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It’s more than just selling cookies

Kelsey Johnston, center, and Caitlin Collins, right, conclude their junior Girl Scout Troop 42621 meeting last Thursday with their “friendship circle” as they hold hands and sing a song. Girl Scouts will celebrate the nonprofit’s 100th anniversary.  - Kristin Okinaka
Kelsey Johnston, center, and Caitlin Collins, right, conclude their junior Girl Scout Troop 42621 meeting last Thursday with their “friendship circle” as they hold hands and sing a song. Girl Scouts will celebrate the nonprofit’s 100th anniversary.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka

Kelsey Johnston had never done archery before and was nervous she wouldn’t be able to shoot any of the arrows on the target. A few months ago the fourth-grader proved herself wrong when she earned the archery patch as a junior Girl Scout.

“I was scared I would miss every one and not get it until I was 50 or something,” Kelsey said with a grin last Thursday at her troop’s weekly meeting.

But, she even hit the bull’s-eye more than once.

Part of Girl Scout Troop 42621, a junior troop, Kelsey has learned new activities and has made friends through scouting. Girl Scouts of the USA has been teaching girls like Kelsey for a while — 100 years in March to be exact — to build confidence and become leaders in their own way.

About 150 Girl Scouts, including troop 42621, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts at Silverdale SongFest at Kitsap Mall Sunday, Feb. 26. Girl Scout Troop 42621 has eight girls in grades four and five. The troop is part of an East Bremerton scouting service unit and there are a total of three service units in Central Kitsap. There are about 15 to 20 troops in each service unit.

Heather Parrish and Tina Johnston, Kelsey’s mother, are the leaders of troop 42621. Johnston, who also leads another troop for her high school daughter, said many of the girls continue in scouting together because it’s a safe space for them to explore new ideas and express themselves. She said the girls in her older troop are all college bound.

“A lot of it has to do with scouts,” said Parrish. “It’s down in their bones.”

The local troops and services units are part of Girl Scouts of Western Washington, which is headquartered in Seattle, and serves more than 26,000 girls throughout 17 counties. The first Girl Scout Troop was organized on March 12, 1912 in Savannah, Ga.

Parrish and Johnston lead their junior Girl Scout troop in a variety of activities and field trips including food drives, volunteering at retirement homes and sewing. They have plans to take the troop on a field trip to Mt. Rainier in the summer. Last Thursday evening, the troop researched different Girl Scout troops around the world to prepare for presentations that they would later give.

“We want to teach them to give back and see other aspects of the world — to not be afraid of people with differences,” said Johnston about the troop’s community service projects. The attitude of openness can also be applied to their other activities as well, she added.

Girl Scouts is divided into six separate ranks beginning with Daisies, which are the youngest scouts, who are in kindergarten and first grade. Next come Brownies, Juniors, Cadets, Seniors then Ambassadors. Girl Scouts are never “held back” from continuing to the next level said Parrish, adding that each group is divided by grade levels in school.

While many may only associate Girl Scouts with the boxes of cookies they sell as fundraisers during spring, some of the girls said they do enjoy selling cookies.

“Sometimes it’s kind of weird,” said Jenna Hooker, a fifth grader in the troop. “But, I get to meet new friends and talk to people.”

Kelsey said she likes selling cookies because it makes other people happy.

“I like going out and seeing their happy faces and they say, ‘Oh, it’s cookie time,’” she said.

For Caitlin Collins and Olivia Skillings, both fourth graders in the troop, they said they like that they have been able to make new friends through Girl Scouts. They also enjoy the outings.

“I like the field trips — like whale watching in Poulsbo,” Cailtlin said.

The junior Girl Scouts can earn “fun badges” from outings such as going to a pumpkin patch together but Parrish said the girls need to complete six activities in order to receive an earned badge.

Meagan Johnston, Tina Johnson’s oldest daughter who is an ambassador Girl Scout, said Girl Scouts is significantly about more than selling cookies. She is currently a leader-in-training and helps her mother and Parrish with the junior troop. The 16-year-old is also planning on working toward achieving the Girl Scout “gold award” — one of the most difficult badges to receive — through coming up with a community service plan and spending at least 80 hours of volunteer hours.

“It definitely takes a lot of work — especially the older you get,” Meagan Johnston said.

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