Dear Members and Friends of Girl Scouts of Northern California,
I love this year’s Girl Scout Holiday card, and want to thank each of you—our volunteers, girls, donors, community partners, and staff—for your commitment to creating a better tomorrow, together.
We are unified in our commitment that Girl Scouts is a safe space for girls, where everyone is welcome, and where all girls and families belong. Thank you for your patience and persistence as we have learned together new ways to stay connected and support girls’ well-being. Thank you also to the heroes among us—essential workers, including teachers, health care providers, farmworkers, fire fighters, and first responders.
When COVID happened, schools closed throughout Northern California and girls faced one disappointment after another. We asked, what do girls need and how can Girl Scouts best help? Looking at research about how to nurture resilience for youth, we focused on sisterhood and belonging, physical and emotional well-being, empowerment, and supporting skill-building and planning that encourages hope for the future.
Planning for the future. Hope is so very important, and many of our girls are making plans and raising funds for future travel and adventure. You can hear from Maya and Zaynab, participants in GSNorCal’s Girls’ Public Speaking Committee, who filmed videos for our fall virtual donor appreciation teas. Both girls are busy with badge work and community service. Maya is planning a trip to Costa Rica to help save sea turtles, while Zaynab is learning about backpacking through a virtual program and looking forward to going backpacking when it is safe to do so.
Chico Program Center. GSNorCal’s soon-to-open Chico Program Center represents hope, hard work, vision, and generosity. As a reminder—we sold the old Chico office building, used the proceeds to purchase land with minimal infrastructure, received generous support from an anonymous donor to do more than we ever thought possible, and are making progress towards our vision to create an indoor and outdoor program space for girls and volunteers!
The green building will be our new office and meeting space. The red
building—Maggie’s Barn—is a wonderful program space for girls. The
space between the two buildings will be a project for 2021. We
appreciate so much the $20,000 grant from the Chico Soroptimists who
chose our Chico Program Center to be their Centennial Celebration
project. Community support fuels hope, and I can’t wait to see the
Chico Program Center come to life.
Our girls are strong! This year has been hard, and when things start to feel overwhelming, I think about our girls and the incredible empathetic leaders they will become for having experienced this time. GSNorCal Daisy/Brownie Troop 60566, singing On My Honor, fills me with hope! “My honor is to try and my duty is to love!”
Our girls tell us that they want Girl Scouts to be a safe space for ALL girls—to share ideas, learn about our differences, and discover common ground on the issues that divide us. This past year, we have taken steps to ensure that all girls and families in our diverse Northern California communities know that they belong.
In June, I shared GSNorCal’s commitment to take action to be an anti-racist organization. In July, our Board approved a new Volunteer Policy for Building Equitable Community for All, designed to support our volunteers to create safe spaces for girls, their families, and fellow volunteers from all races, identities, and backgrounds. The Volunteer Policy begins: At Girl Scouts we encourage everyone in our community to discover more about ourselves, connect with people who are different and take action to make the world a better place for all people.
Since July, we have offered webinars on these topics for service unit teams, troop leaders, and girls. During 2021, we look forward to continuing these conversations and to developing program materials for volunteers to use with girls at all age levels. We recognize that talking about race and racism can be uncomfortable. We also recognize that we can only be an anti-racist organization and a safe space for all girls by building skills to actively listen and talk about racism and other forms of oppression in healthy ways, to lean in to our discomforts, and [re]learn our history from diverse perspectives. I was pleased to read this email from a volunteer after one of our recent troop leader webinars:
“I was a Girl Scout from grade 1 through 12 and recently rejoined Girl Scouts as a troop volunteer. It was so wonderful to see that the organization that I loved as a girl is one that I am still proud to belong to as an adult. I am so glad that GSNorCal is taking bold steps to build diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.”
This year has tested and demonstrated our resilience. Our girls, volunteers, donors, and staff have done so much to support each other and adapt to our COVID world, while also confronting a year of devastating racism, loss, fires, and smoke. Thank you for being there for each other.
Resilience in our community programs. Thanks to our donors, volunteers, staff and community partners, we have been able to keep Girl Scouts going at a time when girls need sisterhood and supportive adults more than ever. When schools closed in March for in-person learning, we reached out to girls in our staff-led community programs and asked what they need and how Girl Scouts can help. Girls told us that they need help with basic school and program supplies, and they missed the food and feminine hygiene products that they received at their schools. Girls in our Daughters of Farmworkers programs shared that they were worried, because their parents, working in the fields, were not being provided with masks. And, of course, girls were lonely, and missed their friends. Thank you to all who have helped us help our girls:
- Sisterhood. Girl Scout troops made face masks and face shields that they distributed to families in our Daughters of Farmworkers program and medical professionals.
- Supplies. We now include snacks and feminine hygiene products, together with Girl Scout supplies, in the packages that we send to girl’s homes for their Girl Scout activities.
- Uniforms. We are proud that girls in our community-based programs are earning Girl Scout badges, and we are so thankful for our donors who have given to the Opportunity Fund, enabling us to make sure that every girl who is earning badges also has a sash or vest. A special thanks to the Santa Clara County Giving Circle members, who, in addition to raising $118,000 over 5 years to support programs for girls who live in low-income communities, gave service this fall by sewing insignia on over 200 uniforms for girls in our Discover Together, Community Troop, and Got Choices programs in low-income communities. So much pride and so much love!
- Sisterhood, Supportive Adults and Special Experiences. Access to technology is definitely a barrier for many girls, but we are finding ways to get together online. This picture shows a virtual Closing Circle for girls participating in a staff-supported Discover Together program. Girls in volunteer-led troops and in community programs love to have activities to share with their families, and then use their time on Zoom to connect and share with each other—about Girl Scouts and also about life in general. This is what a safe space for girls looks like during COVID.
Resilience in our girls and volunteer-led troops. Hats off to our volunteers and families who have kept things going. We know it has not been easy, and I appreciate so very much the many ways you have found to be there for our girls and also to continue to support our Girl Scout community and programs.
- 2020 Cookies. Our girls and volunteers rallied to find creative ways to sell cookies after we made the decision to prioritize health and safety and end booth sales early. Thanks to their extra effort, we achieved our budget—which has been a huge help to our council as we work through a challenging time. Here is one example, and there were thousands:
- Safety First. We’ve worked together as public health officials have learned more about COVID, and we have prioritized community safety and getting all kids back to school. Thank you to everyone, for all of your input and questions and for following our COVID guidelines for Girl Scout activities.
- Family fun. We’ve loved welcoming families and households to our family days at camp, and seeing how families are finding ways to keep Girl Scout fun and traditions alive. This family shared their bridging to Brownies celebration on our Facebook page:
Learning and tools. Since March, we have all learned new ways
of Girl Scouting. As much as we all look forward to getting together
in person again, we are seeing that online options and resources
offer their own benefits and provide new opportunities for girls and
volunteers. The combination of online planning and meetings
supporting in-person activities may well become the new normal,
especially for girls in middle and high school. We have so many new
resources and tools including:
Older girl virtual programs and committees. More girls
than ever are working on Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards, and
middle and high school girls are leading virtual programs for
younger girls in their service units and joining council-wide
year-round committees that, because they meet virtually, can now
include girls from every region of our council.
- Global action & service
- Outdoors and travel
- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging
- Public speaking & networking
- Troop Leader Blueprint. Rolled out in November, the Troop Leader Blueprint provides specially adapted badges, Journeys, and activities for every age-level and multi-level troop, to make it easier than ever for troop leaders to plan COVID-safe activities. Look for new resources and additional badges being added this month.
- Our refreshed Girl Scout member account management system is LIVE! Over the last couple of weeks Girl Scouts has been busy making updates to My GS to make it easier than ever to manage your household’s Girl Scout memberships and keep track of your Girl Scout experiences—from troop participation, activity and event registrations and more! You'll need to reset your account password to get started. Members and household account managers should have received an email from Girl Scouts USA between December 6 and December 8 (from firstname.lastname@example.org) containing a link to reset your Girl Scout account password. Once you find your email, simply click on the Reset Password link, follow the steps provided, and you’ll be all set to begin exploring Girl Scouts’ new member portal! (Don’t forget to check your spam folders!) You can also visit www.gsnorcal.org, click on My GS, and follow the system-provided prompts and guidance.
- Older girl virtual programs and committees. More girls than ever are working on Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards, and middle and high school girls are leading virtual programs for younger girls in their service units and joining council-wide year-round committees that, because they meet virtually, can now include girls from every region of our council.
Resilience in our camps and camp communities.
- Volunteer-run camps. Last spring our volunteer-run camps worked together to make decisions about cancelling in-person summer camps and then shared ideas to create virtual camps. In Humboldt County, where the COVID rate was very low this August, our volunteers worked with our camp staff to plan a girl-led day camp (instead of their usual resident camp) following CDC, American Camp Association, and state public health guidelines. They named it: “Camp Six Feet Apart,” and a fun and healthy time was had by all. An added bonus, we now have a better understanding of requirements to run camp during summer 2021.
- Year-round camp while social distancing. We are finding ways to share camp magic during COVID. Our fall Camp-Alongs were a big hit, and we are back with more Camp Alongs this winter! Participants are mailed a package of supplies that includes campsite set-up suggestions, camp dinner recipes, a camp song-book, 4 to 5 activity supply kits, a few items from the Girl Scout Shop, and a patch, and then log-on for live virtual program time with camp staff and fellow Girl Scouts. You can learn more and register here for winter programs.
- Looking ahead to summer 2021. Our camp community is working together to build flexible plans for summer 2021. We are hopeful that we will be able to offer some in-person resident and day camps this summer, and also re-connect with virtual Tajar’s Treehouse, which last summer provided eight weeks of sisterhood and fun for over 800 girls! You can stay informed about the latest in camp plans and offerings at our CampRocks! Facebook page.
- Wildfire recovery and resilience. In addition to our girls and volunteers, we are witnessing the resilience of the forests at Camp Skylark Ranch and Camp Butano Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I shared information about the wildfire damage in my September Member Update. We are working with our insurer, local authorities, civil engineers and forest and conservation experts to plan next steps for recovery. Meanwhile, I was able to visit Skylark Ranch on December 11, to observe the preparations underway for winter storms, including removing hazardous trees, replacing damaged drainage pipes, and creating structures to reduce the risks of erosion, slides and debris flow. In the midst of all of our human endeavors, nature is showing us its power and resilience. From September 11 (the pictures in my September Member Update) to December 11, you can see lots of new growth and redwood trees that are starting to "fuzz-out," with green growth sprouting directly from the tree's massive trunks. Fuzzing-out is a hopeful sign of the redwood's recovery.
Girl Scouts exists to build leaders who have the courage, confidence and character to take action to make the world a better place.
Girls’ Leadership. During COVID, more girls than ever are
earning Civics Badges and working on their Bronze, Silver, and Gold
Last month I received an email from the 2021 girl Co-Chairs of Lead the Way, an annual weekend-long girl-led leadership conference. Our girls are very focused on taking action on issues that matter to them:
“Our theme this year revolves around social change, activism, and mental health; our tagline for the year is “She has power in her words and strength in her mind.” Girl Scouts of Northern California as a whole is very focused on the goals of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, and we truly wish the same for this year’s conference: to inspire courage and advocacy.”
This August 31 article in USA Today, From suffragists to coders: How the Girl Scouts continues to empower young women, describes Girl Scouts’ important and historic role in building leaders who take action to make the world a better place. “As women fought for and won the fight for the right to vote, Girl Scouts of the USA founder Juliette Gordon Low mentored young women on how their government worked before they could even fully participate in it.”
Spreading kindness. GSNorCal Girl Scouts also are taking action in our communities to spread kindness, including donating cookies to fire crews (thank you to the Space Cookies for their donation to the Menlo Park Fire Department) and making thank you cards to encourage farmworkers affected by the pandemic and wildfires. This Holiday Season, we are partnering with community organizations throughout Northern California to identify safe and socially distanced service projects. The need is great, and thousands of Girl Scouts are making positive differences in their communities. You can check out this recent Trailhead article for ideas about community service projects your girls can do from home.
Saving endangered sloths. This fall 3,677 girls participated in our 2020 Fall Take Action Program, learning about e-commerce and digital marketing, and raised over $5,258 to plant trees to support endangered Pygmy Three-Toed sloths. One of our girls painted this watercolor, and her mom shared it on our GSNorCal Facebook page!
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE FUTURE
As I look ahead to 2021, unity, hope, community, resilience and action will continue to get us through—one bold Girl Scout step at a time. We do, indeed, need to be bold:
- Thinking big and outside-the-box for our socially-distanced and virtual Cookie Program, starting in January.
- Learning together, holding courageous conversations, and nurturing belonging, so that more communities, girls, and families believe that Girl Scouts is for them.
- Holding hope and planning for the future (including future travel and summer camp 2021)!
Cookies. When we return from the Holidays, we will gear up for
a mostly virtual and socially-distanced cookie season unlike any we
have experienced before. We know that sales of premium cookies are way
up during the pandemic, and Girl Scout cookies make people happy! I
look forward to seeing our creative cookie entrepreneurs conquer the
world of digital marketing, raise funds for adventure, and spread joy
and hope in our communities. Your family can learn more about how to
support your girl’s cookie program at our Family Cookie
Kick-off on January 6.
Retail shops update. As you know, our retail shops have been closed for in person shopping during the pandemic. Our online shop is open (24/7) at www.girlscoutshop.com/NORTHERN-CALIFORNIA-COUNCIL . Your online orders do support our Council directly but shipments will come from the national warehouse. Our San Jose and Alameda shops will continue to provide curbside pickup when permitted by local county health orders. To use resources wisely, we have decided that we will NOT re-open our Redding, Chico, Santa Rosa and Eureka retail shops, until we have made it through to the other side of the pandemic, and are able to assess how our membership and member shopping habits and preferences have changed. We will continue to offer free shipping on retail purchases over $99 or more, and a $2.95 flat shipping rate for any purchases under $99. Curbside pickup for the Redding and Eureka stores will end the week of December 18, 2020. All our curbside pickup ordering information can be found here.
THANK YOU TO OUR DONORS
Thank you so much to all who have supported our council and our girls during this challenging time.
As you plan your 2020 year-end giving, your gift to Girl Scouts of Northern California will make a difference for girls:
- Our Annual Fund provides support wherever it is most needed, including general operations such as technology, volunteer training, and program support.
- Our Opportunity Fund supports Girl Scouts for girls who live in low-income communities.
- Our Camp Investment Campaign supports our camp and program properties, including wildfire recovery at Camp Skylark Ranch.
A quick reminder: You may be able to increase your giving this year
by taking advantage of key changes to tax deductions under the CARES
Act. Please consult with your tax professional for eligibility and
I hope you each enjoy a safe and relaxing Holiday Season. I look forward to seeing you in the New Year, on Zoom and when we can be together outside again and COVID vaccines become widely available, in person!
Cheers to new beginnings and creating a better tomorrow, together. We will get there, one bold Girl Scout step at a time.
Yours in Girl Scouting,