New Jerseyans Reflect on Meaning of Girl Scouts

There are 80,000 Girl Scouts in New Jersey. Youngsters involved in the organization say it creates sisterhood and more.

By Lauren Wanko

These young girls are different ages, many go to different schools. They’re united though as Girl Scouts.

“To be a Girl Scout is to have a whole family that stretches across the United States and the rest of world,” said Kendall Hovius.

It’s about a sisterhood and sense of empowerment for these South Jersey girls.

“For me to be a Girl Scout it means you can do anything if you just put your mind to it and that teamwork can help you succeed and if you give back to others, then it feels good,” said Sophia Lutzker.

“I have only one brother. The Girl Scouts has brought me a bunch of sisters,” said Victoria Chase.

The Girl Scouts are trying on old uniforms at the HerStory Center, nestled within Camp Kettle Run in Medford. The center, which opened earlier this month in honor of the Girl Scouts’ 105th birthday, is full of historical pieces.

“It’s very interesting to see different uniforms of the different ages and it kind of connects us with those past Girl Scouts,” said Leesa Hovius.

“Girl Scouts was founded by a visionary woman by the name of Juliette Gordon Low. It opened March 12, 1912 in Savannah, Ga. She was inspired by her travels in England by Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts. She wanted to give them an opportunity to experience the outdoors and have a chance to do some of the things that the boys in Boys Scouts were doing,” said Natasha Southerland, chief marketing and communications officer for the Girls Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey.

All of the staples a 1960s Girl Scout took to camp are on display — her canteen, mess kit and collapsible cup.

“Today the little girls who come through don’t even understand what a collapsible cup is because we’ve gone to paper,” said Jan Anderson, a volunteer with the Girls Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey.

Girls are invited to play with the dolls. One dates back to the 1940s. There are even cake toppers.

“We tell the girls if they want to have a birthday, they can borrow one,” Anderson said.

The Girls Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey didn’t have a hard time filling this space with historical pieces and that’s because most of these items were in storage. They have been donated over the years by Girl Scouts — like a Brownie uniform which dates back to 1914.

Today there are 80,000 Girl Scouts in New Jersey. These Girl Scouts earn proficiency badges, which they wear proudly.

“The patches on the back are the fun patches and they’re pretty easy to earn. You do one thing. You go to a program and you get a cute patch. The ones on the front are the official badges and they’re a little bit harder to earn. You have to do maybe a service project or four, five, six requirements,” Leesa Hovius explained.

The Girl Scouts say troops cover the cost of their activities for the year by selling cookies.

The organization says this year marks the 100th anniversary of the first known Girl Scout cookie sale. A staffer here remembers selling this box in the early 1950s and it’s something Girl Scouts still love doing today.

“I love telling different people because I sell door to door. I like telling them about the different kinds of cookies and meeting new people,” said Girl Scout Teghan Sydnor.

As much as these girls like selling cookies, they say being a Girl Scout is really about giving back and becoming a better person.

“It’s about helping people and earning lifetime skills,” said Girl Scout Mikayla Kobler.

That’s something they’re all proud of.

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