On a recent segment of HearSay with Cathy Lewis about local service organizations and ways to give back to the community, guest host Joe Flanagan spoke with Tracy Keller, Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast CEO about how Girl Scouts provides girls with lessons on marketing and entrepreneurship. Local Girl Scouts, volunteers, and parents share about all the things they receive from the program. It’s more than the cookies that everyone knows and loves, they say, it’s about preparing these girls to live successful lives.

Lilly Tomlinson, of Chesapeake, a 16-year-old senior Girl Scout has been in the organization for six years. “I’ve always seen the Girl Scouts come to my door selling cookies, and they looked like they had so much fun. Especially when they went camping and earned badges, so I always wanted to join. When I was in the fifth grade, I started homeschooling and I also started Girl Scouts.”

Elsa Kinnear, 11-years old from Norfolk, says she was a Girl Scout from the very start. “My mom was a brownie so it was meant to be.”

Both girls have chosen to be active in their troops and pursue each opportunity the Girl Scouts program offers them. Elsa is currently working on her Bronze award. “This is the highest award a junior can get, she says.” Lilly received her Silver award, the highest honor for Cadets, for her work with the Crisis Pregnancy Center. 

“The girls are doing a tremendous amount of community service. They are taking care of the world around us. What I love about these girls is that they’ve both taken on projects that they are super passionate about and they’ve realized at young ages that they can make a difference in our community for all of us.”

“I have been working on a patch for the bike lanes in Norfolk because I noticed that people aren’t paying a lot of attention. And nobody is using the bike lanes. So I decided to work on this which will be a kickoff for the bike lanes which is four mile bike loop. The kick off will be on May third at 4:00 p.m. at Blair Middle School.” Because Elsa created her own project and objectives, she will receive a Girl Scout patch that she can put on the back of her vest as a symbol of her achievement. 

“Everything we do in Girl Scouts helps build leadership skills for them to be young ladies and grow into young women who take over the world in areas that are important to them,” says Tracy, Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast CEO

Tracy says that one huge project the girls have each year and learn a tremendous amount of information from is the cookie sales. “We are just wrapping up a very successful cookie season. Through participating in the cookie program, the girls learn some significant business skills that will carry them forward in any career that they choose. They’re learning about people skills, money management, goal setting, decision making, and all of those skill that will help them wherever they go.” This year, their council sold 20,000 boxes over goal which put them at right under 1,480,000 boxes sold here in Hampton Roads. 

Lilly and Elsa say selling cookies is hard work but loads of fun. Lilly doubled her initial cookie sales goal and sold 2,100 boxes. “It’s a lot of work but so much fun. I’m able to learn how to manage money, make goals, and make customer relationships.” Elsa sold 700 boxes of cookies, which is also a tremendous amount to sell. 

Both Lilly and Elsa both have a great amount of support from the friends. Partly, because many are Girl Scouts themselves. Most of the girls in Elsa’s homeschool co-op are Girl Scouts with her. Lilly says she’s never necessarily recruited for Girl Scouts, but the girls that she dances and goes to school with love to support her cookie sales. “I always have the opportunity to share the Girl Scout message and values with them.”

While cookie sales teach a great deal about various subjects, the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast encourages girls to make outdoors their classroom as well. Tammy says there are a number of things the council focuses on to teach the girls while outside. “Our council is very focused on outdoors, we own five properties to get girls outdoors and doing activities.”

“One of the great programs we have in Hampton Roads is Camp Fury,” she explained. “The girls go offsite and work with firefighters and our public service officials and learn about all of those careers. Last year we held it in Hampton and Chesapeake. That camp gives girls the opportunity to be outside and explore regular camp activities like archery, canoeing, swimming, all of that great fun, and also cooking some of their own meals over a fire, but it also gives them the opportunity to meet women in very different and unique fields as a way to explore: ‘Is this a career opportunity for me?’”

Tracy says that the best part about the camps is that most importantly, the girls really challenge themselves, build their confidence, and gain courage. 

Whether it’s during cookie season when the girls get to work on using their voice and developing people skills, at camp where girls get to challenge themselves and learn about career opportunities, or in a regular meeting where they focus on personal development or leadership skills, Elsa and Lilly agree that Girls Scouts gives the opportunity to have lots of fun, grow into phenomenal young women, and make an impact on the world around them, one box of cookies or service project at a time. 

Listen to the entire HearSay segment. 

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