Ask a Girl Scout: Mandi K.

by Cathy Brown, guest blogger

Mandi K. is one of the GSGCF Shop’s newest Junior Sales Specialists (JSS). While she lives in Lee County, she has become an integral part of our traveling shop team and participates in many shop functions held at council headquarters. During our traveling shop this past November, I was able to spend time with Mandi and ask her about her experiences as a Girl Scout.

I was impressed by her responses and her sense of humor. She was very shy at the beginning of her JSS training, but by the end, she was right in the thick of things. When I asked why she liked being a Girl Scout, she responded, “I like being a Girl Scout because there are a lot of opportunities for girls, like me, to be heard and find a place to be welcomed for who I am.”

When asked how Girl Scouting has impacted her life she was quick to reply: “I have always been really shy around people. I think it is because I like to hang back and watch instead of being right in the middle of things… until I’m comfortable. But, in Girl Scouts, the girls and leaders will actually wait for me to BE comfortable.”

fb_img_1463351467082

Mandi with her Girl Scout sisters, Troop 673.

“That doesn’t happen in other groups or activities I’ve been involved in,” she continued. “A lot of times people expect me to feel or be a certain way. But Girl Scouts has actually let me be me. That makes it easier to open up and try new things on my own. Girl Scouts has given me that.”

Hands down, Mandi’s favorite thing she has done as a Girl Scout is lead as a Counselor in Training (CIT) during the Cadette Leadership Weekend. “I wanted to be a CIT since meeting Ms. Gina [Sauer]. It felt great, going through the program to learn how and then actually doing it! I was a little afraid that the girls in my group wouldn’t listen, but they were great!”

Some of Mandi’s many accolades are in part the result of her involvement in a variety of extracurricular, community, faith-based, and Girl Scout activities.  She feels “really lucky to be involved with different groups and learn different things.” “I am active in my church and youth group, school, animals, and community causes as well as being in Girl Scouts,” Mandi said.

“In 4th grade, I became a full-time home school student. This has given me so many opportunities! I was accepted into Disney/Pixar’s program for arts and development. I have [increased my] global awareness through a group called Girl Rising, furthering education for girls around the world. I have also been able to take classes from several universities around the country through edX.”

mandimom-matchymatch

Mandi with her proud mom, Tracylee.

“I created and have run my own not-for-profit charity #MandisBackpack that provides different items (based on time of the year) to those in need throughout the country…for right around four years now.” This includes back-to-school items in the late summer/early fall, pantry donations to food banks in late fall/early winter, toys during the holidays as well as care packages to our service men and women serving our country overseas, and shoes in the spring. The program operates on a voluntary basis with donations from the community.

“I also branched out to add #MandisBookbag to donate books to children that are in the hospital that could use a ‘staycation’ through reading a book,” said Mandi. “Taking both #MandisBackpack and #MandisBookbag to social media has made it possible for those across the country to get involved! You can find my CEO page on Facebook and Twitter.”

But Mandi hasn’t stopped there. “I have also been able to give back to my community by joining the Junior League to donate my time. I make ‘bags of hope’ to give to our homeless population. They contain anything from a toothbrush/toothpaste to a voucher for a free meal. I remain involved with our local animal shelters as well. I want to be a large cat vet in South Africa. I’m always looking for activities that get me closer to animals. I have been invited to submit my application to become a MobSTIR for the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and am biting my nails to see if I’ll be accepted. If so, Africa may not be too far off!”

Mandi has earned a number of formal Girl Scout recognitions. “Over the course of my Girl Scout years, I’ve completed both my Bronze and Silver Award; earned [my] PA pin, CIT II pin, Cadette Safety Cross, Cadette service bars, Silver Torch Award, and Summit Award; [and received] numerous accolades for cookie sales and magazine/fall fundraisers.”

Mandi firmly believes Girl Scouts prepares girl leaders. “I belong to a handful of groups that encourage girls to be leaders. But, Girl Scouts gives girls tools to help make them successful and become leaders. I also think Girl Scouts encourages girls to break through stereotypes.”

mandi-snorkel

Mandi knows that Girl Scouts is about more than just cookies and camping.

Mandi would definitely recommend Girl Scouts to other girls. “It is harder when girls are older. But, I’m the first one to say ‘So, yeah, I sell cookies. And I go camping. But I also learn how to kayak, paddle board, zip line, rock climb, do marathons, prepare business Powerpoint presentations, and a ton of other stuff.’”

Mandi has accomplished so much, and she is quick to remind me that she is only thirteen. I am amazed!  Mandi is “so looking forward to the future,” and based on all she has accomplished, truly the sky is the limit for her.

~Cathy Brown is the Shop Manager for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.

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.

birthday-kits-3

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.

birthday-kits-2

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.

Paying Tribute: Dr. Elinor Crawford

by Sue Stewart, CEO, Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.

We are saddened to share that our friend and champion, Dr. Elinor Crawford, died on Saturday, August 27 following a brief illness.

