Our program theme at Girl Scouts River Valleys this year is It’s Your World—Change It! There are lots of fun ways to get your troop involved in making the world a better place, and community service is a perfect way for girls to dig their hands into the issues that concern them the most in their own neighborhoods. It’s also a natural bridge when they start thinking about Take Action projects for their Journey, or when they decide to go for the Highest Awards. Plus, participating in community service projects as a troop can strengthen the bonds between the girls and bring them closer together. A win-win for everyone involved!
Let’s look at some ideas on how you can get girls at each program level involved in community service this year:
Daisy and Brownie
Never underestimate the power of our youngest Girl Scouts! There may be limits to what Daisies and Brownies can do physically at this age, but their hearts are big and they are ready to help where needed. Some activities include decorating bags or placemats for meals through Open Arms Minnesota, or making blankets or toys for dogs and cats at the Animal Humane Society.
My Daisy troop learned valuable lessons by making birthday-in-a-bag kits for a local food shelf. The girls filled gift bags with party supplies including cake mix, frosting, balloons, party hats, and more! Giving birthday celebrations to kids in need helped the girls understand their world at an age-appropriate level.
Junior and Cadette
In upper elementary and middle school, Juniors and Cadettes have more volunteer options available to them, and they are ready for more hands-on work. Packing meals at places like Feed My Starving Children, or serving as ushers for events at SteppingStone Theatre are awesome activities for this age group. How about collecting food for an emergency food shelf in your area? Does your local nature center need help with trail projects or collecting seeds? Is there a community program at your library that could use youth helpers?
Senior and Ambassador
In high school, Seniors and Ambassadors are ready to hit the ground running as they volunteer to work for change. They now have the tools to plan and coordinate their own community service projects, like organizing a warm coat drive for a homeless shelter, or helping elderly neighbors with yardwork through HOME. Older girls are also able to help make and serve meals at shelters and kitchens like Loaves & Fishes. Don’t forget to pass the torch by having older girls volunteer to teach younger troops a skill or help them with a project!
Ideas for All Ages
Many hands make light work, and there are a variety of volunteer needs that work for groups of all ages:
- Assemble hygiene kits to share with a women’s shelter
- Sing songs or organize a game night at a senior center or retirement home
- Help remove invasive species at your local nature center or state park
- Collect art supplies to share with a local children’s hospital
- Send holiday cards to military troops overseas
Be sure to check out our full list of community partners for more ideas. Doing Good Together, a Minneapolis-based national nonprofit, maintains listings of kid-friendly volunteer opportunities that you can check out each month. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has year-round nature-related volunteer opportunities for groups. You can also visit your local schools, community centers, and places of worship to find more ways to change your world.
Most importantly: Ask the girls what they think about volunteering in the community, and be ready to take notes! Chances are, as girls of courage, confidence, and character on a mission to change their world, they will come up with a lot of good ideas.
Catherine Mandle – Catherine is a Volunteer Resource Specialist at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She was a Girl Scout as a child and is now the troop treasurer for her daughter’s Girl Scout Junior troop (which she started and led for their first three years). She has dual bachelor’s degrees from the University of Minnesota in anthropology and American Indian studies. Catherine has two children with special needs, including autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and food allergies. She is a Minnesota State Fair award-winning knitter and always has multiple knitting projects going. She also camps and hikes with her family as often as possible.