Important GSWNY Update 6-1-2020

Dear Girl Scout Members,

Girl Scouts of Western New York is an organization that values inclusivity and diversity, and we stand firmly and strongly against racism in any form.

Our community is reeling and we are heartbroken over the unconscionable murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, among others. In times of injustice in our community we cannot remain silent. As an organization which stands up for girls’ potential, we stand firmly against forces which harm girls’ potential. We vehemently oppose racism, and we stand with our staff, volunteers, girls, and families of the black community and with all of our members of color who disproportionately experience the insidious violence of racist, demeaning, and hateful comments, taunts, and acts.

For more than 100 years, we have prepared girls to be leaders in our world, to speak up, speak out, and take action for fairness, equality, civility, and compassion for all people, and to arm them with the courage, confidence, and character they need to make our world a better place. Girl Scouts will always stand for justice, for respect, and for the inherent value and worth of each individual who makes up the beautiful and richly diverse tapestry of the United States.

Shortly before the COVID-19 shutdown, GSWNY started a staff Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to help further the conversation and actions needed to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion at GSWNY and will soon provide members of our membership with the opportunity to be part of this committee. In addition, be on the lookout for the upcoming release of GSUSA’s Raising Awesome Girls tool kit on how to have conversations with girls about diversity, equity, and inclusion and we will continue to provide resources when available.

At Girl Scouts, we seek to instill in girls the fundamental values of respect for all, inclusivity, equity, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s belief that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

We must acknowledge these murders and racist behavior because as a community it is essential to call out violent and racist behavior to promote much needed change in our culture and society.

Racism and hate have no place here.

If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Customer Care at email: customercare@gswny.org or call 1.888.837.6410.
 
Yours in Girl Scouting,
Alison Wilcox
CEO, Girl Scouts of Western New York
 

Girl Scouts of WNY announces Audrey DeVault as a 2020 Gold Award Girl Scout

Girl Scouts of Western New York is proud to announce Audrey DeVault of Penfield, NY, as a 2020 Gold Award Girl Scout. DeVault’s project, Bats and Butterflies, tackled the issue of increasing numbers of biting bugs at the Never Say Never Foundation in Webster, NY.

After hearing of the problem of biting bugs on the property, DeVault did research on how to combat the problem. Determined to increase the number of honeybees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and ladybugs, DeVault designed, created, and installed a 40lb nursery bat house. She also installed a smaller single-chamber bat house that was donated. She designed and constructed a butterfly garden on the property as well.

“Upon researching the increase in biting bugs, I discovered the driving force for my project: the mass population loss of bats due to White Nose Syndrome,” said Audrey DeVault. “The project was extremely personally fulfilling, and the results were instantly appreciable, as the butterfly garden garnered much interest from humans and butterflies alike. To spread awareness of my project and the greater issue behind it, I served as a guest speaker at a children’s day camp, speaking about bat conservation and giving a tour of my project at the Never Say Never Foundation.”

DeVault said that “Girl Scouting exposed me to STEM at a young age, and taught me to eagerly pursue my interests, even if they happened to lay in extremely male-dominated fields. It also taught me valuable leadership and organizational skills that have benefited me greatly in the academic world. Above all, Girl Scouting served as a platform to connect with other like-minded girls that have served as some of my closest friends over the years. I can confidently say that I would not be the person I am today without Girl Scouts.”

By earning her Gold Award during the 2020 Girl Scouting year, DeVault will be included in a virtual acknowledgment this June. All 2020 Gold Award Girl Scouts will receive the option to be a part of the 2021 in-person Gold Award ceremony next year to receive their Gold Award pin. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the most prestigious award in the world for girls.

The Gold Award project is the culmination of all the work a girl puts into “going for the Gold.” A Girl Scout’s project should be something that a girl can be passionate about—in thought, deed, and action that encompasses organizational, leadership, and networking skills. The project should also fulfill a need within a girl’s community (whether local or global) and create change that has the potential to be on-going or sustainable. Approximately 80 hours of community service are involved in the project. Completion of the Gold Award also qualifies the Girl Scout for special scholarship opportunities and she can enlist in the military at a higher starting pay grade.

The Girl Scout Gold Award, the most prestigious award in the world for girls, acknowledges the power behind each recipient’s dedication to not only empowering and bettering herself, but also to making the world a better place for others. These young women are courageous leaders and visionary change makers.

The Gold Award requires a Girl Scout to identify an issue and investigate it to understand what can be done to address the problem. The girl then forms a team to act as a support system, including a project advisor close to the issue who is not a troop leader or family member, while she leads the project. The Girl Scout creates a plan to ensure they know what steps they must tackle while working on the project. The Girl Scout submits a proposal for her project to her local Girl Scout council. After acceptance, the girl begins to work through the steps of their plan utilizing the assistance of her support team where necessary. Lastly, the project is used to educate and inspire others about the cause they are addressing.

