Madison County Girl Scouts learn life skills through community outreach

It’s that time of year again where you can find local Girl Scouts out selling their assortment of Thin Mints, Samoas, Do-Si-Dos and more. But for the five local county troops, participating in the Girl Scouts stretches far beyond a month of intense – and sometimes chaotic – cookie-selling.

Around 40 girls comprise the county’s five troops, which includes one in each of St. Paul and Kingston and three in Huntsville. The troops are currently in rotation sitting in front of local retailers with their boxes of cookies, which sell for $5 each and go toward various activities, ranging from purchasing patches or materials for a community project, or for a year-end party for the scouts.

Lisa May’s daughter, Patty, is one of the leaders of her troop. May said her daughter and other scouts began pre-selling the cookies in mid-January, and will sell at booths until March 24.

The rush of the sale and seeing the excitement when she delivers the cookies are some of Patty’s favorite things about Girl Scouts.

“You go to deliver them and you just see bright smiles on their faces,” Patty said. “They’re just happy to see the cookies.”

Amanda Podoll, who’s on the county’s Girl Scouts leadership team, said the season of cookies isn’t just to raise funds for the troops, but to instill the same values they work on throughout the rest of the year.

“Cookie [season] is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of chaos and a lot of work, but we do learn a lot,” Podoll said. “We learn how to count money, we learn money management skills, and we learn how to set goals and achieve  those goals ... what we’re going to do once we’ve earned our money, and how we’re going to reach our community and help it with the money we earned.”

Helping the local community is the top priority for the local troops – not cookies or badges.

“One of our troops is actually donating cookies to a food bank, and one of our groups is donating cookies to a group overseas,” Podoll said. “We had a troop recently that did a community service of picking up trash at DuCommun  ... and last year we had a troop make goodie bags for all the police officers.”

Patty said the program has instilled leadership skills in her. Among the longest-active members in her troop, some of the younger members look to her for direction, she said.

“Most of them, if they don’t know you, they’re not going to speak to you,” Patty said about the newer members. “You have to open them up to the troop to get them to talk.”

That includes letting them sometimes make mistakes and turning them into learning opportunities, Patty said.

“It’s kind of complicated sometimes,” she said. “You just want to tell them not to do something or that they’re not doing it correctly, but you realize they’re young and you have to be easy with them and they’re getting into new things ... you kind of have to wait for them to make a mistake, and then you help them.”

May emphasized that “Girl Scouts isn’t just cookies,” but a program that teaches valuable lessons, such as CPR training. Patty added that there are multiple scholarship opportunities and opportunities to travel abroad with the scouts, as well as STEM training, and Podoll said there are outdoor training opportunities such as archery.

Patty said her troop is currently making blankets for patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Her troop was the one that recently picked up trash around DuCommun, and they sometimes visit the Madison County Senior Activity and Wellness Center.

“We can always come rake leaves for an elderly person ... we’re putting girls out in nature and helping the community,” she said. “We’re not here to just make cards and go give them to people. We’re here to work.”

To learn more about the local Girl Scouts troops and how to join, visit girlscoutsdiamonds.org.

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