Monday, February 05, 2001

Girl Scouts not just in it for the cookies

Troops use money now to help others

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Elizabeth Battle, 9 (front), and Jessica Rabe, 10, sort donated books at Glenn O. Swing Elementary School in Covington.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        They're known for selling cookies to pay for camp-outs and field trips, but these days, Girl Scouts are as likely to devote time and money to community causes.

        As Tristate Girl Scouts staff cookie booths at groceries and malls beginning Feb. 16, an increasing number are earmarking those profits for good deeds, leaders say.

        “These days, there's a trend to replace cookies, camping and crafts with science, sports and cyberspace,” Lori Arguelles, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of the USA, said. “You also see some really amazing service projects — from supporting a senior center to collecting products for the homeless.”

        It is part of a national trend to broaden the experiences of the nation's 2.8 million Girl Scouts, she said.

        In the past, a troop might have spent its cookie proceeds on a trip to Disneyland; today, the Scouts are more likely to use that money to help a terminally ill child visit Disneyland, Ms. Arguelles said.

        During her eight years in Girl Scouts, 12-year-old Amberly Tullis of Fort Thomas said she has collected books and school supplies for a Northern Kentucky resource center, made Christmas cards for seniors at the Baptist Home in Newport, sung Christmas carols to the elderly and helped raise money for the Ronald McDonald House.

        “It makes me feel good when I do something to help someone,” said Amberly, a member of Girl Scout Troop 612 of the Fort Thomas Southgate Neighborhood Girl Scouts. “It makes me happy to know that I've given something to people who had nothing.”

        Girl Scout leader Sharon Lang of Alexandria said her three daughters eagerly join fellow troop members each year in brainstorming ways to help their community.

        Activities have ranged from making cupcakes for victims of the '97 flood to performing skits and playing bingo with the residents of Lakeside Terrace senior citizens apartments in Highland Heights.

        “This Christmas, we gave food and clothes and other presents to a grandmother and a little boy about 6 years old,” said Theresa Lang, 11. “They were really happy to get them.”

        Theresa said she and her younger sisters, Julie, 9, and Sarah, 7, are on a first-name basis with Alice, an elderly resident at Lakeside Terrace who likes to show off her porcelain dolls and enjoys cookies and conversation with visiting Scouts.

        “It makes me feel good when I visit with Alice,” Sarah Lang said.

        Organization officials could not say how much cookie money is collected or how much is expected to go to charities because cookie money is accounted for by individual councils and troops.

        Two councils in the Tristate area allow individual troops to handle the funds. The Great Rivers Council includes troops from nine counties in Southwest Ohio and Indiana. The Licking Valley Council covers 12 Kentucky counties, including Boone, Kenton and Campbell.

        “I think kids in general are more socially conscious today,” said Ronni Luckenbill, assistant executive director for the Great Rivers Council. “There's so much more information out there about community problems and world needs, especially on the Internet.”

        Many troops are creating their own charitable projects.

        Villa Hills/Fort Mitchell Troop 340 last year voted to donate at least half its cookie money, which amounted to $250, to the Children's Home of Northern Kentucky, said troop leader Linda Davis. The children's home used the money to buy sports equipment and arts supplies for its residents.

        Beside cookie sales, local Girl Scouts have collected dozens of backpacks, calculators, crayons and notebooks for students in Northern Kentucky's poorer schools.

        Last month, 690 girls from 82 Northern Kentucky troops sponsored a book drive for area libraries, shelters and other agencies.

        Scouts in the Licking Valley Girl Scout Council in Kentucky have, on average, tripled the number of service projects in the past five years, said Laura Clarke, spokeswoman for the council. A spot check of troops in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties showed that Girl Scouts performed 161 service projects in 2000, up from 54 in 1995.

        Charitable efforts and profit-sharing help girls practice life skills, including money management and goal-setting, Ms. Arguelles said.

        “We want to help the girls of today build the skills they need to be the leaders of tomorrow,” she said.


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