To learn more, visit gswny.org.

Girl Scouts of WNY announces Amber Hornquist as a 2020 Gold Award Girl Scout

Amber stands in front of her completed project.

Girl Scouts of Western New York is proud to announce Amber Hornquist of Glenwood, NY, as a 2020 Gold Award Girl Scout. Hornquist’s project, Lothlorien Feed Bins and Organizing, involved improving the tack room and building feed bins for the horses at Lothlorien TRC, a riding center for veterans and people with disabilities.

Hornquist explained, “My project addressed the issues of wild animals getting into the horse feed and contaminating it, getting the horses sick. It also addressed the horse equipment going to the wrong horse because the room wasn’t labeled or organized properly. I hope this project allows the horses to stay healthy and keep everything organized in the tack room. I selected this project because it benefits a non-profit organization in my area, and people with disabilities and veterans.”

Hornquist stated that she learned organization skills, woodworking, leadership, people skills, and time management during her project. She was proud to finish her project in a very timely manner meaning that everyone was able to take advantage of it as soon as possible. She also learned how to write donation request letters and communicate clearly and effectively with people she wanted to support her project.

By earning her Gold Award during the 2020 Girl Scouting year, Hornquist will be included in a virtual acknowledgment this June. All 2020 Gold Award Girl Scouts will receive the option to be a part of the 2021 in-person Gold Award ceremony next year to receive their Gold Award pin. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the most prestigious award in the world for girls.

The Gold Award project is the culmination of all the work a girl puts into “going for the Gold.” A Girl Scout’s project should be something that a girl can be passionate about—in thought, deed, and action that encompasses organizational, leadership, and networking skills. The project should also fulfill a need within a girl’s community (whether local or global) and create change that has the potential to be on-going or sustainable. Approximately 80 hours of community service are involved in the project. Completion of the Gold Award also qualifies the Girl Scout for special scholarship opportunities and she can enlist in the military at a higher starting pay grade.

The Girl Scout Gold Award, the most prestigious award in the world for girls, acknowledges the power behind each recipient’s dedication to not only empowering and bettering herself, but also to making the world a better place for others. These young women are courageous leaders and visionary change makers.

The Gold Award requires a Girl Scout to identify an issue and investigate it to understand what can be done to address the problem. The girl then forms a team to act as a support system, including a project advisor close to the issue who is not a troop leader or family member, while she leads the project. The Girl Scout creates a plan to ensure they know what steps they must tackle while working on the project. The Girl Scout submits a proposal for her project to her local Girl Scout council. After acceptance, the girl begins to work through the steps of their plan utilizing the assistance of her support team where necessary. Lastly, the project is used to educate and inspire others about the cause they are addressing.

To learn more, visit gswny.org.

Important GSWNY Update 5-30-2020

To the Families of GSWNY,

We write to you today to inform you that North Tonawanda police arrested a troop co-leader and his wife who was a troop helper and they were arraigned in Niagara County Court late Friday on charges of sexually abusing two young children, ages eight and nine, according to a media report. At this point, though we immediately contacted police officials for details, we do not know who these victims are, or if they are involved in Girl Scouts, or not.

Nonetheless, we know you join all of us at the Girl Scouts of Western New York in voicing our concern for the two children and we want them to have the best-possible care and support.

This is hugely distressing to all of us at GSWNY, as it assuredly is for you as well. You are aware of the rules and regulations we emphasize involving adult-scout interactions. The father, Marty Walton, passed our thorough background check in October 2016 and, after the normal three-year coverage period, again in October 2019. We are unaware of when police say the children’s abuse took place, nor are we aware of how the reported abuse came to police attention.

Your first priority, and ours, of course, is the safety of our girls, and we take allegations like this very seriously. Given all we’ve seen in recent years about teachers, priests and youth leaders, we strive in everything we do to make sure our girls are protected. Indeed, while it does not lessen this case’s impact, this is the first such allegation in GSWNY history. This is profoundly upsetting, as we know it is to all of you. But while we sincerely apologize on behalf of Girl Scouts that Girl Scout volunteers are allegedly involved, we also pledge to you that we will be transparent and will cooperate and collaborate with law enforcement to the fullest extent necessary.  We trust that you will do the same.

In addition, we are reviewing all our rules and procedures, which are standard for and supported by Girl Scouting nationally. After that review, we will tighten and modify those rules, as needed. If changes need to be made, we will inform you and explain those modifications. We are also in consultation with our national Girl Scouting leaders and drawing on their experience in this area.
 
