COVID-19 Update 3-26-2020

Dear Girl Scout members,

During this challenging time, it might help to remind ourselves that we are in a marathon, not a sprint. In some ways, the challenges Girl Scouting offers to our girls are similar. We’re in this for the long haul, to teach, educate, build character and integrity and to reward growth and achievement over time, building year after year. Girl Scouts are not for the brief, the fast, the get in, get out. We value perseverance, fortitude, commitment. And that is what it will take, with all of us working day after day, to beat this pandemic, to overcome COVID-19 and to restore our lives, and our Girl Scouting lives.

We are #GirlScoutStrong and our mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place is necessary, now more than ever. Our collective, unprecedented time continues, and most experts cannot determine with any certainty when these conditions may change. We at GSWNY are working hard to communicate with you and to be here for all of our Girl Scout members.

The first week, we focused on our transition, our council’s immediate needs and getting organized in the face of a threat no one has seen in a century. This past week, we worked to get back to providing program outlets for you and your girls. We know our girls need developmental opportunities, and our world needs Girl Scouts more than ever. As Girl Scouts we are uniquely positioned to make a difference in our communities, and we will persevere. [Please see the March 19 blog post for details, support links and other useful information].  

Today, we have several key communications we wish to share.  The majority of questions that are arising are about cookies.  We’ve heard from many of you, troop leaders and volunteers, on both sides of the issue of continuing the Cookie Program.

As with so many groups, individuals and organizations, COVID-19 is severely disrupting lives and operations at particularly vulnerable times. We at the Girl Scouts of Western New York understand fully that compared to infection, fatalities and the myriad challenges facing our health-care system, cookie sales are not significant.

Nonetheless, COVID-19 hit this organization, and our peers across the country, at the worst-possible time. The Cookie Program is our backbone, strengthening our organization for the rest of the year to fund girls’ activities like STEM, outdoor programs, summer camp, community service projects, trips and travel, art adventures, and more. Thus we continue this program, while we remain fully sensitive to the challenges you face in your homes, at work and with your families.

If you simply cannot or do not want to continue with the Cookie Program, we understand. But we also want to offer information to make this modified 2020 program work for you. When the COVID-19 restrictions hit, we as a Girl Scout Council were on our way to surpassing our goal – thanks to your girls. Their motivation, creativity and drive were producing an amazing year. That is all changed, and we sympathize if you’re “done” with cookies. But if you want to continue, and girls in your troop have not yet reached their goals, please see our Cookie Program FAQs and flyer. We hope these answers and this information will help, and maybe even expand your girls’ learning and experiences.

We have heard from so many girls and volunteers about their excitement about the Cookies for Courage program which is described in our FAQs.  We have heard stories around our council and the country of community partners coming together to support our girls and purchase and then donate Girl Scout cookies to first responders, front-line workers and those in need.  We continue to have girls and volunteers ask how they can do the same, and community partners coming forward to ask how they can support our girls and benefit those in need.

A direct question we’re asked a lot is how do we transport cookies from seller to buyer and/or charitable recipient, and that is also covered in our Cookie Program FAQs

And, we want to say that if you continue with the Cookie Program, you are not alone. Girl Scouts –girls and adults around our council are offering to help other troops who need it. And GS councils around the country and GSUSA are partnering to also help troops work in our current national context. Please reach out to us and ask for help. No one says girls or adults need to do this alone. This is a choice, and we are not expecting girls/troops/families to take this on as a financial or time burden. We will partner with those who do not wish to do this, to help you.

If you can find a donor, great, or we’ll match you to a donor. Each part of this process presents individual choices. As we hope is the case for most, if not all of you, maybe you are home and safe and working and studying. And so this cookie effort can be a fun outlet and activity in the face of being closed in most of our days. Others, who have work, school or personal priorities that take them away from cookie selling, we understand.

Finally, there remains much we do not know, that no one knows at this stage of this crisis. But we in leadership are prepared that when our lives return to normal and Girl Scouting in general is able to take stock of what transpired, no one will be left holding unsold cookies, or face any financial hardship for their efforts.

We know this is a lot of information, and we will be first working with all of our Service Unit Cookie Volunteers next week, and then working with you to find out where you are with your decisions about participation in the program, but please reach out in the meantime if you have any questions. 

Please keep checking our COVID-19 updates at: www.gswny.org.  We will share any news about Girl Scout programs and other needed info. In recent weeks, we shared news about one of our volunteers testing positive for COVID-19.  We continue to work with the health department and will continue updating that section on our website with any additional information for your health and safety.

This past Tuesday we started our Member Essentials newsletter which will be shared twice a week with programming and resources for our girl and adult members.  This past week we launched Trefoil TV on Facebook Live at our Girl Scouts of Western New York Facebook page with a virtual activity for girls Monday through Friday at 3:12pm, including the Leaders are Readers Patch Program and next week please look for virtual programming for girls on the theme of Random Acts of Kindness.

Our Customer Care Line is open for phone calls daily at 1-888-837-6410 from 9:00 am – 11:00 am, and 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm M-Th, and Fridays 9:00 am – 11:00 am.  You can also reach us through email, and if there is ever an emergency please call 1-800-882-9268.

We received word late today that GSUSA is soon launching Girl Scouts At Home programming, and also working on a national campaign to help councils with the cookie program, lookout for more information soon.

And finally, I am inspired by all of our girls, volunteers and families who are stepping up and showing up – first of all for staying home and safe, and from seeing acts of cheer in our community, to donations to front-line workers, to the grins on girls’ faces as they “see” their friends in a virtual troop meeting, our girls, volunteers and families are leading the way.  Thank you for all you do!

Yours in Girl Scouting,

Alison Wilcox
CEO, Girl Scouts of Western New York

Categories: Uncategorized

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