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Girl Scouts' Fully Funded Troops Program Stronger Than Ever

Mar 01, 2018 12:39PM ● By Kevin
Since 2011, Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc. has reached out to girls living in under-served areas through its Fully Funded Troops program. Formerly known as Community Troops, the program is stronger than ever thanks to generous community supporters and volunteers.

We caught up with Lori Tomlinson, manager of grants and communications for the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc. to chat about the organization's history, values, programs, and of course, cookies!

Bonita & Estero Magazine: Tell us a little bit about Girl Scouts of Gulf Coast Florida. When and how did it get started?

Lori Tomlinson: Founded in 1912, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) is the preeminent leadership development organization for girls. We’re 2.6 million strong—1.8 million girls and 800,000 adults who believe girls can change the world. It began over 100 years ago with one woman, Girl Scouts’ founder Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low, who believed in the power of every girl. She organized the first Girl Scout troop on March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Georgia, and every year since, we’ve made her vision a reality, ensuring girls develop leadership skills as they discover who they are, connect with others, and take action to identify and solve problems in their communities and the world.

Girl Scout programs were established in Gulfcoast Florida in the mid-1920s. In 1962, the Caloosa Girl Scout Council, made up of Lee, Collier, and one-half of Hendry Counties, merged with the Gulfside Council (Manatee and Sarasota Counties) and incorporated independent troops in Charlotte County and DeSoto County, to form the Gulfcoast Council. The council name changed to Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc. (GSGCF) in 1993, with expansion to cover ten counties (Manatee, Sarasota, Highlands, Hardee, DeSoto, Charlotte, Collier, Lee, Hendry, Glades) and nearly 10,000 square miles. In the last membership year, we served 6,000 girls across our council. We are a chartered council of Girl Scouts of the USA.


BE: I know that right now is Girl Scout cookie selling time! How important are the cookie sales to troops?

Tomlinson: The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest entrepreneurial program for girls in the world. It’s not just about selling delicious cookies, though. Through the program, girls learn five essential skills that they will use throughout their lifetime: 1. Goal Setting, 2. Decision Making, 3. Money Management, 4. People Skills, and 5. Business Ethics. 

During Girl Scout Cookie Season, we encourage customers to ask the girls questions while visiting cookie booths, such as: “What are your sales goals? How is your troop planning to use your earnings? Tell me about the different cookie varieties you have for sale?” Customer interactions with the girls are an important part of the educational experience.

All net proceeds from the Cookie Program stay within the local council. Troops may use their proceeds in a variety of ways, such as paying for a special troop trip, program, or activity, or funding a community service project. The council uses its portion to pay for council-sponsored programs, program scholarships for girls whose families are experiencing financial hardships, upkeep on council camps and properties, and more.


BE: I see that there are Summer Camps this year! Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Tomlinson: We are VERY excited to be offering a variety of summer camp programs this year! We are hosting week-long, overnight camp sessions at Camp Honi Hanta in Bradenton, with themes such “Superhero Training Camp,” “Oddventureland,” and “Wild, Wild West.” In Fort Myers, we are offering a series of weeklong day camps, including “Artistic Creations,” “Mad Science,” and more. In addition, multiple specialty camps will give girls the opportunity to transform their community through organized service projects, learn basic sailing skills through Sailing Camp, or discover local sites and attractions through Explorers Travel Camp. Information about all these opportunities are available on our website, gsgcf.org.


BE: Can you tell us a little bit about the Fully Funded Troops program?

Tomlinson: Girl Scouting provides important opportunities for girls from all socioeconomic backgrounds. However, many girls in our council live in traditionally underserved areas, where poverty rates are among the highest in the area. Here, girls face barriers to participation in traditional Girl Scout troops, including financial need, lack of transportation, and the absence of volunteers who can commit to leading a troop. To address these challenges, Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida offers a Fully Funded Troops program. With financial support and paid staff support, fully funded troops can meet on a regular basis to participate in Girl Scout activities. Basic program expenses, including supplies, curriculum books and materials, and registration fees are fully covered.

In addition to Fully Funded Troops, we also provide program scholarships to individual girl members who participate in traditional troops, based on financial need.


BE: What have the positive impacts been since forming the program?

Tomlinson: The Fully Funded Troops program has allowed us to bring all the benefits of Girl Scouting to girls who would otherwise been unable to participate. In the last membership year alone, 485 girls participated in Fully Funded Troops in our council.

Whether Fully Funded or traditional, all troops participate in a variety of age-appropriate, girl-led activities that are cooperative and hands-on, preparing girls to take on challenges big and small in their lives. Guided by supportive adult volunteers, girls practice everyday leadership as they earn badges, sell cookies, go on exciting trips, explore the outdoors, participate in STEM activities, and more. Girls learn and grow in a safe, all-girl environment, which helps them discover themselves and their values, try new things and take healthy risks, connect with others to create positive relationships, and take action in their communities on issues they are passionate about.

A new report from the Girl Scout Research Institute, The Girl Scout Impact Study, shows that participating in Girl Scouts helps girls develop key leadership skills they need to be successful in life. Compared to their peers, Girl Scouts are more likely than non-Girl Scouts to be leaders because they:

  • Have confidence in themselves and their abilities (80% vs. 68%)
  • Act ethically and responsibly, and show concern for others (75% vs. 59%)
  • Seek challenges and learn from setbacks (62% vs. 42%)
  • Develop and maintain healthy relationships (60% vs. 43%)
  • Identify and solve problems in their communities (57% vs. 28%)
  • Take an active role in decision making (80% vs. 51%)
Importantly, what girls gain through Girl Scouting positively affects all areas of their lives. For example, Girl Scouts do better than their non-Girl Scout peers in the classroom, earning better grades and aspiring to higher educational attainment, and are more likely to seek careers in STEM, law, and business—industries in which women are underrepresented. The benefits of Girl Scouting are not exclusive to any particular demographic, which means that no matter where girls live or what their age or background, Girl Scouts can help them develop to their full potential and excel in all aspects of life.


BE: How can someone help?

Tomlinson: There are many ways an individual can get involved! Our greatest need is for troop leaders and co-leaders, as well as other volunteers who can assist troops with various projects. Of course, we also rely on financial support from individual donors, business, civic organizations, and foundations. Every donation, no matter how big or small, has an significant impact. Connecting with Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida is easy, by emailing customercare@gsgcf.org, or call 800-232-4475.


BE: Is there anything else we should know about -- you, future goals, fundraisers, etc?

Tomlinson: At Girl Scouts, everything we do is designed with and for girls. Our data-backed, time-tested programs are designed to meet the unique needs and specific interests of girls, including the way they learn best. The inclusive, girl-led, all-female environment of a Girl Scout troop creates a safe space in which girls can try new things, develop a range of skills, take on leadership roles, and feel comfortable failing, dusting themselves off, and trying again!

Our goal is our mission: to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. We invite you to learn more at gsgcf.org.