Girl Scouts Ensure a Happy Birthday for Local Foster Children

Birthday parties can be easily taken for granted. Most of us can count on family and friends to come together with gifts, balloons, decorations, and of course, a birthday cake complete with candles! But for children in the foster care system, a traditional birthday party isn’t always a given.

Thanks to the generosity of Girl Scouts in the Manatee 4 Service Unit, a number of local children will have everything they need to celebrate their next birthday. The girls collected and donated supplies to create “birthday kits” to be distributed to children in Manatee, DeSoto, and Sarasota Counties via the Safe Children Coalition.

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The birthday kits include such items as cake mix, frosting, and candles; baking pans; party hats, decorations, and favors; plates, cups, and plastic utensils; goody bags; party invitations; gift wrap; and gifts.

Girl Scout troop leader Karey Papin, who works as a Registered Nurse Case Manager for the Safe Children Coalition, said that there are currently about 1,450 children in foster care or living with a relative caregiver or in facility care. “We unfortunately had a severe spike in [the number of] children this year,” she explained.

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With so many children and families in need, the birthday kits couldn’t have come at a better time. When the project was completed, approximately 45 kits were ready to go. That’s a lot of celebrating!

“Every single person can impact the joy of children going through this experience,” Papin added. “We need and welcome more outreach projects on every level to support these families and children.” If your troop would like to learn more about the many ways they can help, contact the Safe Children Coalition at 866-661-5656.

~Lori Tomlinson is the Manager of Communications and Marketing for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.

Grants in Action: Community Troops

Since 2011, Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida has reached out to girls living in under-served areas through fully funded Community Troops. Five years after its official launch, the Community Troop program is stronger than ever, thanks to generous community supporters and volunteers.

Troop 1042 Palmetto Elementary

The Wilson-Wood Foundation was one of the first to support Community Troops in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Their 2015-16 grant of $15,000 has made possible a variety of programs and experiences for Community Troops from Gocio and Tuttle Elementary Schools, Booker Elementary and Middle Schools, Greater Hurst AME Chapel, and the Laurel Civic Association, as well as Palmetto Elementary School and the DeSoto Boys and Girls Club.

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So, what does a Community Troop do? Everything! From field trips in the community to outdoor programs, service projects, earning badges, and more, girls in Community Troops enjoy all that Girl Scouting has to offer. A few highlights from this year include visits with the Sarasota Garden Club and Sarasota Police Department, a special camp day at Honi Hanta, and end-of-year troop celebrations.

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The Community Troop program is also thriving in Lee and Collier Counties. All told, there are 32 Community Troops with 532 girls council-wide. Support for Community Troops in 2015-16 has come from a variety of sources, including The Wilson-Wood Foundation, Schulze Family Foundation, Suncoast Credit Union, Jerome and Mildred Paddock Foundation, the League Club, Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key, Collier County Bar Foundation, and United Ways of Suncoast, South Sarasota, Collier County, and Lee/Hendry/Glades Counties.

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~Lori Tomlinson is the Manager of Communications and Marketing for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.

Honoring PFC Anthony

Jennifer Pierre cropTroop 1083, led by Helen Sundgren, meets at Anthony Park in Naples.  When they learned the park was named in honor of PFC Charlie P. Anthony, they wanted to find out more.  They discovered that PFC Anthony had grown up on the very street where the park is located, and that he had served in Vietnam, where he lost his life in 1969.

Wanting to share this piece of history with others, the girls made posters about Anthony to display at the park. They recognized him on Veterans Day and his birthday.  When one of the Brownies in the troop told her grandmother about Charlie Anthony, the grandmother told her she had known him and she came to speak to the girls at a troop meeting.

After learning more about this local hero, the girls thought the whole community should know about Charlie Anthony and his service to our country.  After talking with Anthony’s family and showing pictures of the posters they had made to the City of Naples Community Services Department, Parks and Recreation staff, and the City Council, it was agreed that a plaque should be placed at the park in his honor.

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A ceremony to unveil the plaque was held on Saturday, March 12, 2016.  City of Naples Mayor John F. Sorey III led the program.  Cadette Girl Scout Jennifer P. of Troop 1083 spoke about their troop’s involvement in the project.  The Macedonia Baptist Church youth choir, including several Girl Scouts, performed for the crowd.  And members of the Anthony family traveled from around the country to participate in the celebration.

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Members of Troop 1083 with leader Helen Sundgren and co-leader Anna Gil.

What started as a simple history lesson grew into a community-wide project, spearheaded by Girl Scouts. Thanks to the girls in Troop 1083, we are now much more aware of PFC Charlie P. Anthony’s legacy and his place in the history of Anthony Park.

–Barbara VanEssen is Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida’s Community Development Manager for Collier County

Guest Blog: A Silver Award with Wings

Bradenton Girl Scouts Plant Butterfly Garden

by Olivia, guest blogger

Hi, I am Olivia, a member of Girl Scout Troop 16 in Bradenton.crowley4 crop

As our Girl Scout Silver Award project, my troop restored the butterfly garden at the Crowley Museum and Nature Center.

The Silver Award has very specific qualifications and is one of the highest honors a Cadette Troop can earn. One of the main qualifications is to pick a project that has a lasting impact on the community with a commitment of at least 50 hours of service time.

At one time or another, all my troop members assisted in the project. In December 2014, we began with a trip to Selby Gardens for a private tour. We met with the caretaker of their butterfly garden to learn the basics of maintaining a healthy butterfly garden, and to get an idea of what Florida native plants we could use. We learned to use plants that sustained the larvae population. Selby provided us with a list of butterflies and butterfly-friendly plants, and the list was very useful in deciding what plants we wanted to use and what was native to Florida.

We designated a portion of our cookie booth proceeds to fund the project and in March 2015, we started clearing the area with only gloves, a shovel, and two spades. With our modest amount, we purchased the few plants we could and planted them, but there was still much more work to be done. That is when I applied for a grant from the Serenoa Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. Because of the generous grant we received, we were able to purchase more tools and many more plants so that we could complete the project before the heat of summer kicked in.

Some of the plants we planted were Prostrate Porter weed (Strachytarpheta jamaicentis), Tropical Sage (Salvia coccina), Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Firebush (Hamelia patens), Wild Coffee (Psychotria nervosa), and Giant Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea). We purchased our plants from both Florida Native Plants and Crowley nurseries.

Cadettes from Troop 16 (left to right): Olivia, Emily, Sydney, and Delaney.

Cadettes from Troop 16 (left to right): Olivia, Emily, Sydney, and Delaney.

We are proud of the work we accomplished and are committed to maintaining the butterfly garden throughout the years. We could not have accomplished this without the help of the Serenoa Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and all the people we met along the way who took the time to educate us. Most of all, we thank our parents and our leaders, Antoinette Yagy, Suzanne McLauchlin, and our mentors, Gerald Yagy and Mike Amado.

Be sure to check out all the pictures we posted on the Serenoa Chapter’s Facebook page! We encourage everyone to come out to Crowley Museum and Nature Center and enjoy the peacefulness of the gardens and the beauty of nature!

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Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Sept. 2015 newsletter of the Serenoa Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, and is shared here with their permission.