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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.”

5 Reasons Why the World Needs More Girl Scouts

Happy Birthday

One hundred and two years ago today—on March 12, 1912—the very first Girl Scout Troop was founded by Juliette Gordon Low.

A few months before, she had called a friend and said, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight!” And she wasn’t kidding. Today, over 3.2 million girls participate in Girl Scouts across the country.

To celebrate our 102 birthday, we’ve rounded up five big reasons the world needs more Girl Scouts:

1. Girl Scouts know that EVERY girl can make a difference.

Every GirlGirl Scouts of Western Washington is an inclusive organization that is designed to empower every girl—regardless of her race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or geographic location—to make the world a better place.

Our organization’s history of being a voice “for all the girls” goes back to the very beginning. Juliette Gordon Lowe was deaf and as early as 1917 there were Girl Scout troops for physically disabled girls. Those values of diversity, inclusion, and collaboration hold true today. As Jenny, from Troop 1775 puts it: “One of the major skills you learn in Girl Scouts is to not judge a book by its cover.”

2. Girl Scout Cookies

CookieDay2013_6071 (1)Need we say more? Well, we probably don’t have to, but we’re going to anyways! That’s because every time a Girl Scout sells a box of cookies, she brings a lot more to her community than just a delicious treat.

Whether donating to overseas military troops through Operation Cookie Drop, partnering with local businesses like Molly Moon’s, or pitching in to buy a pony for Camp River Ranch, girls who participate in the Girl Scout Cookie Program give back to their community. (Plus, they learn the #FiveSkills of goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.)

One of our favorite stories from this year’s cookie sale is from Troop 43688, who got together to raise money for their fellow Girl Scout, McKenzie Harris. She needs a wheelchair and lots of support after being in a head-on collision on New Year’s Day (read more about this story).

3. Girl Scouts Rock Science and Tech

FIRST LEGO League ChampsGirls Scouts know that science, technology, engineering and math aren’t just for boys. Girl Scouts get hands-on experience with science and tech via opportunities like the FIRST LEGO® League Competition. This year, over eighty local girls built robots and two of our teams made it to the State Championships!

Many Girl Scouts also create projects that help even more young people discover how cool science and tech can be. For example, Maggie from Troop 43266 put together a three-week engineering program for middle school students as part of her Gold Award project. “I saw the disconnect between what I was learning in the classroom in my math and science classes and where I was supposed to go when I grew up,” says Maggie. “I didn’t really want anybody to feel that, so through the Girl Scouts, I made the bridge for other people to follow.”

4. Girl Scouts Will (and Do!) Run the World

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Girl Scouts learn how to lead from Day One and this has a big impact later on down the road.

Over 80% of female business owners and 2/3 U.S. Congresswomen are former Girl scouts, and our alumnae include women like Senator Patty Murray, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nancy Reagan, Madeleine Albright, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Lolo Jones.

Former Girl Scouts also blaze new trails, serving as the first female Space Shuttle Commander, Secretary of State, Supreme Court Justice, and Secretary of Homeland Security. Just imagine what current Girl Scouts will become!

Bonus Fact: Almost every female astronaut who has flown in space was a Girl Scout. How cool is that?

5. Girl Scouts Give Back

Girl Scouts Give Back“I care about saving the planet, ending world hunger and empowering girls, because if these problems aren’t confronted and changed now, they will only get worse later,” explains Shaheerah. “Girl Scouts has helped me step outside the box and become a better leader.”

Shaheerah isn’t alone. Every year, Girl Scouts across the country put in over 75 million hours in community service. In fact, the Girl Scout Research Institute reported that 73% of Girl Scouts say improving the world around them is their favorite activity. Plus, research shows that grown-up Girl Scouts volunteer and vote more often than their peers.

Whether through caring for the earth, building communities, breaking down barriers, or leading the change they want to see—Girl Scouts take action to strengthen the communities in which they live.

Have another reason why the world needs more Girl Scouts? Share it on our Facebook page!

Awesome Woman: Gillian Muessig

Gillian Muessig

Though countless girls and women regularly express just how profoundly they were impacted by the Girl Scout program, the friends they made, the leaders they had, the camps they attended and the sense of belonging they experienced, Gillian Muessig’s Girl Scout story hits you square in the jaw. Perhaps it is just her passion for paying it forward that carries so much weight. Or maybe it’s her personal journey – a young girl, fighting to find herself and, in the midst of that struggle, feels acceptance – that feels so powerful.

Or maybe it’s her profound sense of urgency for girls to find strong female role models and opportunity for growth, self-awareness and leadership that strikes a chord in all of us who want the same thing.

Gillian Muessig wants girls to get more. What they’re currently getting from the media, in school and from adults is not enough. She wants them to get more opportunity, more support and more mentorship, and knows exactly where they can find it.

This is what she said, in a note: “My Girl Scout troop leader saw potential in the scrawny, buck-toothed, coke-bottled glasses bedecked, far-too-loud and joyful little girl. She gave me structure into which I could put my incurable optimism, and gave me strength to withstand the rigors of entrepreneurship, as well as help others build their companies.”

Did that troop leader know Gillian would become a successful female business owner, co-founding the incredibly popular SEOmoz (now Moz) in 2004, which serves a community of 400,000 search marketers around the world? Or that she would become known as SEOmom throughout the industry, giving generously of her time and talents by lecturing, inspiring and innovating? Did she know Gillian would travel the world (having visited almost every continent), serving on the boards for tech, bio-tech and other start-ups in four continents, inspiring those who may need a bit of coaching while traversing the path to greatness?

Gillian in Ahmedabad

Of course she didn’t know that. But it didn’t matter. You don’t volunteer in Girl Scouts because you know exactly what the future holds. You volunteer because you believe in the power of a girl to design her own future and achieve her goals by building the courage, confidence and character she needs to make the world a better place.

Gillian believes there is a great sense of urgency for volunteers and strong female role models to help girls grow into strong leaders. She is serious when she says girls need our help, and they need it now.

The Girl Scout Arc – Then, Now and the Future

Gillian’s best friend Nina was in her Girl Scout troop, and Nina’s mother was her troop leader. They both started in third grade, in Manhattan, and have known each other longer than anyone else on the planet, except parents and siblings. “Most marriages don’t even last as long as our friendship,” says Gillian. They even went to Girl Scout camp together in Brewster, New York.

Gillian Muessig in Sophia“It was a different time,” recalls Gillian. “There were strong expectations about what girls could and couldn’t do. Girl Scouts was a place where, if you had broader goals, it was looked at and not laughed at.

“Nina’s mother saw in me the ability to be more than what one would have expected in the slums of New York. We were encouraged instead of discouraged.”

Gillian believes Girl Scouts can provide a huge benefit to young women by helping them find their strengths in academia, the arts, business and sports. She says it can help them establish their limits and boundaries, and give them good reasons for keeping those limits.

“It can provide them with business mentors who show them a clear path to success beyond entry level and middle management as well as paths that lead to ‘non-traditional’ jobs,” she says. “And it can provide girls with peer mentorship – opportunities to mentor and be mentored by those in the group, developing a long-lasting expectation of peer support among women.

“There is a serious dearth of support systems in place for girls and young women. We need to stand behind these young girls and give them encouragement. We need to support girls to young women to adulthood. Empowerment starts at home, and it starts early. Girl Scouts can do that.”

Early Inspiration

Gillian in Kiev

You might say it was a mixture of things that spurred Gillian on to a life full of great adventures, wonderful connections with others and an impressive confidence in her abilities and value. It was certainly the influence of her father, who passed when she was a girl, and his simple, but powerful words of advice: Achieve, achieve, achieve.

And it was her mother, who raised five children on her own while working whatever jobs she could in the early years and later edited academic papers and books for respected authors at Yale University’s Political Science department, who showed her all a woman could accomplish.

“A little girl in the slums of New York, raised by a widow who was awfully strong, it never occurred to me that it couldn’t be done,” Gillian recalls. “I was always encouraged to follow my dreams. What I accomplished, I accomplished because it did not occur to me that I couldn’t do it. It was my obligation.”

And, finally, it was her introduction to Girl Scouts that served as her team and her cheering squad.

What a powerful story! Thanks for being such an Awesome Woman, Gillian!

Awesome Woman: Kylee Kitchens

Pacific Kitchens, Kylee 07-21 cr.AS

This time of year, visions of sugar plums frequently dance through our heads. What perfect timing! Kylee Kitchens, a soloist for the Pacific Northwest Ballet, is dancing her way through the Nutcracker! It’s probably every little girl’s dream to be a ballet dancer, and Kylee is one of the few (and lucky) dancers who gets to dance professionally for one of the country’s most acclaimed dance companies.

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Awesome Woman: Shannon O’Donnell

ShannonODonnell

When you turn on your TV to watch the weather, it usually appears as though the people you’re watching could give their reports with their eyes closed. They’re confident, funny, comfortable behind the camera and super knowledgeable about the subject.

Ever wonder what things look like before the camera starts to roll?

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