Writing Letters to Seniors and Caretakers: National Girl Scout Service Project

Serving our communities is part of how Girl Scouts lead, especially in times of our country’s greatest need. During World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic, Girl Scouts collected peach pits to be ground up and used in making soldiers’ gas masks, rolled bandages for the Red Cross, educated their communities about food production, and sold U.S. Treasury Bonds. On the home front in World War II, Girl Scouts planted victory gardens; conducted scrap drives for rubber, metal, and nylon; and trained with the Red Cross on first aid. They sent President Franklin Delano Roosevelt a “check” documenting 5.4 million hours of service.

Girl Scouts have always stepped up in times of need, and our current COVID-19 crisis is no different. All across the country, Girl Scouts have leapt to the aid of others by engaging in wonderful acts of service and kindness. Now your troop can get involved too!

The idea is simple: girls write letters to people in nursing homes, senior centers, and assisted living facilities, including the dedicated staff and caregivers. This long-distance hug is a way to share your good thoughts with these vulnerable and loved community members.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Ask your girls (and their friends!) to write letters using the Tips for Writing Letters to Seniors and Caretakers below. You can share this handout with your girls before you write letters or during your virtual troop meeting.
    1. Send a long-distance hug with a heartfelt letter to seniors, their caretakers, and other people who can benefit from knowing that you’re thinking of them. See below for some recommendations on how to write and share these notes.
    2. What should I know before I write my letter?
      • Write it by hand. Giving your message a personal touch can show your reader how much you care. Plus, it’s your unique stamp! No one has your handwriting but you.
      • Make it neat. Make sure your recipient can read the wonderful words you write to them!
      • Make it personal. Let your creative side shine with bright colors, glitter pens, drawings, and other personal touches!
      • Don’t write the date. While we often want to mark the date that we write letters, it may take longer than normal for this letter to be delivered. Leaving off the date will help your reader feel special and remembered even if they receive it late.
    3. What should I write about?
      • “Thank you” or “Thinking of you”—pick one! Are you writing to a resident at a nursing home? Want to thank a caregiver? Decide what type of note you’re writing and let the message guide your writing.
      • Be kind and thoughtful. When you begin to write, think carefully about what you want to say and how you can spread kindness. Consider how you can craft a unique message that comes from your heart. How can you make the card extra special?
      • Be creative. Use your creativity, imagination, and talents to make your note fun and unique! Consider drawing a picture, decorating your note, or adding in a puzzle that you create or a game you love.
      • Start with “Dear Friend.” Even if you don’t know your reader by name, starting with “Dear Friend” will make them feel special and cared for.
      • Introduce yourself. Let your reader know who you are and why you’re writing.
      • Send positive thoughts. Share your positivity and well wishes. What do you hope for your reader right now? Is there anything you’d like to thank them for?
      • Give some personal flair. Share something that only you can. Is there something you’ve been doing that you want that person to know about? Can you share a story that will make them happy?
      • Avoid religion and personal views. Since we don’t know exactly who will receive your letter, make sure that your note is kind and broad—so that anyone who receives it will feel that it is meant for them.
      • Sign your first name. Sign your name to the letter to show your reader it’s coming from a kind and genuine person: you. While it’s important that this letter come from you, don’t share more personal information (like your last name, home address, or phone number)—if the reader knows your name and that you’re a Girl Scout, that’s more than enough.
  2. You can mail letters to one of the locations ready to receive letters from Girl Scout troops. The list is available on the National Service Project page. Or you can reach out to a local assisted living center or nursing home and find out how they would like to receive your troop’s letters.
  3. Decide how to collect and deliver your troop’s letters. You could collect the letters (using no-contact practices) and mail them or drop them off as a packet, have girls mail them individually, or even deliver them via email. Do whatever is easiest and safest for you and your troop. If you decide to have girls mail them on their own, provide the council office address as the return address.
  4. Include a letter or note to the facility staff explaining who your letters are for, along with suggested ideas for sharing your letters (for example, adding a letter to meal trays or decorating a nurse’s station). A sample letter to the facility can be found here.
  5. If your troop wrote both “thinking of you” notes for residents and “thank you” notes for staff and caregivers, make sure to organize your package so that it is easy for staff to deliver letters to the right recipients.
  6. Take a picture of your letter packet and post it to your social media networks using #GirlScoutsGiveBack (and be sure to tag us @girlscouts). You can also tag GSWNY on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
  7. Don’t forget to visit GSUSA’s National Service Project page and log the number of letters you send to add them to the national campaign. Let’s see how many letters of love and care our Movement can send!
  8. If you wish to recognize your troop’s participation with a patch, we recommend this community service patch.
Featured image: drobotdean

Girl Scouting: A Journey Through Time

The Lake Ridge Service Unit (Holley, Brockport, Hamlin, and Kendall, NY) created an interactive event for the opening night of their history display at the Brockport Seymour Library. Almost 150 people attended and nine troops presented. The project was a celebration of World Thinking Day and the international World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts theme of inclusion, diversity, and equity.

The Girl Scouts portrayed girls throughout history and shared information on the evolution of Girl Scouts from its inception in 1912 to the present, including Girl Scout High Awards and the history of cookie sales. The displays and performances captured the history of Girl Scouts along with some of the social trends and cultural zeitgeist of each decade.

Upon their arrival, guests were given a passport to time travel through the library. At each station they were able to receive a sticker or stamp to mark their participation and to learn about the specific decade they were at. A path was marked through the library to help guide guests through a chronological walkway to modern times.

At the 1910s and 1920s table, Troop 60847 started everyone off. Straight from their page in the passport:

In the midst of the Progressive Era, and as the nation was expanding by adding the states of New Mexico and Arizona—but before women had the right to vote—Juliette Gordon Low founded Girl Scouts in 1912, with an emphasis on inclusiveness, the outdoors, self-reliance, and service.

Girl Scouting continued to expand its reach to more and more girls, with the first Girl Scout troops launching outside the United States in China, Syria, and Mexico. Additionally, one of the earliest Native American Girl Scout troops formed on the Onondaga Reservation in New York State in 1921, and Mexican-American girls formed a Girl Scout troop in Houston, Texas, in 1922. Lone Troops on Foreign Soil (later called USA Girl Scouts Overseas) registered its first Girl Scout troop in Shanghai, China, with 18 girls in 1925.

Troop 60233 presented the 1930s. The girls talked about how Girl Scouts was still moving forward with the Great Depression:

With the United States consumed by the Great Depression, Girl Scouts participated in relief efforts by collecting clothing and food for those in need. And as the country continued to deal with waves of immigration from the previous decade, Girl Scouts began printing its “Who are the Girl Scouts?” promotional booklet in Yiddish, Italian, and Polish.

The 1940s presenters were intended to be Troop 82204. Unfortunately, the girls were unable to attend the event and did not appear in photographs. Their write-up from the passport:

During World War II, Girl Scouts interested in flying participated in the Wing Scouts program. Girl Scout troops also operated bicycle courier services, ran Farm Aide projects, collected fat and scrap metal, and grew Victory Gardens, as well as sponsored Defense Institutes that taught women survival skills and techniques for comforting children during air raids. Japanese-American girls, confined to internment camps in Utah and California, also established troops.

Troop 60492 played 1950s games with visitors to their station. They also had a handbook on display from a woman named Joan Dickinson from her time as a Brownie in the 1950s. The passport read:

Girl Scouts responded to the Korean War by assembling “Kits for Korea,” pouches of items needed by Korean citizens, and also continued to press issues of inclusiveness and equality with Ebony magazine reporting in 1952 that even in the south “…[Girl] Scouts were making slow and steady progress toward surmounting the racial barriers of the region.”

Troop 60375 got groovy at their 1960s station which featured a VW bus photo booth. Their passport entry:

During this tumultuous and vibrant decade, Girl Scouts held “Speak Out” conferences around the country to lend their voices to the fight for racial equality, launched the ACTION 70 project to help overcome prejudice and build better relationships between people, and viewed the Apollo 12 moon landing at Camp Kennedy, Florida, as guests of NASA.

Things were looking discotheque at Troop 60489’s table equipped with a light show! Their 1970s passport write-up:

During this period, Girl Scouts elected its first African-American national board president, Gloria D. Scott; stood up for environment issues by launching the national Eco-Action program; and helped Vietnamese refuge children adapt to their new homes in America.

Troop 60360 took on the 80s and 90s making everything as neon and saturated as you can imagine! Their write-up:

Girl Scouts established the Daisy level for Kindergarten-aged girls as interest in Girl Scouts expanded, and also distributed “The Contemporary Issues” series that addressed some of the most serious issues teen girls of the day were confronting, including drug use, child abuse, and teen pregnancy. Amid the explosive growth of person computers, Girl Scouts introduced the Technology Badge for Girl Scout Juniors, while also tackling illiteracy with the Right to Read service project, which nearly 4 million Girl Scouts and leaders participated in.

The 2000s to Today was full of extremely familiar items from the cookie program, sweatshirts and t-shirts, outdoor gear, program materials, and more. This is the display that the girls have put on temporary display at the Seymour Library for the public to visit during their normal business hours. The passport reads:

Girl Scouts entered the first decade of the new millennium focused on the healthy development of girls, establishing the Girl Scout Research Institute to conduct studies and report findings. We also continued to emphasize inclusiveness by hosting a National Conference on Latinas in Girl Scouting and, in 2005, electing the first Hispanic Girl Scout chair of the National Board, Patricia Diaz Dennis.

Even as technology plays a larger and larger role in Americans’ lives, Girl Scouts also stay connected to nature and the great outdoors. So while Girl Scouts introduced new badges to promote outdoor activities, we’ve also partnered with Google for “Made With Code,” a program encouraging girls to get an early start in computer science. In 2014, Girl Scouts launched Digital Cookie, through which Girl Scout cookies were sold online by girls for the first time in the history of the iconic cookie program.

Troop 60784 had a display on Girl Scout cookies and their history with fun trivia questions. Their page:

Girl Scout cookies had their earliest beginnings in the kitchens and ovens of our girl members, with moms volunteering as technical advisers. The sale of cookies as a way to finance troop activities began as early as 1917, five years after Juliette Gordon Low started Girl Scouts in the United States, when the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, baked cookies and sold them in its high school cafeteria as a service project.

Older girls in Troop 60459 presented on the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards, which are the Girl Scout Higher Awards. Click the link on each name to read more of the individual requirements for those awards. The troop’s write-up in the book said:

Every Girl Scout goes above and beyond to make a difference in her community and the greater world. And the skills and experiences she gains along the way set her up for special recognition through the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards.

The Daisy Girl Scouts helped to stock the refreshment table and keep it running smoothly. One of their adult volunteers made some incredible cookies that were very impressive!

For location and hours of the Brockport Seymour Library, please visit their website. This Girl Scout display is only temporary, so go see it while you can!

To find more info about Girl Scouts or to become a Girl Scout member or volunteer visit our website.

This March, Girl Scouts are out to brighten smiles again!

Just like last year, we’re holding our Making Smiles Bright dental health collection and patch program in March! Keep reading for more information and to see how you can get involved.


During the month of March, we’re focusing on dental health! Girl Scouts who participate will increase their knowledge of dental health and take action to provide dental hygiene supplies to other children in their communities. Girls in all levels are invited to participate and earn this exclusive patch.

The patch will be available for sale in our GSWNY Council Shops. Count the number of items you collect so we can see how many smiles we’ll make brighter!

Elements to the Patch Program:

Learn about teeth. What are the parts of a tooth? In a book or online,
find a diagram of a tooth and learn about its parts. Find the crown, root, enamel, pulp, and cementum. What is the importance of each part?

Find out why it is important to brush and floss every day. Make a personal brushing and flossing chart to record when you brush and floss for two weeks.

Discover how our diet helps or hurts our teeth. A healthy diet means healthier teeth but some foods like sugar can harm them. Learn about a balanced diet. Make a collage or draw a picture that shows which foods are either good or bad for our teeth.

Find out about careers related to dental health. For Daisies and Brownies and Juniors – Draw a picture of what you think a dental health professional looks like. For Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors – Find out about college programs, that are offered at nearby schools, in the field of dental health.

Help others keep their teeth healthy too! Collect dental hygiene items such as toothbrushes, dental floss, and toothpaste to donate to community dental clinics in Western New York. Bring your donations to your nearest GSWNY Service Center during the month of March.

Our GSWNY Dental Hygiene Collection will benefit local children through Western New York Community Dental Providers.

Download the Flyer

Pittsford Girl Scouts battle period insecurity with care kits

The Girl Scouts of Western New York’s Pittsford Service Unit recently hosted a menstrual pad packing party to help local girls and women.

