Cookies, camping, and crafts — these are the three C’s Girl Scouts is perhaps better known for.
Rebecca Sherwood, membership team leader for Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest, said the organization that’s been in Chaves County since the early 20th century is based on leadership.
From this perspective, then, Sherwood said Girl Scouts, which have been active and growing in numbers for almost 100 years, should be known for another set of C’s, the ones found in their mission statement: courage, confidence, and character.
“This is a leadership opportunity,” Sherwood said of Girl Scouts. “We want (girls) to be able to see a need in their community and be able to fulfill that need.”
To this end, GSDSW offers a variety of educational activities, events, and resources to help girls in kindergarten through 12th grade hone their leadership skills. These have included archery training, horseback riding, a health and wellness night featuring healthy snacks and jazzercise, informational events on subjects such as astronomy, the arts, and babysitting; and mother-daughter and father-daughter camping events.
The GSDSW has also maintained a presence in area schools with permission, through in-school and after-school programs, such as a lunchtime jump rope club.
To help instill a sense of leadership and confidence in girls, community outreach programs are proposed and planned by the girls themselves.
“Anything the girls can devise, we can provide,” Sherwood said. “The girls are never short of ideas.”
The concerns and intent of modern-day Girl Scouts seems to echo those of the organization’s founder, Juliette Gordon Low, who helped start Girl Scouting in the United States in her native Savannah, Ga., in 1912.
Sherwood said Gordon Low was a friend of Lord Robert Baden-Powell, a lieutenant general in the British Army who founded the Boy Scouts in 1908. She met Baden-Powell during a trip to the United Kingdom. When she returned to Savannah, Gordon Low was determined to start the Girl Scouts in the United States.
In 1925, Girl Scouts came to Roswell. Today, there are about 425 Girl Scouts and 182 volunteers in 19 troops in Chaves County. The GSDSW covers 33 counties and 92,000 square miles, and includes about 10,000 school-aged girls. About 3,500 adults help oversee this vast section of land and all the Girl Scouts.
Sherwood said adult volunteers do much more than advise troops. They also share personal interests with the girls, help with field trips, or oversee the annual cookie sale.
“There’s lots of opportunities other than the traditional troop for people to become involved,” Sherwood said. Likewise, there are different venues, or pathways, for girls to become involved with GSDSW. These include troop, events, camp, virtual, series, and travel.
“The (pathway) people think of the most is the troop setting,” Sherwood said. The traditional troop involves regular meetings during which girls decide what they would like to do.
The travel pathway is tailored for girls who love to travel. It involves trips outside the GSDSW area. Sherwood mentioned a recent trip to South Dakota, where the scouts learned about dinosaurs. During a trip to New York City, they learned about business.
The events pathway means getting involved in Girl Scouts by attending Council events. The camp pathway involves camping activities during the weekends or the summer.
The virtual pathway is a way for girls to be involved with GSDSW through the Internet.
“(The virtual pathway) is the least developed because it’s so new,” Sherwood said. However, despite its limitations, it’s “a great way for (Girl Scouts) to network.”
Series is a pathway in which girls participate in a particular series of events with the same group of girls.
Sherwood said that, as a member agency of the United Way of Chaves County, the GSDSW receives funding that allows the organization to support the development of strong young women, at little or even no cost to them or their family.
“You teach so many (Girl Scouts) when you choose to donate to the United Way,” Sherwood said.
She said it costs $12 a year to be a Girl Scout, but the program spends on average $438 per girl.
“That’s (where) the United Way comes in,” Sherwood said. “Their support helps us provide things that have no financial barrier.”
Sherwood said the UWCC gave $22,000 to GSDSW in 2010, and that, because of the very nature of the program, every dollar goes far, helping Girl Scouts in turn help Chaves County through the program’s initiatives.
Aside from the registration fee, other programs may have additional fees. However, Sherwood said that GSDSW attempts to accommodate any girl who is interested in participating.
“We never turn someone away because of money,” she said.
In general, Sherwood said her hope is for individuals to support the community’s youth in some way.
“Our plea is support,” Sherwood said. “Support youth organizations, the United Way. … The more we give to our community the better it is.”