We did not learn of these charges until yesterday evening from a media report. We immediately discharged Mr. Walton as a troop co-leader, and his wife, Shani, from her role as helper in the troop. Their daughter has been involved with Girl Scouts of Western New York since 2016.

We will continue to keep you informed as we learn more about this case, which goes against everything we teach and stand for. If you have questions, please call Morgan Williams-Bryant, Chief Impact Officer at 716-935-6034, or email. Please also feel free to email me as well. We ask that you direct any media inquiries to Callie Johnson, EVP of Marketing at 716-935-6023 or email.

We hope too that you and your family remain safe and healthy during this difficult time of COVID-19.

Yours in Girl Scouting,
Alison Wilcox
CEO, Girl Scouts of Western New York
 

Press Release:

Girl Scouts of Western New York Statement on Arrests
First time that allegations of this nature involve a GSWNY troop co-leader

DEPEW, NY (May 30, 2020) – The Girl Scouts of Western New York today issued the following information and statement, attributable to GSWNY CEO Alison Wilcox. It follows media reports saying North Tonawanda police charged a troop co-leader, and his volunteer wife, with sexually abusing two children. This will be the GSWNY’s only comment at this time.

By way of relevant background, please know this is the first time that a GSWNY volunteer has been involved in allegations such as these.

Also, our rules state that there are always at least two approved, unrelated, adult volunteers, at least one of whom is a female, with any girl or group of girls following prescribed adult-to-girl ratios. These include co-leaders, chaperones, and troop drivers, all of whom must pass a background check every three years. The father/troop co-leader in this case passed background checks in October 2016, and again in October 2019.

GSWNY has about 15,000 Girl Scouts, and more than 6,000 adult volunteers across its nine counties of operation. There have been no in-person Girl Scout meetings or sanctioned activities since March 15, due to COVID-19.

“First, we at the Girl Scouts of Western New York want to voice our concern for the two children and we want them to have the best-possible care and support. Though we immediately contacted police officials for details, we do not yet know whether the victims are involved in Girl Scouts. Nonetheless, we would reinforce that there is nothing more important to Girl Scouts than the safety and well-being of all children, and we take all such allegations very seriously.”

“This is hugely distressing to all of us at GSWNY. We constantly emphasize the rules and regulations involving adult-Girl Scout interactions, safety and well-being. The troop co-leader passed thorough background checks in 2016 and again in October 2019. We are unaware of when police say the children’s abuse took place, nor are we aware yet of how the reported abuse came to police attention, or on what evidence they brought charges. Both adults in this case were immediately removed Friday from all GSWNY activities. We are conducting a rigorous internal investigation, reviewing our regulations, and will cooperate fully with law enforcement.  We ask for privacy for the victims and their families at this difficult time.”

For further background: https://www.gswny.org/en/for-volunteers/volunteer-resources.html https://www.gswny.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gswny/documents/Volunteer%20Essentials%202019-2020%20GSWNY.pdf https://www.gswny.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gswny/documents/safety_activity_checkpoints_2019_edition_7.1.2019.pdf

About Girl Scouts of Western New York

Girl Scouts of Western New York (GSWNY) serves nearly 15,000 girls and over 6,000 adult volunteers across the GSWNY jurisdiction, including Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties. The council’s administrative service centers are located in Batavia, Buffalo, Jamestown, Lockport, Niagara Falls, and Rochester. Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. Through the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, girls discover their personal best and prepare for a positive future, connect with others in an increasingly diverse world and take action to solve problems and improve their communities.

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Member Essentials – 5/19/20

Girl Scouts of Western New York will be closed for our Spring Holiday Break from Monday, May 25, 2020 through May 29, 2020. We will reopen on Monday, June 1, 2020. There will be no Member Essentials communication sent next week. In an emergency, please call 1-800-882-9268.


June Renewal Campaign

As many of you are aware, GSWNY usually runs a “Spring Renewal” campaign in March-April, when we encourage current members to renew their memberships for the following Girl Scout year (which begins October 1).  We opted to postpone our early renewal campaign until June, and we are excited to get started! June Renewal is a great way to get your membership settled for next year and qualify for some great incentive drawings.

