When Alice Kirkham came home from kindergarten at Hardin Valley Elementary School with a flyer about Girl Scouts, she immediately wanted to join. Her mom, Addie, was expecting another child, so they decided to wait a year. Now, Alice is in sixth grade and her younger sisters, Beth and Jane, are Girl Scouts, too, and Addie is in her sixth year of leading Troop 21098 along with co-administrator Melissa Harp.
“In the beginning, Alice was excited about dressing in uniform, and I think selling cookies appealed to her,” Kirkham shared. “Today, many of the girls have become close friends, and we all enjoy getting together with other troops, serving and having a lot of fun. They bring a lot of energy.”
There are 11 members in Troop 21098 ranging from third through sixth grade from Hardin Valley Elementary and Middle schools with Cadets, Brownies and one Junior.
The girls have grown as communicators, negotiators and gained great skills that come from working as part of a team. “Through cookie sales, they get to meet so many people and have to interact with them, which builds confidence,” Kirkham said. “Then, as a group, they decide what experiences they want to pursue with the proceeds from cookie sales. They each bring ideas, then debate and compromise to make a decision.
“I think it’s an important part of their growth to have ownership of the decision that they’ve all worked hard to accomplish, and it helps them to be able to speak up and be articulate in other situations as well.”
In November, the troop will head to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies to participate in the Sleep with the Sharks program for an evening of activities, including a scavenger hunt, that culminates in a sleepover in the shark tunnel.
The troop is committed to community service. This past summer, two of the sixth graders received Bronze Awards for their efforts in support of Young-Williams Animal Center. “We went to talk to the center’s volunteers to see what they needed, and the girls updated the coloring sheet packets that Young-Williams hands out to elementary students and made dog and cat toys to donate for the shelter animals,” said Kirkham. The troop also recently painted pumpkins to donate as fall decorations for a local nursing home.
The years of leading the troop have been rewarding for Kirkham as well. “When I started it was just something that my daughter wanted to do, but the more I learned, the more I put in,” she noted. “I really focused on the importance of volunteer work, and I want every member to get the most of their experience. We’ve had so many great experiences they will remember for a long time.
“I have a great appreciation for the culture of inclusivity and that the girls are exposed to so many different people from different backgrounds and enjoy their time together.”
Learn about volunteering with Girl Scouts at girlscoutcsa.org/volunteer. If you know a girl who would thrive through the Girl Scout experience, find a nearby troop at girlscoutcsa.org, by texting “JOIN” to 59618 or sending an email to email@example.com. You may register or become a volunteer anytime during the calendar year!
Gretchen Crawley is chief communications officer for Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians.