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CEO Update - Summer Programs, COVID updates, and More

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Greetings, Members and Friends of Girl Scouts of Northern California,

What a year this has been! Thank you for being part of our pandemic sisterhood. For our members who have friends and loved ones in India and in other nations where COVID remains a major health emergency, please know our hearts are with you.

This patch combo (designed with girls) celebrates our 2021 members who choose to renew.  Each new 2022 Girl Scout member who joins by October 31, 2021, will receive the “We’ve Got This!” patch. And, yes, Lifetime Members are included. These patches are definitely going on my Girl Scout vest!

This month’s update looks forward to fun times ahead and finds inspiration in the countless acts of kindness, support, and sisterhood that we have shared this year.

  • Summer Programs and camping now and in the fall
  • COVID updates
  • Looking forward to a new Girl Scout year: time to join, re-join, renew and spread the word
  • A round of applause and appreciation for our cookie entrepreneurs and volunteers
  • Congratulations to the Space Cookies FIRST Robotics team!
  • Gold Award Congratulations
  • Council Governance & Annual Meeting–centering girls’ voices
  • Courage Cohort--   volunteers working together to advance our commitment to be an anti-racist organization
  • Philanthropy news
  • Camp Skylark Ranch update–resilience and recovery
  • Celebrating our graduating seniors and their volunteers

Summer programs and camping, now and in the fall.

Girls are excited to get outside and go camping with their troops and service units. Our updated outdoor and camp website includes information about outdoor adventures with Girl Scouts of Northern California. However, we also want to remember that not everyone is ready to fully return to in-person. So, we continue also to offer special and energetic virtual summer programs that will equip our girls with confidence and optimism for our return to “new normal” in the fall.

  • Day rentals. GSNorCal properties are open for troops to rent for day use.
  • Summer camp. In-person summer camps (both council-run and volunteer-run) are happening with strict COVID safety protocols.
  • Tajar’s Treehouse. Our flexible, virtual summer program for girls entering grades K-5 is open for registration. In each week-long virtual camp session, campers come together daily for age-appropriate themed activities around art, nature, science, and sisterhood. Non-members are also welcome.

  • Becoming Me program. The Becoming Me program, inspired by former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama’s book Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers, is now available for members:
    • Volunteer resources. These free resources can help you run your own Becoming Me programming.  
    • Becoming Me & More Program Series. Daisy, Brownie, Junior and Cadette Girl Scouts are invited to join us for 6-week virtual troop series (one troop for each age level) led by supportive and fun Girl Scout staff, volunteers and older Girl Scouts. Girls will earn three badges and the Becoming Me patch, unlock the power of their unique stories, and embark on journeys to becoming their best selves.   
  • Getting ready for troop camping. It’s a great time to get ready to camp. Our Troop Camping web page includes helpful tips, including a Trip & Outdoor Planning Check-list so you can be ready when troop camping is allowed again. 
  • Overnight rentals for fall and beyond. Overnight troop camping is not yet allowed under the state guidelines lines for youth recreational activities, but we are optimistic that troop camping is getting closer. With hope and in anticipation of fall camping, stay tuned for an announcement of when our properties will open for troop and service unit overnight reservations. We will issue refunds if public health COVID guidelines do not allow overnight camping.

COVID Updates

Our troop, travel, and high adventure teams are monitoring CDC, state and county health orders and guidelines, and updating GSNorCal’s guidelines for troop, service unit and camp activities.

We are getting a lot of questions about travel and high-adventure activities. Troops have fall and cookie program money in their accounts, and they are ready to go. While the current state guidelines for youth recreation prohibit carpooling and non-essential overnight travel, our travel team is encouraging troops to start planning ahead for future travel and camping. We welcome your Trip or High-Adventure Approval Forms

Graduating senior Ambassador girls who are unable to travel or engage in activities due to COVID guidelines can delay their council-approved trips and activities until September 30, 2022, with the Ambassador Plan Delay Notification Form

Looking forward to a new Girl Scout year: time to join, re-join, renew, and spread the word. 

