Growing together in the Girl Scouts

Jay FitzEast Knox, Our Town Youth

Every Wednesday evening, an otherwise nondescript meeting place comes alive with the laughter and chatter of Girl Scout Troop 22176. Under the watchful eye of troop co-leader Jennifer “Jenni” Hicks, a mix of Daisies, Brownies, Juniors and soon-to-be Cadets come together.

The troop is based east of Knoxville on the border of Blaine and the Mascot area. Hicks, a former Girl Scout herself from kindergarten through high school, fondly recalls her experiences as an influence in her decision to become a troop leader. “I was a Girl Scout when I was young and I always knew that if I had a daughter that I would put her in Girl Scouts.”

Adalynn Adkins was a big seller of Girl Scout cookies this year.

Hicks did have a daughter – Ellie, age 7 – and in 2021 they joined up with Troop 22176. Hicks co-leads the troop with Candace Adkins, Misty Morris, Jessica Strasburg and Chrissy Stover.

The troop mixes girls of various ages and school grades. “We tried our first year to have them separated by Daisy, Brownie and Junior, but this year we decided to all work together and it ended up working well,” explained Hicks. The result is a lively group of about 21 girls from different schools who enjoy each other’s company and have become good friends.

Rylin Richards, Anya Strasburg, Raelynn Gilman, Aspyn Thompson, Kynzlie Gilman and Adalynn Adkins get into the autumn spirit at a corn maze.

Community service is central to Troop 22176. At the start of the year, they ran a peanut butter drive for Young-Williams Animal Center and also participated in a community “trunk or treat” event in Mascot. Cookie season saw them donating 150 boxes to the Isaiah 117 House, a local support organization for foster children, and to schools.

The girls have a busy schedule filled with various activities. They’ve been camping recently, with trips to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and Dollywood in June. Cookie sales funded both excursions: the troop voted to use their proceeds for the Dollywood trip, while Ripley’s was a “free mystery adventure” reward for the scouts selling an average of 350 boxes apiece.

During meetings, the girls gather around the flag to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the Girl Scout Promise. They then discuss their plans, partake in various activities and enjoy snacks. Each meeting wraps up with a friendship circle where they sing the song “Make New Friends.” This unity is what makes the troop special, said Hicks, adding, “Our group of girls has been so accepting of anyone that wants to join.”

With big plans ahead, including the hope to place a “blessing box” in the community, these Girl Scouts are excited for what the future holds. “It’s really nice seeing them grow up together like they are despite the age differences,” Hicks said. Together they are learning how to work together, serve their community, and of course, have fun.

Learn about volunteering with Girl Scouts at If you know a girl who would love to sink her roots into the Girl Scout experience, find a nearby troop at, by texting “JOIN” to 59618 or sending an email to You may register your girl or become a volunteer anytime during the calendar year!

Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians provided information for this article.

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