The Girl Scouts have always been known for selling cookies and earning badges.
More than just cookies and badges, the girls involved in Girl Scout troops in their area engage in skill-building activities that enhance their confidence and learning ability.
Although it is important to have a Girl Scout troop in every community, sometimes those in lower income areas cannot afford to start a troop on their own, and more importantly, they are not aware of the options they have in terms of aid when starting up a troop.
It is important to let people know that there’s help and that it is affordable to offer a great Girl Scout program in every area.
The Girl Scouts Heart of Central California has made it a mission to reach out to every community. Serving 18 counties in the central California region, the GSHCC Outreach Program is dedicated to making the experience of being a Girl Scout affordable.
The program center where the Outreach Program is facilitated is located in Sacramento with additional offices in Stockton and Modesto.
From homeless shelters to afterschool programs, the Outreach Program has leaders who go out in search of areas that are interested in being a part of the Girl Scout organization, but may not know it’s available.
Two of the Girl Scout outreach leaders, Gillian Spillane and Serena Morales, are involved in the outreach program here in Sacramento.
Both have experience working with children and being a part of something that is dedicated to working with the community.
One leader in particular knows firsthand how it feels to want to be in a Girl Scout troop but to be told it would be too expensive.
"I always wanted to be a Girl Scout when I was younger but I didn’t know the things they provided," Morales explained. "My mom would say I’m sorry sweetheart, but it’s too expensive; there is no way we could afford it. I wasn’t aware of all the free things, until I became a Girl Scout as an adult."
The outreach leaders are responsible for going out to communities that do not have troops set up and inform residents of the help that the outreach program can provide in starting up a Girl Scout troop.
The outreach program can provide a community eight weeks’ worth of programming. During that time the leaders start the troop for the girls, get the girls to understand what Girl Scouts is about and provide all the necessary items free of charge.
"After the eight weeks is over, we transfer everything over to a volunteer parent who is willing to take over," Morales explained. "We provide them with financial aid and everything that helps them become a traditional troop."
With no limits on which community the outreach program reaches out to, in 2006 the GSHCC introduced their outreach program to the Sacramento Juvenile Hall.
With the same mission of building young girls’ confidence and providing learning opportunities, the outreach leaders in the Juvenile Hall strive to improve the future of those who are struggling.
Meeting with the girls in juvenile hall every other Saturday, Morales and Spillane are in charge of running a program that is slightly different then a normal Girl Scout troop.
"The projects we can do outside of juvenile hall are completely different than what we are allowed to do inside of it," Morales said. "We can’t use paper clips, sharp objects or anything they can turn into a weapon or hurt themselves. Everything we do has to be inside; it’s almost a different world because of the adjustments.”
But although adjustments are made, the leaders ensure that the girls are getting a well-rounded experience.
"The activities vary by week. I like to do sport activities and games and Serena a lot of times will do journal writing," Spillane explained.
The main goal of the juvenile hall program is to encourage the girls to be positive and "open up their hearts a little more to let them know that life isn’t as cruel as they are making or thinking it to be in their eyes," Morales said.
From low-income communities to those in juvenile hall programs, Girl Scouts Heart of Central California has gone above and beyond to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to experience Girl Scouts, regardless of who they are or where they come from. That’s the great thing about this organization and what makes those involved love what they do.
"I think what is so great about working for Girl Scouts is seeing a change in the girls in their attitude," Spillane explained. "From the beginning of the program to the end, it’s so interesting to see the girl who doesn’t talk much and after the program and she is laughing… and leading things. Seeing a small change in just a few weeks, [it’s] totally rewarding to see that."
For more information or to donate to Girl Scouts Heart of Central California’s Outreach Program, visit girlscoutshcc.org and click on "Outreach" on the adult side of the website, or call 1-800-322-GIRL for information on how to join or volunteer for Girl Scouts Heart of Central California.