G irl Scouting part of life for one family
Expectant mothers in Tami Clark’s family don’t get asked the normal questions about their baby’s gender. Instead, the first question is always what scouting organization they’ll belong to.
“We have a joke in our family. We don’t announce whether it’s a boy or girl, we announce whether it’s a Tiger or a Daisy,” said Clark, referring to the first level of Boy and Girl Scouts, respectively.
More times than not, the answer is Daisy.
Clark, who lives in Granville, is part of a family that features four generations of women involved in Girl Scouts.
She and her mother, Nancy Shaw, are two of four scout leaders in the family. There’s also one Daisy, one Brownie, one Junior, one Cadette, and one Ambassador Scout. The only level of Girl Scouts not represented is Senior and that’s only because the adults are too old and the children still too young.
“They don’t get out until they graduate,” said Clark, who is the leader of Ambassador Troop 3240 and Brownie Troop 3279. “We’re a scouting family.”
The family is one of dozens of families in Whitehall and Granville who are part, or have been part, of Girl Scouts.
Local troops are part of service unit 309 which serves both Whitehall and Granville and comprises 16 troops and approximately 120 girls ranging from five to 17 years old.
Troops in both towns used to be separate but were merged into one service unit last fall.
Diane Wescott, who is the community chair for the unit and has been involved in Girl Scouts for about 30 years, said the organization has undergone some structural changes during the past several years.
“Nationwide, Girl Scouts has been on a decline numbers-wise. There has been an impetus to put a larger population under a single service unit,” she explained. “It’s a new situation. There have been some bumps along the road but we’re getting to know the girls and the leaders.”
The regional council to which the troops in Granville and Whitehall belonged has also been restructured.
The service unit is now part of the Girls Scouts of Northeastern New York, which in 2007 was created from a number of smaller councils, including the Adirondack Council and serves over 12,000 girls from Albany to the Canadian border.
Wescott said the larger council has been both good and bad. “With the councils becoming so much bigger, you don’t have that same hometown feel, but you do have lots of support.”
Clark agreed, saying there’s a much larger pool of leadership and resources on which to draw.
It also gives girls a chance to meet other girls they may not have had the opportunity to meet.
“My troop has girls from different schools and because they don’t play each other in sports any more, they would be strangers if not for Girl Scouts,” Clark said
Wescott said leaders in both towns alternate the location of their meetings each month and activities rotate between the towns.
One of those activities was held Friday night as several dozen girls and their families squeezed inside the Granville Baptist Church to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts of America.
They enjoyed a pizza dinner and proudly showed off the displays they created to commemorate the occasion.
The Girl Scouts of America was created by Juliette Gordon Low on March 12, 1912, and some local troops have been around for almost as long.
Wescott said the organization has changed a lot during that time. Badges have evolved and now include things like digital filmmaking or the “science of style” badge.
The opportunities available for girls and young women have also increased, which has presented a challenge for Girl Scout groups across the country.
“The numbers have really fluctuated. At one time we had 140 girls in Granville alone who participated,” Wescott said. “There are more activities for girls that didn’t used to exist. They do sports at a younger age or have dance. We compete with other activities.
“But Girl Scouts is different because we are helping girls become leaders in their community.”
Wescott said the goal of Girl Scouts is to develop girls and women who work cooperatively with others.
Shaw’s granddaughter Amanda Bourn said the girls learn patience and time management skills in addition to leadership. She said one member of the family was so shy she rarely talked to other kids but that girl is now a member of the national honor society.
“The girls emulate who they are with. Almost all of the students of the month at school are Girls Scouts or Cub Scouts. It speaks to their character. They have to be taught these things,” Clark said.
“We spoke with a recent graduate and Gold Award winner and she said her Scouting friends were still her closest friends. We hope that they take those lessons with them.”
Girls in Whitehall and Granville who are interested in becoming a Girl Scout are encouraged to contact Diane Wescott. Registration is open year-round. To learn more about local scouting opportunities visit the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York at www.gsneny.org.