  • While our campaign officially runs June 1-30, members who renew prior to 6/1 will qualify for all time-related incentives and drawings.
  • We have updated our renewal incentives – see them all here . All girls who renew during June will earn the GSUSA Renewal patch, and those who renew by June 7 will also earn the brand new GSWNY patch – so new it’s not yet available for purchase!  We’re also offering lots of Best Year Ever pack drawings for girls, co-leaders and troops who renew by June 30.  And who knows, there might even be some pop-up prizes too! 
  • We understand that families may be experiencing financial hardship and wish to remind our Girl Scout families that we have financial assistance available for girl and volunteer membership renewal that you can select during the renewal process.
  • Please note: our signature Renewal perk, Sage Tuition Rewards points, will be earned by girls, co-leaders and service unit managers who renew by September 30. Each SAGE Point equals $1 in tuition/scholarship at over 400 colleges and universities. Girl renewal earns 2,500 points and Co-Leader/SUM renewal earns 3,500 points. That means a $25 girl membership renewal equals $2,500 in college savings!
  • Contact Customer Care with any questions!

Are you ready to renew now?  Head to our Renewal page to get started! 


Volunteers held a “virtual friendship circle” during the Virtual Celebration on 4-29-20 to celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Month.


Shop for Gold Award Swag Online

Our retail shops may currently be closed, but you can still visit our online shop to purchase the items below and more! Standard shipping is free on all online orders, no minimum purchase necessary.

Shop Online


Surveys are open! At Girl Scouts, we care about your opinions and experience, and we need your help to understand what’s working and what’s not. Check your email for your personal invitation to take the Girl Scout Voices Count survey and share your thoughts. We want to hear from you! (Service unit volunteers will be surveyed in June.)


National Webinars: Week of May 18 to 22

Tips for Troop Leaders – LIVE: Leading Engaging Virtual Meeting with Your Daisies and Brownies (Yes, It’s Possible!)

Wednesday, May 20 | 8:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

You love that your youngest go-getters are energetic and excited about Girl Scouts, but that very energy is what makes it challenging to capture their attention and keep your virtual meeting on track. In this webcast, we’ll talk with three troop leaders about how they successfully manage virtual meetings with their Daisies and Brownies.

Register

LIVE! Awesome Girls: World Centre Challenge Tour of Our Chalet

Wednesday, May 20 | 3:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

During the live event we’ll be demonstrating tips and tricks to get everything to fit in your bag. An important part of packing is choosing the right items to bring. To help you think about what items you need for an international trip, when you join the live event we encourage you to have a carry-on sized bag and some items you would need for an international trip, including clothing. Then you can practice your packing skills live with us.

Register

LIVE! Awesome Girls: World Centre Challenge Tour of Pax Lodge

Thursday, May 21 | 6:15 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Join Pax Lodge for a tour of our World Centre in Hampstead, North London. After the tour, test your knowledge by taking a fun, short quiz. Then, join us for an activity where you will learn to make origami doves. There will also be a chance to ask questions about Pax Lodge, what life is like here in the UK, and how you can come and visit us.

Register

LIVE! Awesome Girls: World Centre Challenge Tour of Our Cabana

Friday, May 22 | 12:45 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Join Our Cabaña for a tour of our World Centre in the “City of Eternal Spring,” Cuernavaca, Mexico. After the tour, show off your creative side by making your own Lucha Libre mask. There will also be a chance to ask questions about Our Cabaña, what life is like here in Mexico, and how you can come and visit us.

Register


Have you completed the 2020 Census?

2020 Census


Watch weekdays at 3:12 p.m. on GSWNY’s Facebook Page to see videos from staff and membership.

Make sure you check in every day at 3:12 to catch us live. Can’t make the live broadcast? View all our Trefoil TV videos on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube

THIS WEEK: Girl Scout Traditions

GET CAUGHT UP: View previous videos on YouTube, including last week’s Health and Wellness videos.

Girl Scouting at Home

Looking for ways to stay involved with Girl Scouts? Check out our Girl Scouting at Home page today! We regularly add new resources, including new Virtual Badge Work for all Girl Scout Levels on Thursdays!


Girl Scouts Doing Good Things

Our Girl Scouts are putting their ingenuity to work and doing great things across our WNY community. Check out a few examples below.

We are #GirlScoutStrong! Looking forward to talking to you in two weeks! In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Customer Care customercare@gswny.org or call 1-888-837-6410. In an emergency, please call 1-800-882-9268.

Gold Award mural for visitation center

Last year, Girl Scout Emma Smith completed her Gold Award mural for the Monroe County Visitation Center, a part of the Society for the Protection and Care of Children. We receive a story of Emma’s hard work from SPCC itself last year and included that in a prior blog post. Emma recently sent us additional photos and information.

Emma stated, “I chose this project because I wanted to use my love and skills for art to make a difference for the children going through hard times at the Visitation Center. The project impacted my community by brightening up the environment for the children.”

