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History center, local troops mark 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts

POSTED: March 12, 2012 1:30 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

The Northeast Georgia History Center has an exhibit currently on display in its rotunda documenting the Girl Scouts' 100-year history. The exhibit will be on display through the end of the month. On this day 100 years ago, the Girls Scouts were formed by Juliette Gordon Low.

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One-hundred years ago today, Juliette Gordon Low made a decision that would change the lives of girls for generations nationwide.

On March 12, 1912, Low rounded up 18 girls to establish the first troop of American Girl Guides. Today, the group is known as the Girl Scouts.

Although the group was founded in Savannah, hundreds of girls — and women — in Northeast Georgia have enjoyed Scouting experiences over the years.

"When I was growing up, I didn’t get the opportunity to join Girl Scouts, but I always wanted to be one," said Penny Smith, a Gainesville resident.

"I didn’t realize everything that Girl Scouts did, but it sure looked like fun to me. When my daughter (Morgan Smith) was in second grade, she expressed an interest in being a Girl Scout and I thought that was great."

After her daughter’s troop became too large for one leader to accommodate them, the group had to split and Smith finally got her opportunity to be a Scout — as a troop leader.

"Their troop leader talked me into it," Smith said.

"It has turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life."

When Low established the Scouts, she wanted to create an opportunity for girls to become self-reliant, resourceful and civic-minded. Those are the same traits that Smith has enjoyed seeing develop in her girls over time.

"What I have enjoyed the most, and what makes this whole experience great is seeing the girls learn and grow," Smith said.

"I saw my troop blossom from a group of giggly second-graders to mature high school seniors.

"I have been so blessed to have been able to be a Girl Scout with my daughter. I couldn’t have asked for anything better."

Smith has enjoyed the Scouts so much, she agreed to lead another troop of second- graders.

"My daughter is a freshman at the University of Georgia now. Some friends of ours have 7-year-old girls, and they asked us to be their troop leader," Smith said.

"I had no intentions of being a troop leader again, but I couldn’t look at those little faces and say no, so here I am. And every two weeks on Tuesdays, my daughter makes the trek home from Athens to be here for the girls."

As the leader of Troop 10875, Smith is excited to see the growth of another generation of Girl Scouts.

"Being a troop leader is all about doing what the girls want to do, you don’t have to go by a book," Smith said.

"My girls are most interested in doing community service work. Even though they love it when Ms. Penny gives them their badges, it’s not all about badges for them.

"They’re all about helping someone else, so we’re always looking for opportunities to help."

One of their most memorable experiences was being invited by Georgia’s First Lady Sandra Deal to participate in a day of service with the state’s first family.

"We worked at Good News at Noon (in Gainesville) with Gov. Nathan Deal and the first lady. My girls were ecstatic, it was a huge honor," Smith said.

"I invited Sue Yarck and her troop, so her older girls helped my 7-year-old girls. We passed out gifts, sweets and fruit bags. My girls wanted to celebrate the Girl Scout 100th anniversary, so we bought 100 pieces of fruit to give out and 100 homemade dog treats to donate to the Humane Society."

Gainesville resident Rosemary Dodd also has fond memories of Girl Scouts. Local nursing pioneer Ocie Pope volunteered with Dodd’s group — Troop 12 — which led to Dodd becoming a volunteer with the American Red Cross.

"It was during those days that I learned about the importance of hand-washing and friction from (Pope)," Dodd said.

"Every day, something else emerges that was influenced by Scouting."

The Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville has arranged for two separate programs to help local Girl Scouts and the community celebrate the group’s 100th anniversary.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the center will host the "History of Girl Scouts in Historic Georgia" forum. The program will be presented by former and present Girl Scouts.

On March 31, the center will host Girl Scout Day. There will be a variety of activities including campfire cooking, geocaching and historic games. Uniformed Girl Scouts and troop leaders will receive free admission.

The center also has an exhibit currently on display in its rotunda documenting the Girl Scouts’ 100-year history. The exhibit will be on display through the end of the month.

 



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