We are looking forward to fall: getting outside, traveling, making a difference in our communities, and providing safe spaces for girls.

Please help us spread the word: Girl Scouts is here: troops can meet in person (following COVID safety guidelines), and Girl Scouts is a great way to help girls make friends, build social skills, and recover from the isolation of the past year. 

  • Discover Girl Scouts: We have new and fun ways for families to learn what Girl Scouts do:
  • Join: This is the perfect time to become a new Girl Scout
    • We are forming new Daisy Troops now 
    • Many troops have openings and are looking to grow—thank you for welcoming new girls into your troop! 
    • We know Zoom Girl Scouts was not for everyone. If you haven’t yet joined for 2021, you are welcome to join now with our April 2021–September 2022 Extended Year Membership, and earn our Pandemic Sisterhood patches. If you choose to join for the 2022 membership year (October 1–September 2022) by October 31, 2021, you will earn the “We’ve Got This” patch.  
  • Renew by June 30 for best rewards and by October 31, 2021, to earn our pandemic sisterhood patches.

A round of applause and appreciation for our cookie entrepreneurs and volunteers. 

This year our cookie entrepreneurs and volunteers showed us what an “entrepreneurial mindset” is all about: flexibility, creativity, perseverance, adapting to COVID safety requirements while mastering the digital channel, and contactless marketing and deliveries. In 2020, the digital channel represented just 18% of cookie packages sold in Northern California (the rest were sold at in-person booths and door-to-door). In 2021, the digital channel grew to 72% of total cookie packages sold. How did girls do this? Girls developed marketing skills to find customers! Here’s one example: a creative use of t-shirts, cars, and QR codes taking customers straight to this entrepreneur’s Digital Cookie page.

11,329 girls safely sold 2.63 million packages of cookies and set new GSNorCal records for digital channel sales and donations, while experiencing first-hand how to expand their business model and achieve higher goals:

  • The average number of cookie packages that each girl sold: UP 15% to 232 packages per girl average (an increase of 2.5 cases per girl!) 
  • Care to Share cookie donations: UP 26% to 179,688 packages 
  • Digital cookie orders total (girl delivery and shipped): UP 127% to 1,896,508 packages 
  • Digital cookies shipped direct to the customer: UP 258% (572,345 packages shipped vs. 159,655 in 2020) 

I am looking forward to meeting the 108 girls this summer who reached 2,000+ packages during the 2020 or 2021 program, as well as some extra ‘horsing around’ with the 15 girls who missed our 2020 sleepover at the Academy of Science due to COVID and worked hard to repeat their achievement in back-to-back programs. We are all going to celebrate with horses and cowgirl hats as soon as it is COVID-safe to do so.

Our challenge: Because fewer girls were able to participate this year, we sold about 2 million fewer cookie packages, and net revenue that supports GSNorCal operations decreased by about $6 million compared to 2020.  

While the 11,329 cookie entrepreneurs who sold cookies set new records this year, they could not make up the difference in cookies that 23,000 participating girls sold in 2020. Cookie net revenue supports GSNorCal’s operations, including programs, volunteer support, such as communications, training, website, risk management, support for service units and volunteer run camps, maintenance and insurance for camps and program properties, and financial aid. At our April Annual Meeting we shared these results and next steps to work together to re-build GSNorCal’s financial health as we recover from COVID. We will be working with our Finance Committee and Board during May and June to see how spring membership and COVID re-opening are going and what assumptions we think will be prudent to make about the year ahead. Philanthropy, product program, membership, expense control, and our members’ can-do spirit: all will be key to GSNorCal’s COVID recovery.

Congratulations to the Space Cookies FIRST Robotics Team!

Huge congratulations to the Space Cookies FIRST Robotics Team and their troop leaders and mentors, Shoshana Cohen and Susan Cheng.  The Space Cookies FIRST Team is girl-led and works in partnership with Girl Scouts of Northern California and NASA Ames Research Center.

This year 64 girls from 22 high schools designed a robot, participated in community service projects, mentored other robotics teams, and designed a take-action project and app to increase menstrual equity. Last weekend, the Space Cookies won The Chairman's Award for the Greater San Francisco Bay Region!

"The Chairman's Award is the most prestigious award at FIRST," said FIRST Robitics. "It honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the mission of FIRST. It was created to keep the central focus of FIRST Robotics Competition on the ultimate goal of transforming the culture in ways that will inspire greater levels of respect and honor for science and technology, as well as encouraging more of today's youth to become science and technology leaders."

The Space Cookies also won the Excellence in Engineering Award and the Designers Award, and advanced to the semi-finals in the FIRST Innovation Challenge, for their take action Menstrual Equity project. Way to go!

Philanthropy news 

Save the Date and be inspired by Girl Scout Superheroes: Thursday, September 23, 2021, 4:30pm–6 PM. Tickets will be free for this virtual event. Stay tuned for e-invitations. We will celebrate and be inspired by Girl Scout alums who are taking action in our communities during this challenging time: in health, racial justice, technology, virtual work place, and wildfire safety, and we will raise funds for today’s girls and tomorrow’s superheroes.

Join us as a sponsor. If you (or your company) want to learn about opportunities to invest in girls and be a Girl Scout Superheroes sponsor, please reach out to Samantha Seals-Martin, Director, Donor Engagement (

Thank you to our donors—you are changing lives. Our 2020 Impact Report shows and tells the story of how donations are helping GSNorCal support girls and volunteers during the pandemic with at-home activities and resources, virtual summer camp, badge workshops, and COVID-safe family day camps. Check out the  Report!

Girl Scout supporters also continue to make good things happen at our camps and program centers.  

  • Our new Chico office, shop, and activity buildings are complete, and we will start work soon on the outdoor cooking area that will be part of the Chico Program Center 
  • Camp Two Sentinels will have new biffies that meet current environmental standards  
  • Twin Canyon will have new central bathrooms  
  • Camp Butano Creek will have a new shower house 
  • Camp Hidden Falls will have a new 3-sided climbing tower where girls will be able to earn all of the new climbing badges that GSUSA developed in partnership with North Face. 

Your investment in ongoing maintenance and capital improvements at all our camps will ensure that our properties are cared for and ready to welcome campers for many years to come. Donate and designate your gift to Camp Investment Campaign! 

Gold Award Congratulations.  

Lots of Girl Scouts are working on Gold Award projects during the pandemic. As of Friday, May 7, our Gold Award Committees are supporting 305 projects in various state of proposal and completion. Since shelter in place started last March, 80 Girl Scouts have earned their Gold Awards, which, in many cases required significant changes to plans to adapt to COVID restrictions.

Sunday, May 16, I was honored to participate in the virtual All that Glitters Award Ceremony, traditionally held each May in Santa Rosa. This year we celebrated 8 Gold Award Girl Scouts from the North Coast region, plus girls earning their 10-year pins, Silver Award Girl Scouts, and graduating seniors. I came away energized and inspired seeing our mission accomplished: girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.

Council Governance & Annual Meeting: centering girls’ voices

Voting members gathered on Zoom on April 17 for our 14th Annual Meeting. We heard an update on the State of the Council, approved an amendment to our Bylaws, elected Board and Board Development Committee members, and welcomed two new 2021/22 Girl Board Participants: Emmalee Burr​ and Riya Prabhakar​.

The highlight was a one-hour presentation and discussion led by 9 Cadette, Senior and Ambassador (grade 6 through 12) Girl Scouts.

Jessica, Amelia, Valerie, Vivi, Laelia, Anneke, Amani, Sahithi and Zaynab impressed us with their work to identify and explore priorities for older Girl Scouts:

  • Roles & Representation​ 
  • Climate Change & Social Justice​ 
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging​ 
  • Mental Health​ 
  • Communication​ 

The girls explained WHY these topics are priorities, their insights about what we are doing well, and what we could be doing better, and they led break-out groups with our members. We gained so much valuable information.  

Congratulations and welcome to the newest members of our Board and Board Development Committee, and thank you to all of our governance volunteers who are serving in these critical roles for our council. You can discover our Board Members here.

Courage Cohort: volunteers working together to further GSNorCal’s commitment to be an anti-racist organization.

Here is what girls had to say at our Annual Meeting about why GSNorCal’s work to be anti-racist and to nurture Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging is THEIR priority:

Older Girl Scouts struggle with so much prejudice in their daily lives. Girl Scouts should be a place where our members can feel welcomed for who they are, and show their true colors without everyone questioning if they will be accepted.  

Thanks to support from the Packard Foundation a “Courage Cohort” of 24 volunteers and two staff members, 65% of whom identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color, is meeting over an eight-month period, learning together how to support each other and other volunteers: to nurture diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging; to live our Culture Code for Equity and Belonging; and to engage in courageous and constructive conversations about race. Our Chief Organization and People Officer, Herna Cruz-Louie, is leading this work with our volunteers and outside experts. Early feedback includes: 

“The want to change gives me hope for the future. If there are so many people in just Girl Scouts looking for ways to change for the better, then there has to be more people out in the “world” who will change and learn as well.” 

“What gives me a sense of possibility is working with diverse women in my cohort passionate about dismantling systems of oppression. So far, we have not been afraid to talk honestly about tough subjects like race and privilege. My cohort wants to see Girl Scouts of Northern California become an inclusive organization.” 

We have work to do, and we can take pride in the steps we are taking together to be an anti-racist organization and to nurture diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Camp Skylark Ranch update: resilience and recovery  

Slow and sure, progress is continuing as the forest and camp recover from the August 2020 CZU Wildfire. Debris removal and road repairs are the next two big projects. When I visited camp on April 9, there were signs of spring, and, happily, I saw some redwoods “fuzzing out” (showing signs of recovery) in horse country, one of the most severely burned areas.

It still is not safe for girls and volunteers to visit Skylark Ranch: branches are falling, and on April 16 a small fire broke out at Skylark, sparked from roots still burning. We are so thankful for Cal Fire and all of the fire departments who worked together to put out the April spot fire. I have had questions about long-term plans for Skylark Ranch. We need to take things one step at a time, starting with forest recovery. Then we need to work with Santa Cruz County to understand re-building requirements, and then we can begin work with our members to develop our long-term plan to bring campers back to Skylark. We will keep you posted about when it will be safe to bring members on site to visit Skylark as it recovers from the fire.

Celebrating our graduating seniors and their volunteers. 

Last Friday, I had the privilege to attend the Orinda-Moraga Service Unit 327 virtual year-end celebration, which included a special send-off for 23 graduating Ambassador Girl Scouts from 4 different troops and their 6 troop leaders. This is our mission in action: girls ready to take action to make the world a better place.

To each of our graduating Girl Scouts: You are a testament to the strength of your Girl Scout volunteer community and to the sisterhood within your troops. Our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, described Girl Scouts as “a circle of friends united by ideals.” My wish for each of you is that the circle of friends you have made in Girl Scouts and the ideals of courage, confidence and character you have developed in Girl Scouts will stay with you, always.


I want to thank three senior members of our staff who have left or announced their planned departures from GSNorCal since my last update: Heather Burlew-Hayden, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer; Marika Bergsund, Senior Director, Membership and Volunteer Support; and Lillian Samuel, Chief Development Officer. We are fortunate that Heather, Marika, and Lillian each built strong teams who will continue their good work. Heather and Marika each are taking time off while they decide what’s next for their careers, and Lillian is going to be the CEO of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Bay Area. I am grateful to Heather, Marika, and Lillian for their leadership and dedication to Girl Scouts and look forward to seeing their next steps to make the world a better place.

I will share an updated org chart when we have it. With so many of our service units, troops, partner organizations, families, and council revenue streams impacted by COVID, and still so much uncertainty about what’s next, we are re-imagining how to use our resources wisely to best achieve our mission for girls.

Thank you to all of our volunteers and girls for supporting each other this year. And welcome back to those who are starting to return to extra activities like Girl Scouts. We each are engaging at our own pace and comfort-level, and we are here for you and your girl when you are ready. We’ve missed you and look forward to being together again, soon.

Yours in Girl Scouting,