Emma explained, “I had to do research about foster care in Monroe County and how to paint a mural. I’d never painted something so large before! I had to connect with staff at the Society for the protection and Care of Children, the Monroe County Department of Human Services, Girl Scouts of Western NY, and other professionals. I submitted personal designs and got approval from the county to begin painting. I used the money I had earned in Girl Scouts selling cookies over the past ten years to fund my project and purchase the supplies I needed, then there was the painting itself, which I did over a four-day period.”

Her mural is of the downtown Rochester skyline and features landmark buildings and the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge that stretches over the Genesee River.

Emma is an official GSWNY 2020 Girl Scout Gold Award recipient. She will be receiving her Gold Award accolades including her pin this year and will be included in a virtual acknowledgement of this year’s awardees. This year’s recipients will also be offered the opportunity to be recognized at the 2021 in-person Gold Award ceremony.

Member Essentials – 5/12/20

Special message from GSWNY camp and property staff

2020 Summer Camp Announcement

Earlier today, we announced our difficult but necessary decision to cancel all GSWNY overnight and day camps for the summer of 2020, effective today. 

We recognize that this decision may disappoint our families and Girl Scouts. However, our top priorities remain the safety and well-being of our girls, volunteers, and staff. 

To read the complete announcement on our blog, please click here. FAQs related to our camp cancellation can also be found on the blog here.


2019 Entrepreneurship discussion with
National Gold Award Girl Scouts

GSUSA Covid-19 Update: Troop Funds Extension Guidelines

SUSA has allowed a one-time extension for 12th graders to use money-earned funds to reschedule their spring/summer 2020 cancelled activities into the next membership year. The extended time is 9/30/20 – 8/31/21. This extension is specifically to meet the needs of girls whose plans were cancelled or rescheduled due to COVID-19.  It is NOT to support the planning and financing of new or additional Girl Scout activities. Extensions for Gold Awardees are also included.

Please click this link to read the guidelines in its entirety.

Regarding Non-12th Grade Troops : Please note – To provide a positive Girl Scout program for our girls, our guidelines strongly encourage a troop to spend down funds within the year the funds are earned. However, in light of Covid-19 troop functions have been limited, consequently, we are aware that carry-over balances may be larger than usual on your 2020 T-FAR submission. Should a troop intend to save their funds for an upcoming trip or event, the annual Troop Financial Activity Report (T-FAR submission window June 1- June 29, 2020) requests a notation regarding the purpose for carrying over a balance in excess of $1000. 


Surveys are open! At Girl Scouts, we care about your opinions and experience, and we need your help to understand what’s working and what’s not. Check your email for your personal invitation to take the Girl Scout Voices Count survey and share your thoughts. We want to hear from you! (Service unit volunteers will be surveyed in June.)


Check out more virtual programs at the Buffalo Zoo! 

The Buffalo Zoo is offering virtual The Buffalo Zoo added seven new programs to earn virtual Girl Scout badges! Each badge includes animal demonstrations, exclusive live views of animal exhibits at the zoo, and badge-related discussions and activities.

Badge Levels:

  • Social Innovator (Seniors)
  • Pets (Brownies)
  • Clover (Daisies)
  • Bugs (Brownies)
  • Agent of Change (Junior)
  • Animal Helpers (Cadettes)
  • Rosie (Daisies)

Learn More

Watch weekdays at 3:12 p.m. on GSWNY’s Facebook Page to see videos from staff and membership.

Make sure you check in every day at 3:12 to catch us live. Can’t make the live broadcast? View all our Trefoil TV videos on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube

THIS WEEK: Health and Wellness

  • 5-11-20: Guided Nature Meditation (Meditation MP3 download)
  • 5-12-20: I Am A Rainbow! Yoga with Kidding Around Yoga with Donna
  • 5-13-20: Paper Plate Awards
  • 5-14-20: Happy Hiking with Girl Scout Arianna
  • 5-15-20: Mindful Coloring
  • 5-16-20: DIY Windchimes

NEXT WEEK: Stay tuned for more information regarding our week on Girl Scout Traditions!

GET CAUGHT UP: View previous videos on YouTube, including last week’s Fun and Games videos.

Girl Scouting at Home

Looking for ways to stay involved with Girl Scouts? Check out our Girl Scouting at Home page today! We regularly add new resources, including new Virtual Badge Work for all Girl Scout Levels on Thursdays!


Girl Scouts Doing Good Things

Our Girl Scouts are putting their ingenuity to work and doing great things across our WNY community. Check out a few examples below.

We are #GirlScoutStrong! Looking forward to talking to you next week! In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Customer Care customercare@gswny.org or call 1-888-837-6410.