In fall 2019, Amy Chumley and Ellery Nief founded Troop 21186 in the Fountain City and Inskip areas. The Covid-19 pandemic caused the Brownies (grades 2-3) and Juniors (grades 4-5) to move their meetings outdoors in 2020, so they met at parks around town for safety reasons. Little did the troop members know, that decision would inspire their most significant community project yet and guide the direction of activities for years to come.
“Meeting outside became what we enjoyed most,” Chumley said. “We explored different areas by visiting city and county parks and completing cleanups in our community. One day, the girls collectively came up with the idea to adopt a park and make it our own.”
The girls of Troop 21186 are now proud adopters of the Sterchi Hills Greenway, which stretches from the west end of Sterchi Hills Park to the east end of Tommy Schumpert Park. There, the troop has organized cleanups, planted flowers and earned badges for preserving the park and improving the area for visitors. The park project, like everything the troop does, is led by the girls.
“Each Girl Scouts troop has different interests and activities because the girls are empowered to be involved in their experience,” Chumley said. “Our girls share the value that parks and greenspace in our city are important assets to preserve. Not only because they appreciate the outdoors, but also because the girls want the entire community to use and enjoy these areas.”
Troop 21186 is continuing to enhance the greenway for parkgoers and has plans to plant tree saplings in the summer. The troop’s other interests include art projects led by Nief, who is not just the troop leader, but also an art teacher at Inskip Elementary School.
“We encourage the girls to explore their interests and embark on new adventures, especially when they want to try an activity outside of traditional school extracurriculars,” Chumley said. “Girl Scouts offers an enriching, diverse and accessible experience for kids who might not otherwise have that type of exposure in school.”
Troop 21186 and others across East Tennessee always are accepting new members. Learn more about Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians at girlscoutcsa.org and find a troop by texting the word “JOIN” to 59618 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gretchen Crawley is VP of communications for Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians.