Girl Scout Volunteer Appreciation Week: Five Ways to Say “Thank You!”

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Did you know that more than 12,000 volunteers gave an estimated 250,000+ hours to make Girl Scouts happen in western Washington last year?

From troop meetings and camp outs, to cookie sales and all those tricky logistics (banking, anyone?), our volunteers always give it their all. They wear so many hats—and weather so many storms!—to help Girl Scouts achieve great things.

Girl Scouts wouldn’t exist without these amazing people.

Now we need help from our Girl Scout community to recognize them! To celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 21-27), we hope you’ll take a minute to say thank you to the Girl Scout volunteers who have made a difference in your life. Here are five great ways:

VolunteerAppreciationWeek21. Share Your Thanks

Write a note, take a picture, or draw a doodle expressing your gratitude and then post it on our Facebook page  or email it to thanks@girlscoutsww.org and we’ll post it for you! We’ll share Thank Yous from across the council on social media throughout Volunteer Appreciation Week, so get in on the fun!

 

VolunteerAppreciationWeek32. Get Creative

We love this list of 25 outside-the-box ways to thank a Girl Scout volunteer, like creating your very own “Thank You” video or making a mini time capsule filled messages about your favorite memories together, pictures, and fun artifacts. What would you add to the list?

 

VolunteerAppreciationWeek43. Give Big

Did you know that you can donate to Girl Scouts of Western Washington in honor of a volunteer? Whether you want to give $5 or $500, you can celebrate the people who make a difference with a Tribute Gift.

 

 

VolunteerAppreciationWeek.Nominate4. Nominate Their Name

Recognizing our wonderful volunteers is a strong tradition in Girl Scouts. You can nominate a volunteer for any of our Girl Scouts of Western Washington Adult Recognition awards—like the Juliette Low Leadership Award or the Vivian Caver Diversity Award. You can also go national by submitting their name for the President’s Volunteer Service Award.


VolunteerAppreciationWeek.SpreadtheWord5. Spread the Word

If you know other girls, families or Girl Scout fans, it’s the perfect time to let them know that Volunteer Appreciation Week is happening April 21-27. Please help us spread the word so everyone can join in!

While we celebrate Girl Scout Volunteer Appreciation Week just once a year, our CEO Megan pointed out that “seven days is nowhere near enough time to adequately say ‘thank you’ to the thousands of volunteers who are the heart of Girl Scouts of Western Washington.”

It’s a great reminder to express your gratitude this week, and then carry that appreciative attitude forward throughout the rest of the year.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to our entire Girl Scout community!

Go Gold: Actions and Oceans

Girl Scout Katherine Ball talks about trash, her pioneering ocean research, and what it’s like to go for the Gold Award.

Courtesy of Dan Bates/The Everett Herald.

“Protecting our oceans is important because they are a resource for having fun, for food, for things we haven’t even discovered yet!” Photo courtesy of Dan Bates/The Everett Herald.

Did you know over six million tons of debris enters the world’s oceans every year, weighing about the same as a million elephants? Whether you call it garbage, trash, or just plain litter, marine debris is a big problem.

And one local Girl Scout is spreading the word—both about the issues and what we can do to help.

Katherine Ball, a Girl Scout Ambassador from Everett, just completed her Gold Award project: Actions and Oceans – How Our Actions Today Effect the Oceans of Tomorrow. “The ultimate goal of the project was to educate people about the issue of marine debris,” explains the high school senior. “It was to inspire people to change their actions and protect our oceans.”

Actions and Oceans

For her Gold Award project, Katherine hosted an event that brought together local scientists and organizations—including the Washington Sea Grant, NOAA and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance!—to share their research about ocean issues. She also shared some of her own research into microplastics in the Possession Sound. (In fact, Katherine is the very first person to do this kind of research in this particular geographic area. How cool is that?)

On March 5, over 60 people showed up to the event—way more than Katherine expected: “It went really well. I was a little bit relieved and very proud.” After spending 130 hours on her project, Katherine was ready for a well-deserved break.

“You know, sometimes people refer to these young ladies as Gold Award Winners,” says Julia Ricciardi, our Highest Awards Program Manager. “That just doesn’t quite make sense since they put in a lot of effort and hard work to accomplish their goals. They’re Girl Scout Gold Award Earners!”

