DENHAM SPRINGS -- While thousands of shoppers bustled nearby during last weekend’s Fall Fest, two Girl Scouts and their troop leader set up shop under a small tent on Mattie Street.
The life-long Scouts stopped visitors as they walked by, hoping to attract more people to be a part of the world’s largest girl-led entrepreneurial program.
Under the tent, they arranged dozens of cups filled with soil, showing aspiring Scouts how to plant sunflower seeds.
They gave each visitor one of the multi-colored bandanas they had brought, while also showing them the many badges they could earn for their vests.
They even demonstrated building a campfire.
Zoe Stahl, a freshman who has been in Girl Scouts since kindergarten, led the campfire demonstrations, one of many things she’s learned in the program. Her friend, Evelyn Robinson, showed the proper way to plant sunflower seeds.
Both said they want other girls to join the program, adding that “there’s something for everyone.”
“Girl Scouts has taught me so much about how to communicate with people,” Stahl said. “I’ve gotten a lot better at talking to people. And I love the outdoors and being outside and going camping and all that.
“Plus, I’ve met a lot of my longtime friends in Girl Scouts and had so much fun.”
For anyone considering Girl Scouts, the fun can start this weekend when Service Unit 122, which covers troops in Denham Springs, Walker and Watson, holds a hike day at North Park.
The hike will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9, according to Mary Stringfellow, administrator for Girl Scouts Service Unit 122. Stringfellow said the hike will be free for aspiring Scouts and that they don’t have to register in advance.
“They can just show up,” Stringfellow said. “We want them to come and learn about Girl Scouts.”
Local troops fall under the umbrella of Girl Scouts Louisiana East, which comprises Scouts in around two dozen parishes across the southeastern portion of the state, including Livingston Parish.
Girl Scouts are broken into six levels based on grade: Daisy, grades K-1; Brownie, grades 2-3; Junior, grades 4-5; Cadette, grades 6-8; Senior, grades 9-10; and Ambassador, grades 11-12.
Headquartered in New Orleans with a regional service center in Baton Rouge, Girl Scouts Louisiana East’s leadership development program is for girls in grades K-12, and it offers a wide range of outdoor activities, STEM programs, and the annual cookie-selling program.
But despite all its offerings, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected membership over the last year and a half, something Stringfellow is hoping will soon be reversed.
“COVID has been rough,” she said. “We used to have 220 girls in the service unit, and now we’re down to 150. So we’re trying to do our part to bring our membership up, because Girl Scouts are so much fun and so important.”
Rachel Stahl, troop leader of Troop 10749 — the same one her daughter Zoe is in — echoed Stringfellow’s comments about lower membership, adding that it’s something “all children’s organizations” have gone through during the pandemic.
“We had to do zoom meetings for Girl Scouts after they were learning online,” said Rachel Stahl, who was a Scout herself. “It just wasn’t the same.”
Stringfellow hopes the hike day will recruit more members to the organization. During the day, girls will hike the trail around the lake at North Park, learn about healthy snacks and hike planning safety, visit the local Purple Martin gourd racks, and complete hiking crafts.
“They’re going to learn all about hiking and these different things — we just want them to come and see what we’re about,” Stringfellow said. “Hopefully then, they’ll want to join.”
For more information on recruitment, contact Stringfellow at (225) 266-7651 or via email at email@example.com.