1a1b71b1-436e-46f2-9ce0-e420d69ab586

We remember her for so many reasons. She was a friend, advocate for all women and girls, creator of the Sanibel Shelling program with Betty Ethal, board member, committee member and so much more. In 1987 she was a member of the Girl Scout Scholarship Committee which was subsequently renamed The Dr. Elinor Crawford Girl Scout College Scholarship Fund, in her honor. She served on the committee up through this past year and was proud to read each application and girl story. She saved all the thank you letters written by the girls and savored their accomplishments.

Elinor was a community leader and a founding member of numerous local organizations such as The Women’s Resource Center, UN Women, and American Association of University Women, to name a few. She and Betty enjoyed their civic engagement, friends from throughout the country, and travel.

2014 Scholarship

As a professor of physical education at the University of Northern Iowa for thirty years, she served as a member of the committee that contributed to the writing and passage of Title IX, the most significant piece of federal legislation impacting girls and women in education. As one of her friends shared, “I hope Elinor watched the Olympics. If not for her work, we would not have seen the incredible successes of the girls and women in Rio, and their significant awards resulting in Gold.”

Dr. Elinor Crawford was a woman of courage, confidence, and character, who changed the world. She leaves behind her dear friend Susan Chapman, a niece, many friends throughout the country, and thousands of Girl Scout sisters — women and girls — past, present and future. A service and celebration of life will be held at the Girl Scout Event and Conference Center. Arrangements are pending.

Going for the (Girl Scout) Silver

A new year means new groups of girls are setting their sights on Girl Scouting’s highest awards. For Cadettes embarking on the Silver Award, this means beginning to step outside Girl Scouts and looking for ways to serve their greater communities.

IMG_5577

Though the Silver Award process, girls learn how to make connections and listen to others’ perspectives, perhaps incorporating these new ideas into their project. The Silver Award allows Cadettes to design their own community project and understand how they impact their community as a leader, learning from the trials and tribulations they may experience.

Girls may work with a small group of other Girl Scouts or lead a project themselves. Two examples of Silver Award projects recognized in 2016 include The Selfie Project (boosting girls’ self-esteem), and Cat Cause (supporting local animal welfare organizations). There are so many worthy causes and much-needed projects – the possibilities are endless!

IMG_7043

The first step toward earning the Silver Award is for the Cadette and her project advisor to participate in a workshop hosted by the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida. Dates for online workshops are being finalized with more to come as we prepare for the new school year. To date, workshops are scheduled for Sunday, September 18 and 25 at 5:30 p.m.

If you have any questions or have a Girl Scout who is eager to begin prior to these workshops, please contact Shannon French (shannonf@gsgcf.org or 800-232-4475 ext. 326) to ensure all guidelines are followed, and any necessary forms are completed. Girls may also request an in-person workshop at council headquarters.

–Shannon French is a Program Specialist 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.

Garden Party 4

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.

K9 Unit 4

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.

Community Troop Camp 5-21-16 023

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

Sarasota Girl Scout Develops Turtle Protection Program

Sarasota resident and Pine View School student Mikaelyn Pavlisin has earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor – the Gold Award – with her project entitled, Totally Turtle Protection Program.

6) Classroom2 reduced.jpg

Pavlisin turned her passion for sea turtles into a hands-on, interactive curriculum for students in grades 2 – 5. Totally Turtle Protection Program teaches children about the various species of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico, why they are endangered, and what can be done to help protect them.  She partnered with Mote Marine, Longboat Key Turtle Watch, and Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch to develop the program and materials.

The curriculum has been shared with local schools and libraries, and turtle watch volunteers are available to help present the program as needed. Pavlisin hopes that, over time, the program will result in cleaner coastlines, increased involvement in beach cleanups, and more participation in turtle watch programs and conservation efforts.

28) Comm.EventPresent reduced.jpg

“I have always enjoyed giving back to my community,” said Pavlisin.  “Growing up, I was frequently told I could make a difference. This project helped me see that I really can.”

The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Open only to girls in high school, this prestigious award recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through remarkable Take-Action projects with sustainable impact in their communities. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Be inspired and learn more about Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida’s other 2016 Gold Award recipients.

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

Englewood Girl Scout Helps New Moms Find Serenity

Englewood resident and Lemon Bay High School student Kaylee Ferrell has earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor – the Gold Award – with her project entitled, Serenity for SOLVE.

20160110_120439[1] reduced.jpgSOLVE Maternity Home in Englewood provides housing and support services to pregnant women in need. After reading studies that show flowers have an immediate impact on happiness and a long-term positive effect on mood, Kaylee was inspired to establish a serenity garden for the residents.

The residents of SOLVE will maintain the garden as part of their regular responsibilities at the shelter. Kaylee’s hope is that the garden will also help raise community awareness of the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of the women at SOLVE.

FB_IMG_1457817119964[1] reduced.jpg

“Having a beautiful flower garden will help the women have a better sense of well-being,” said Kaylee.

The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Open only to girls in high school, this prestigious award recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through remarkable Take-Action projects with sustainable impact in their communities. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Be inspired and learn more about Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida’s other 2016 Gold Award recipients.

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