12/07/09 — Girl Scouts face adult leader shortage

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Girl Scouts face adult leader shortage

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 7, 2009 1:46 PM

Girl Scout enrollment is going strong -- it's the need for adult leadership that presents a problem.

"We have a lot of girls. It's the adults that we want to have," said Grazia Mostella, membership executive for Girls Scouts of Wayne County.

"The economy might affect it a little bit, but the enrollment right now, we still have over 1,000 here in Wayne County, 1,200 actually."

"We have a waiting list right now because they can't form a troop without a leader," said Betsy Wharton, volunteer services director. "There's some little girls out there that just want to be in a troop so bad, but they can't without a leader."

Enrolling girls from kindergarten through 12th grade is not difficult, the women say. Recruitment typically begins every fall through the schools, and has expanded to incorporate Head Start programs.

"A lot of funding goes to outreach programs, offering Girl Scouts to Head Starts to give them a taste and it doesn't cost anything, through the Boys and Girls Clubs, after school programs," said Ms. Wharton. "We have a big support from the United Way, but it doesn't cover all of it."

Girl Scouts is a non-profit organization, reliant upon corporate and individual donations. The money is put to good use -- helping pay for registration and camp fees.

A donation of $250 will help a girl go to a week of camp, Ms. Wharton said.

"One hundred dollars can pay for five events for a girl to participate in, $12 can pay for a girl to be registered in Girl Scouting," Ms. Mostella said.

"And we do not turn any girl down (who needs) financial aid," Ms. Wharton added.

While it is for all ages and backgrounds, along the way it may have picked up a perception problem, the women said.

"It has gotten, I guess, the perception of being cookies and camping and crafts," Ms. Wharton said.

"We're beyond that," said Traci Valdez-Patton, membership director for Wayne, Wilson and Greene counties. "It's the number one organization for girls and the whole thrust of being in Girl Scouting is that girls are going to make the world a better place. That's their view of leadership, is to make a difference. So it's so far beyond what a lot of preconceived notions are.

"This is the message that we would like to get out -- If you support Girl Scouting, you support the future leaders."

In recent years, the group has added a STEM program -- centered around science, technology, engineering and math activities -- as well as service projects such as collecting canned goods and filling stockings for the Salvation Army this holiday season.

One way the program hopes to enlist more volunteers is by conveying how accessible it is to become involved in Girl Scouting.

"We have so many different things they can do -- a four-week program, six-week program, eight-week program. They don't have to commit for a whole year," Ms. Mostella said. "We need help during cookie times, during recruitment times."

"I found the word 'advisor' works really well," said Mrs. Valdez-Patton.

"Or mentor," added Ms. Wharton. "And it's not just for women, either. We have a lot of men. We're always looking for males and females."

Not that just anyone can walk in and take charge, though. The group does background checks to make sure the volunteers are safe and reliable.

One thing that has helped make the process run smoother is being able to take volunteer applications online through the group's Website, www.coastalpines.org.

"That has made it so much easier for a lot of people to volunteer," Ms. Wharton said.

For more information on the program, call 432-6121 or 6123.