Girl Scouts sixth grade and up met on a day off of school to assemble the kits which included 4 pads, 2 liners, a hand sanitizer, a friendship bracelet, a Scensibles disposal bag, and instructions for use, as well as positive messages. The kits were assembled for in-need schools in the Rochester City School District where girls sometimes miss classes or use unsanitary solutions because of their lack of access to supplies. Forty girls gathered at the Pittsford Library for the event and were able to pack 2000 period supply kits.

Sophia Schulitz, a Senior Girl Scout, said, “Period insecurity is scary! Girls around the world miss school or are bullied for this. I am glad we can help some of the girls in our community!”

The Pittsford Service Unit hopes that by providing the kits to girls and making menstrual care something normal to talk about they can end period insecurity and empower girls their own age.

This is the third year the service unit worked with Scensibles, which provided the disposal bags for free and helped the girls organize the party. Scensibles provided 2000 pink satin pouches, 8000 sanitary pads, 4000 hand wipes, 4000 Scensibles bags, and 2000 friendship bracelets. This project is an important part of the company’s charitable efforts. The Girl Scouts provided panty liners for the kits and also the girl power to assemble all of it!

The girls also received $750 from the Pittsford Rotary Club to support their project. This allowed them to increase the size of the kits from previous years of working on this project. Additional supplies were donated to the Pittsford Food Cupboard to assist women in the community who need the supplies.

Daisy Troop 60012 puts ‘Considerate & Caring’ into action

[The following story was submitted to us by the leaders of Troop 60012. If you’d like to submit your story, send it to communications@gswny.org]

Below is a message received from Amber Benoit, a co-leader with Troop 60012. She and the other leaders were so proud of their girls, so they shared the following:

“We have a new Daisy troop and are working on learning & earning our petals. When it came time to learn about Lupe we talked to the girls about doing something Considerate & Caring for people in our community.

While we had some ideas as leaders, the girls shined by deciding to go caroling at a nursing home and also making a little gift for the residents with a hand made drawing or heart for each.

They used their fall fundraiser money for supplies and in just over an hour cut, rolled, drew and tied a bow on over 60 fleece scarves! Each had a little tag with a drawing from one of the girls on it.

Yesterday, we went to St. Anne’s nursing home in Irondequoit and walked 3 floors singing Christmas carols and handing out the scarves.

As one mom said ‘Many of the residents were very very happy to see the girls and some were shocked that they were being given a present.’ “For me?!” It was very sweet.”

As leaders we are proud, humbled and just blown away at how these girls (all kindergarteners and some very shy) stepped up and out if their shells to make many of these residents’ Holiday.”

Danielle’s Gold Award Story

[The following was submitted to GSWNY from Danielle’s mother and troop leader Elizabeth Bellis.]

Danielle Bellis loves soccer. She started playing in the local league’s in-house program when she was five years old. She has since played on the league’s travel team, and the school’s modified, junior varsity, and now varsity teams. She worked as a referee for the league’s in-house program and volunteered as a coach for an ad-hoc preschool program they were considering. Then when Dani decided to go for her Girl Scout Gold Award, which requires completing a sustainable community service project, something soccer-related seemed like a logical choice.

The league president suggested she create an official preschool soccer program that they would maintain in the future and offer free. Dani jumped at the idea of creating a soccer program for the community. She could share her love of soccer while starting young kids on the road to a healthy lifestyle of physical activity, self-confidence, and team work. As she considered the benefits the program could provide the community, she realized her program could benefit more than just the preschool kids.

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This was also an opportunity to get older kids involved as coaches and encourage them to start volunteering in their community. She could create a coaching packet to make it easy to coach even without any soccer experience.

This past spring Danielle did just that. She created a teen-led and coached soccer program for preschool age kids and called it “First Kicks.” She put together a coaching binder of activities and games, as well as a few coaching tips. She registered 60 preschool participants and recruited nine teenage coaches beside herself. She ran a six-week program with two 45 minute sessions on Saturdays, one for 3-year-olds and one for 4-year-olds.

At the end of the season, Danielle provided the league with all the materials it needs to continue the free program including an annual schedule and budget, advertising materials, a list of contacts, and the coaching binders.

Danielle completed the requirements of the community service project and earned her gold award. She will graduate this spring and plans to continue volunteering for the First Kicks program.

Girl Scouts Give Back To The Longridge Elementary School Community With A “Little Free Library” Service Project

Girl Scout Cadettes from Troop 60972 of Greece will make the Longridge Elementary School community brighter as they host a presentation in honor of their little free library service project where girls will also earn their wood working badge.