It All Started with Trash

Katherine’s dedication to marine ecology started young, when she read a kids book by local oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion. “Reading that book introduced me to all the hidden problems of the ocean… I thought ‘whoa, this is really cool!’” says Katherine.

By grade 8, Katherine knew she wanted to study the currents and the waves as an oceanographer. “Protecting our oceans is important because they are such a resource for having fun, for food, for things we haven’t even discovered yet …”

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Image courtesy of Curtis Ebbesmeyer.

The Girl Scout Connection

Katherine’s Girl Scout connection also goes way back—she joined in kindergarten and hasn’t stopped since: “My mom was a Girl Scout for life, so I really grew up with it … I don’t think I would be where I am today without Girl Scouts,” says Katherine. “Girl Scouts has given me so many good leadership opportunities.”

Girl Scouts was also a key part of her oceanography plans. “I quickly realized that the best solutions to the problems of marine debris come from people taking a stand and changing their action,” explains Katherine. “I’ve slowly been spreading the word to friends, but the Gold Awards was a big change to really expand my audience.”

Ways YOU Can Help Combat Marine Debris

“People seldom take action because they don’t think they can have any impact on such a large scale problem,” points out Katherine. But small actions do make a difference. Her advice? “Get involved in any way you can!”

1. Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle: “The biggest way to help is to reduce how much stuff you’re using,” says Katherine. And that doesn’t have to mean drastic changes, it’s about small actions. For example, instead of buying a plastic water bottle, pack a re-usable one.

2. Get Debris Off Beaches: “If you’re at the beach, actually pick up the liter you see,” suggests Katherine. “It makes a big difference.” You can also join a beach cleanup (Puget Soundkeeper Alliance has a good list.)

3. Spread the Word: “So many people don’t know about the issues of marine debris,” says Katherine. And that means the first step toward action is just spreading the word.

Protecting Beaches

Photo courtesy of the Pugest Soundkeeper Alliance.

Congratulations on a job well done, Katherine!

This is a new series featuring some of our amazing Gold Award Girl Scouts. If you know a Girl Scout you’d like to nominate, please email web@girlscoutsww.org.

Girl Scouts Support Pets and PetHub Supports Us!

Golden-GirlApril is Pet Safety Month and we’re teaming up with PetHub.com to get ID tags onto dogs and cats!

Girl Scouts have always been incredibly focused on helping those in their communities,” says our CEO Megan Ferland. “Girls actively support animal shelters and have often provided food and other supplies to various animal-focused charities. PetHub.com is a natural extension of our girls’ efforts.”

All this month, 15% each sale on PetHub.com will benefit Girl Scouts of Western Washington! We also worked with PetHub to create a limited edition Girl Scout Pup ID tag and $10 of each tag sold will go to support the many Girl Scout programs offered in western Washington. You can go here to order your own tag online, or visit one of our Girl Scout stores to pick one up.

Girl-Scout-Tag-for-FB-offerMembers of our Girl Scout community can also get in on the fun by entering PetHub’s Best Friends Keep Best Friends Safe Girl Scout sweepstakes! The grand prize is a basket filled with awesome pet products and it’s worth over $300. Go here to check out all the amazing prizes.

“I’m so excited to come up with a fun way to help the Girl Scouts while furthering our goal of keeping animals safe,” says Lorien Clemens, PetHub’s Director of Marketing. “It’s a win-win-win opportunity to benefit an incredible organization, empower young women to make a difference in their community, and get lost animals home fast.”

Girl Scouts Give Back: the McKenzie Harris Story

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We are always impressed by how our Girl Scouts use their cookie money, but this cookie season we were blown away by the support for one of our local Brownies: McKenzie Harris.

On New Year’s Day, seven-year-old McKenzie and her family were in head-on car accident. The collision left her paralyzed from the neck down. McKenzie and her family were facing a long road to recovery, along with thousands of dollars of medical bills and a big list of needs (including a special wheelchair and retrofitting their entire house) before they could bring McKenzie home.

McKenzie and her mom Sara are both part of Girl Scouts—McKenzie as a Brownie, and Sara as a troop leader—and their troop wanted to help. Cookie season gave them the perfect idea: donate their cookie money. Thanks to the generous support of KMPS and DJs Tommy and Joe, her troop got the word out and local news stations started picking up the story. Soon there were stories on KING 5, KOMO News and Q13 Fox about McKenzie and her troop’s efforts to help.

On the last weekend of the cookie season, with help from KMPS, McKenzie’s troop sold over 2,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies at Walmart in Spanway. The girls gave 100% of the raised funds from the entire cookie sale to help McKenzie. In addition, the Harris family took home $5,000 in community donations.

(We should also note that McKenzie didn’t let being in the hospital stop her from participating in cookie season: she sold over 400 boxes from her hospital bed!)

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And the Girl Scout support wasn’t limited to just one troop: two more groups in western Washington stepped up to help.

When Troop 40455 heard about McKenzie on King 5 News, they decided to donate the rest of their cookie sale proceeds to benefit their Girl Scout sister. “What a terrific motivation to get out there and sell more cookies!” said Troop 40455′s leader Margie Oblander. “It was a win-win for everyone.”

Troop 44217 also voted to donate cookie proceeds and set a goal of selling 100 boxes during the last weekend. They ended up selling over 180 boxes! As Troop 44217’s leader Jennifer McGrath put it: “The girls’ spirit of giving, paired with a caring and supportive community, can truly make a difference!”

For more information about McKenzie’s progress, visit her YouCaring Page.

P.S. We just heard that Troop 40970 from Snohomish is planning to donate $1,000 of their cookie proceeds to McKenzie! “Our girls sold their tails off that last weekend to help their sister Girl Scout,” writes Mary, one of the troop moms.

Troop 40970Have you heard of any other Girl Scouts who are pitching in? Let us know by emailing web@girlscoutsww.org.

Oso Mudslide: An Update from Our Girl Scout Community

Over the last two weeks, Girl Scout friends and families have come together in an amazing, inspiring way to support the communities of Oso and Darrington.

The North Regional Office put out a call for donations last week, and the Girl Scout community has responded with incredible generosity. The outpouring of donations quickly became larger than could be handled by one organization alone.

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Tasha Branch, helps unload a truck from Arlington Hardware filled with donations.

In collaboration with other community organizations, our North Regional Office has helped open the Community Collection Center—a warehouse site for collecting, sorting and distributing contributions in a donated space at the Arlington Business Park.

This center is being operated by a team of volunteers from Girl Scouts and the local community, with Girl Scout volunteer Shirley Clark as the site coordinator. Tasha Branch, one of our Regional Program Managers, is leading the community coordination.

A few specifics on the Girl Scout relief efforts:

  • Last Friday a trailer of approximately 1,500 lbs. of Girl Scout food donations were delivered to the Darrington community, where local high school students were eager and appreciative to receive them into their community food bank.
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Snohomish County Fire Chief Travis Hots stopped by the Arlington Food Pavilion to thank local Girl Scouts for collecting food.

  • Girl Scout troops and service units from across the council have delivered donations, including Lacey, Sammamish, Snohomish, Bellingham, Mt Vernon, Mill Creek, South Everett and Edmonds.
  • Word has spread, and donations to the Community Collection Center are coming from everywhere: corporate donations including four pallets of coffee from Starbucks, pallets of animal feed from Purina, 64 boxes of new shoes, shovels from Ace Hardware and more.
  • Multiple troops and Girl Scout volunteers have signed-up to work at the Community Collection Center and have played a significant role in the efficiency of processing the overwhelming and heartwarming number of donations.

Many, many people in western Washington have reached out to us to find out how they can help further. While additional donations of food and clothing are not needed at this time, there are still other ways to help.

Ways to Help

  1. Donate: Opportunities to give directly to affected families and support the community can be found on the Snohomish County website. Remember, while Girl Scouts can’t fundraise for other organizations, they can donate money that is already in their troop account.
  2. Volunteer: The Community Collection Center in Arlington has opportunities for troops to help sort and distribute donations. Shifts are available Monday-Friday, 2-4:30 pm or 4:30-7 pm, and Saturday-Sunday, 10 am-1 pm or 1-4 pm. Visit the Oso/Darrington Mudslide Relief: Get Involved page for more information.
  3. Save to Help Later: While the outpouring of food and clothing donations has ensured that the affected families and volunteers have what they need right now, the community is on a long road to recovery. We hope that members of the Girl Scout community will keep them in their hearts and minds months and years in the future.

The Oso and Darrington communities are still dealing with their immediate and devastating loss. As an organization we are being very sensitive and respectful to the specific and changing needs of both impacted communities. Girl Scouts of Western Washington has been in contact with the schools in Darrington where Girl Scout programs are scheduled, and have let them know that we are available to resume programs when they are ready.

Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected by this terrible tragedy, including members of the Girl Scout community, some of whom have been directly affected.

Awesome Woman: Stephanie Anne Johnson

Stephanie Anne Johnson

Stephanie Anne Johnson is on fire, and it’s her voice–as well as her heart–that will put her on the map.

First, the voice. When Johnson sings, you’re going to hear nothing you’ve ever heard before. When she was on 2013’s season of “The Voice,” she started on Christina Aguilera’s team, and was saved by her second coach, CeeLo Green, because he loved her unique style and found her “remarkably talented.”

To think, it was a voice that almost didn’t get shared with an audience.

Johnson was given her first tape player at the age of eight, and remembers coming home from school and singing all afternoon in her room with the doors and windows closed so no one would hear her.

“My brother heard my singing, and told my mom that she should get me voice lessons,” she recalls. “The first time I sang in public was at a coffee shop. I was 15, and felt awkward and didn’t know what to do with myself. I remember being really scared. My heart was beating really fast in my ears. I was scared people would look at me.”

She developed comfort in front of a crowd while attending school at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. “I learned how to relax on stage because I knew what to do,” she says. “There wasn’t a time I was like, ‘how do I do this?’”

Then came practice involving another muscle: the heart.

The Heart of the Matter–Girl Scouts and Beyond

After college, Johnson took a job as a staffer and troop leader at Girl Scouts of Western Washington. She led five troops each week, working with girls on everything from self-esteem to bettering their communities.

“Girl Scouts gives hope to girls,” Johnson says, “and helps them learn skills they might not otherwise learn elsewhere.”

Stephanie Anne Johnson

Johnson knows the impact of the Girl Scout experience best as her days as a Girl Scout Daisy and Brownie. She went camping, sold cookies and earned the self-esteem badge, but says the experience was most profound because it provided a place for her to be around other girls and not feel some of the judgment you get at school.

“My family is biracial,” she says. “My mom is black and married someone who is white. So it was always awkward for me to be walking around with a different kind of family than everyone else had. At my Girl Scout troop meetings, there was always a sense that we were all doing something together, and it didn’t matter who looked like what.

“And at Girl Scout camp, there were a lot of girls from different backgrounds. It was nice to be in an environment that embraced diversity … We learned about honesty and integrity, and things that aren’t taught in school. You take on bigger challenges and have a wider skill set while still being you at the core.”

She incorporated those life lessons into her day job at Girl Scouts, eventually branching out into other worthy service jobs, including one as an AmeriCorps volunteer, where she served at the Al Davies Boys and Girls Club in Tacoma. Though she later left service work to pursue her music full-time, her role as a change agent is not something she’ll ever leave behind.

“I love my music, but I feel strongly about the future of our kids and our education system,” Johnson says. “The responsibility of being a good steward is not something I take lightly. I’d like to be a lightning rod for issues surrounding people who don’t have a voice. Women and girls, the homeless, the LGBT community … I like to think of myself as a work-in-progress. If I’m not the best at living up to everything I hold dear, I hope that I will continue to grow into that person.”

Advice to Girls Who Want a Career in Music:

Guitar“Keep in mind that you’re always a work in progress. That helps when you’re an artist.
If you want to be involved in the music industry, it would behoove you to find someone in the industry who is actively doing what you want to be doing and try to start a dialogue with them. For some people that might mean sending a letter to Christina Aguilera, but for other people it might be finding other girls in your town who play guitar and sing.

Anybody going to school for music needs a business class. Being a working musician is a lot like having your own business. I’m not only selling myself, I’m also selling CDs and T-shirts, and I have to have a stock of these things.

You’re also going to need a goal. Research someone who is doing something you like. Where did they go to school? Who did they study with? Then go study with those people.
Pay attention.”

Looking to the Future

Now that she’s no longer on TV, Johnson is back home in Washington, working on her next album and playing shows. She’s not waiting around for Hollywood to call, but she’s not stopping what she loves, either. Johnson recognizes the gifts she has to share with the world, and has no plans to stop sharing.

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“A lot of people wait around for validation and for the world to tell them they’re doing the right thing, but that’s something you have to tell yourself,” she advises. “You’ve got to be gentle with yourself and remind yourself you did a good job.

“I have been blessed to have my mother and grandmother for great support in my life. I have wonderful friends and teachers. I just want to say thank you to the universe. I feel supported by the people who listen to my music.”