Adults, from left, Girl Scouts Troop Leader Amy Hawley, Mom Sheree Bridwell and Co-leader Bridget Noer leading a group of new Girl Scouts at the Idyllwild Library last week. Leader Stacy Kretsinger is not shown. Photo by Debra Varnado

Spring in Idyllwild has been especially fruitful this year, bringing not only the familiar trumpet-shaped daffodils  reaching for the Sun, and May’s customary light dusting of snow, but also a Daisy and Brownie Girl Scout Troop--the first on the Hill in several years.

The youngsters in Kindergarten through 4th grade met for the first time May 3 at Idyllwild Library under the guidance and leadership of local Moms, Amy Hawley, Stacy Kretsinger, and co-leader and Girl Scout alumna Bridget Noer.

Since earlier this year, the volunteers have worked with the staff of Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council (GSSGC) and with Girl Scout alumna and volunteer Shannon Ng to complete the administrative aspects of troop formation.

“We’re also meeting with possible sponsors, like the Rotary Club, about donating some felt to make our banner for the cookie table and parade,” Hawley said. “We are looking forward to getting involved in this summer’s July 4th parade.”

Their first meeting was an informal icebreaker for the girls and creative time with beads, “since our troop is new.  Badge work and the more extensive curriculum will start in the fall with the school year, Hawley said.

Having lived on the Hill, the wonders of nature and the out-of-doors are not new to the girls. Nevertheless, fishing, and hiking looms large in their imaginations.

“Parents have volunteered to teach fishing as well as soap-making and yoga.  Plus, the troop has volunteered to adopt a trail at the Nature Center.  They’ll go there to learn how to do trail maintenance, to hike and do fun stuff.”

Many local people are stepping up and volunteering their time and skills to do “cool skills-building projects,” Hawley said.

“We’re looking forward to having talks by bird watching experts and rangers and biologists-- fishermen and seamstresses--anyone who wants to share his or her skills with these girls, so they can get to flower and get a chance to find what their own interests are.”

“We look forward to visiting Skyland Ranch, too.  We haven’t gone there yet, but we’re excited that it is a local resource.  It will expand our opportunities.”

The 191-acre wilderness ranch with indoor-outdoor facilities located between Idyllwild and Banning on SH 243 is shaping up to be the go-to-place for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) adventures.

“We’re determined to turn this awesome property into a world-class STEAM center,” Cynthia Breunig, President and CEO of the GSSGC, said. “Outdoor activities make for ideal learning experiences in every STEAM field.”

Girl Scouts can earn badges in engineering, robotics, environmental science, cyber security, and space science.

In addition to STEAM, environmental studies and leadership training, girls can take advantage of archery; horseback riding; land canoeing, camping; and more.

June 16, the GSSGC is celebrating the ‘Great Outdoors with a Summer Open House’ at Skyland (and Camp Azalea in Idyllwild).  A variety of activities are planned and membership is not required to attend.  For more information, see www.gssgc.org

As far as donations to the Troop, Hawley said they are looking for donations and sponsors to at least get the ball rolling.

“It takes about $75 per girl to get them set up.  That could go a long way toward helping them to get their initial books and uniform, and pins and insignia--without having to pay too much.

“People also donate time and goods to the troop which needs lots of things, including sleeping bags tents and camping gear,” she said.

“Breaking the costs down is hard because they will depend upon how much patch work and all the others kinds of things we do.

“We will self-fund when we’re up and running.  A big part of Girl Scouting is teaching money awareness and business sense and economics….

“The Scouts will do their own fundraising, learn to run their own businesses and they’ll be rewarded for their success with fun things to do, in accordance with girl scouts programs.”   

Sponsorships are “really small quantities-- $249 or less in monetary donations that go directly to the troop,” Hawley said. Anything larger goes to the GSSGC and eventually gets funneled back to the troop.

“The best way to make a monetary donation is to do a small donation of $249 or less to us.   We can put it in our local bank account and start working from there and it is a tax write-off.”

The girls and adult volunteers who work with them also pay registration fees each year and adult volunteers who work with the girls also undergo a background check.

Asked if the troop will continue to meet at the library, Hawley said, “We will meet there [from time to time] when the weather is bad or too hot.

“We’re still trying to find space for our weekly meetings. One of the deals with the Girl Scouts is the space has to be free or donated and must have bathroom and facilities for the girls.

“We’re looking at appropriate spaces, places so we can ‘get away’ with meeting outside.  We have to talk to the people at the Nature Center and also find out about County or State parks, where they have nice outdoor picnic tables.

“For now, we’re keeping it light and getting to know each other. Our goal is to make the program girl-driven and girl-led.

“What we are going to do is ‘sit down and ask the girls what sounds cool to them and what they want to do and what things interest them.’

“That’s modern Girl Scouts.  Stacy and I are going to sit back and support that process.”

For more information on Troop 533, the three other Girls Scout troops that are forming on the Hill, or to volunteer, or be a sponsor, contact Hawley at camp.idy@yahoo.com.

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