has shown support to girls and women, as well as the future of GSK. There are also troop and volunteer meetings and trainings taking place virtually, aside from meetings of 10 or fewer people, which may take place in person.
Troop and group day trips and outings are allowed as long as safety guidelines are being followed and practiced. However, travel out of state is not recommended if it can be avoided. These are just a few of the rules and guidelines set forth that GSK is following strictly.
What’s unique about GSK is that they now offer camping, a staple among Girl Scouts activities. There is COVID-specific training required for troop leaders who wish to take girls overnight, and there is still no camping allowed in households or buildings until 2021.
The GSK website has a page devoted to activities for members separated by age and rank, all COVID-appropriate.
In a statement on the GSK website, Maggie Elder, chief executive officer, said Girl Scouts are stronger when all are included, and all members are welcome “regardless of race, ethnicity, background, disability, family structure, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, and socioeconomic status.”
She went on to say that welcoming is only the first step to real inclusion, and that “we also must work hard to know each other as people, to engage with each other and respect our differences.”
This is a message that transcends Girl Scouts, and indeed the message itself attempts to add a bit of goodness into the world. Yes, Girl Scouts is still here, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be going anywhere any time soon. And that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
For more on Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana, visit gskentuckiana.org.