Ten Girl Scouts who attend three of Greece Central School District’s middle schools decided to give back to their local community with a literacy service project and worked with various groups including Greece Odyssey and others to help build the little free library and collect books for the school community at Longridge Elementary. Community service is an important component to the Girl Scout experience and empowers girls to take the lead and make the world a better place.

Girl Scouts are making smiles bright in March!

During the month of March, we’re focusing on dental health! Girl Scouts who participate will increase their knowledge of dental health and take action to provide dental hygiene supplies to other children in their communities.

Girls of all levels are invited to participate in the Dental Health Collection and Patch Program and earn this exclusive patch!

Requirements:

Learn about teeth. What are the parts of a tooth? In a book or online,
find a diagram of a tooth and learn about its parts. Find the crown, root, enamel, pulp, and cementum. What is the importance of each part?

Find out why it is important to brush and floss every day. Make a personal brushing and flossing chart to record when you brush and floss for two weeks.

Discover how our diet helps or hurts our teeth. A healthy diet means healthier teeth but some foods like sugar can harm them. Learn about a balanced diet. Make a collage or draw a picture that shows which foods are either good or bad for our teeth.

Find out about careers related to dental health. For Daisies and Brownies and Juniors – Draw a picture of what you think a dental health professional looks like. For Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors – Find out about college programs, that are offered at nearby schools, in the field of dental health.

Help others keep their teeth healthy too! Collect dental hygiene items such as toothbrushes, dental floss, and toothpaste to donate to community dental clinics in Western New York. Bring your donations to your nearest GSWNY Service Center during the month of March.

Our GSWNY Dental Hygiene Collection will benefit local children through Western New York Community Dental Providers.

The patch will be available for sale in our GSWNY Council Shops. Count the number of items you collect so we can see how many smiles we’ll make brighter!

Download the flyer here

To serve God and my country: Girl Scouts put faith in action

Although Girl Scouts is a secular organization, we believe in encouraging girls to pursue their own spiritual journeys through their faith. Our Girl Scout Promise and Law features many principles and values found among religions, which makes it a natural connection.

Aside from the My Promise, My Faith pin, all other religious recognition activities are completed independently from Girl Scouts, but the awards earned can be worn on the our uniforms.

To help the spiritual growth of Girl Scouts, national religious organizations develop programs to reinforce the values integral to Girl Scouting while helping them learn more about and grow in their own faith.

Programs of Religious Activities with Youth (P.R.A.Y.) is an organization who helps make these connections between girls and their areas of faith. They work together with many religions, including Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Quakers, to design religious emblem programs to help girls on their journeys.

Last year, several girls from our council completed an amazing service project in the pursuit of earning a Girl Scout religious emblem.

As members of the Nativity of Our Lord Church and the Orchard Park Service Unit, Caroline (Senior, Troop 31101), Kaitlyn (Cadette, Troop 31128), Mia (Cadette, Troop 31128), and Natalie (Cadette, Troop 31128) began working an an emblem called ‘Mary, The First Disciple,’ led by Patti Raab.

Patti serves as a member of our Board of Directors, but her role as Religious Emblem Counselor for the National Catholic Committee on Scouting helps her get directly involved with Girl Scouts seeking these awards.

For their service project, they decided to organize a coat drive in their parish. The weekend before, they included an announcement about their drive and handed out flyers after each mass.

Patti’s heart was warmed by the response of the parish members the following week.

“A total of 268 coats were collected!” said Patti. “They were inspected for cleanliness, zippers working, and overall good wear. Only three were rejected. Therefore a total of 265 were donated!

Patti with Kaitlyn, Mia, Natalie, and Caroline

Because of the organization and work from the Girl Scouts and the generosity of the church, 265 coats were disbursed to the Harvest House, International Institute of Buffalo, and St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy. Caroline, Kaitlyn, Mia, and Natalie went to two of these facilities and got to see the results of their charitable work firsthand.

This is just one of many faith-based projects for Girl Scouts around our council. In fact, Patti currently oversees two other Senior Girl Scouts, Ava and Sophia from Troop 30271, as they pursue their Spirit Alive emblem.

To learn more about Girl Scouts and faith, visit girlscouts.org today. If you, or your troop are working toward any religious pins or emblems, please email your stories to communications@gswny.org.