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Not for Profit: Girl Scouts

Oct. 6, 2006 — Help wanted: interested and able adults to lead Girl Scout troops on St. John.
"It's a tremendous responsibility," said Lonnie Willis. "Lots of skills are needed."
Willis has worked hard to get some troops up and running, but she has had trouble finding leaders. Each troop needs two leaders, she said. While she has enough girls interested for five troops, she'd be pleased if she could get three going.
Interested volunteers should come to a training session from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 15 at Bellevue Village Community Center.
St. John had several Girl Scout troops until about 2000, when the national organization imposed new, more stringent regulations, Willis said. Leaders didn't want to change their ways after so many years as volunteers, she said, so they quit. While Girl Scout programs on St. Thomas and St. Croix managed to regroup, new leaders didn't volunteer on St. John and the program fell apart.
"We have to rebuild from scratch," Willis said. The organization also needs sponsors to provide meeting places and some funding for items like books.
The St. John organization has a couple of hundred dollars in the bank to get things started, Willis said, thanks to cookie sales a couple of years ago held despite the absence of troops on St. John. Willis and the other St. John representative to the Girl Scouts of the V.I. board, St. John Administrator Julien Harley, held the cookies sales.
Even if bona fide leaders don't materialize, the organization won't abandon St. John girls, said Willis, herself a Girl Scout as a child. The territorial organization recently held a "Fun Day" where St. John girls got to sample some of what scouting has to offer. About 30 girls and 10 parents attended, Willis said.
"And a couple of boys," she said, laughing.
Willis serves as a one-woman cheerleader for scouting. Scouting empowers girls and gives them a solid sense of self, she said. It provides a place for girls to exchange ideas and learn new things.
"It helps them in their everyday lives and leads them in a good direction," she said, noting that girls have positive experiences without the stress of a coeducational environment.
Despite some old stereotypes, Girl Scouts isn't just about cooking and sewing, Willis said. There are badges "for everything under the sun," and scouts can even come up with their own ideas for badges.
The Girl Scouts have several programs. The Daisy program is for girls ages five and six. Brownies are ages six to eight. Juniors are ages eight to 10. Cadettes are ages 11 to 14, and seniors are ages 14 to 17.
Another category, Studio 2B for girls ages 11 to 17, allows girls to set up their own program. This helps alleviate the problem of older girls dropping out because the more traditional programs don't meet their needs, Willis said.
Girls also get to decide whether they want uniforms or not. If they do, they get to pick the style.
Jacqueline Dennis, president of the local council, said the Girl Scout program has come a long way since she was a scout. Activities like those at the recent Fun Day — bowling, cake decorating, line dancing, digital photography and much more — give girls a chance to try out activities that previous generations of scouts never even heard of.
"It's so non-traditional," Dennis said.
To sign up for the leadership training, call Willis at 693-8590.
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