Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Gold Award spotlight: Girl Scout's garden helps families in need

While volunteering at St. Winifred’s Food Pantry, Ambassador Girl Scout Kaitlyn Burkhart noticed a shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables. That gave her an idea that grew into her Gold Award project–a community garden dedicated to supporting the food pantry.

“With the rising prices of food, especially produce, many stores are unwilling to donate fresh produce to food pantries,” Kaitlyn explains. “I want to give families something other than canned vegetables.”

She worked with food pantry staff and volunteers to build a community garden, called the Common Ground Garden, to meet the needs of the growing number of families who depend upon the food pantry. More than 550 families rely on the pantry each year for food and other necessities.
Kaitlyn Burkhart

Kaitlyn’s team included members of her church and high school, who volunteered their time to make garden stakes and prepare the garden. She also worked closely with her grandfather, who gave her his unused garden plot and provided her garden with water.

After more than 87 hours of planning, planting and nurturing, Kaitlyn’s garden provided almost 200 pounds of fresh vegetables last summer. She grew green and yellow peppers, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini and cucumbers. Kaitlyn also created a cookbook for the food pantry families featuring the vegetables grown in the garden.

As part of every Gold Award project, Girl Scouts are required to look at how their project can be sustained over time. Kaitlyn’s leadership skills ensured that the garden will continue to grow with care from her high school’s garden club and church volunteers, as well as provide families with delicious, affordable ways to prepare fresh vegetables.

Kaitlyn is the daughter of Wendy and Scott Burkhart, of Pittsburgh. She is a senior at Keystone Oaks High School.

Common Ground Garden
More information about the Girl Scout Gold Award is available at Learn about the Gold Award's 100th anniversary at

Gold Award spotlight: Girl Scout's take-action project goes downhill

To earn her Gold Award, Jessica Friss created a take-action project to solve a problem in her community—not only in the short term, but for years into the future.

A Girl Scout is encouraged to use her values and skills to choose a community issue that she cares about. Jessica's Gold Award project addressed the issue of rainwater runoff at a trail head in Mount Washington, located at the bottom of two steep hills on the corner of Republic and Fingal Streets.

The water flowing quickly downhill was damaging a local roadway. To remedy this, Jessica set out to create a rain garden capture the water as it flowed off the steep streets.

Jessica Friss
A rain garden is a shallow depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses which allows rainwater runoff from impervious urban areas—like roofs, driveways, walkways, parking lots, and compacted lawn areas—to be absorbed.

Jessica met with Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) and StormWorks, a local rainwater management company, to help design the best type of rain garden for the site.

She then organized separate digging and planting events through the WMCDC. She went door-to-door on the surrounding streets to recruit volunteers for the events and to educate neighbors about the rain garden.

More than 20 volunteers helped on the first day of digging, completing the base of the rain garden and smaller overflow garden. Later that summer, volunteers filled the garden with dirt and planted native perennials that were deer resistant and could withstand large amounts of water that could contain salt and other contaminates from the road.

She also created and distributed brochures about the project and spoke at an event held at the Mt. Washington Carnegie Library.

Jessica's rain garden not only addressed the deterioration of the roadway, it also helped filter the polluted runoff water and provided a beautiful garden for the neighborhood.

Gold benefits

Gold Award projects help communities and give girls important leadership skills, teaching them to seek out the work that needs doing in the world.

There are other benefits to "going Gold" as well. Some universities and colleges offer scholarships unique to Gold Award recipients, and girls who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces may receive advanced rank in recognition of their achievements.

More information about the Girl Scout Gold Award is available at Learn about the Gold Award's 100th anniversary at

Friday, April 22, 2016

Add some calming color to your Girl Scout Leader's Day!

It's National Girl Scout Leader's Day, so we want to take the opportunity to thank all of our amazing leaders and volunteers. You truly take awesome to a whole new level and we are so grateful for everything you do!
You've led groups of excited girls on nature hikes, mastered your campfire skills and stood outside in sub-zero temperatures to support the Cookie Program. You've cleaned up countless glue stick messes, washed glitter from your hair for days and removed camp mud from your car seats and floor mats. But most importantly, you've helped to shape, inspire and fill girls with confidence every day as a Girl Scout volunteer.

You work hard and give so much of yourself all year long, and we think you deserve a little time to relax and unwind. So we've created these super cool adult coloring sheets (Girl Scout-style) and a fun Spotify playlist just for you! Get out some colored pencils, grab a yummy beverage, and find a quiet, comfy spot to enjoy some much deserved "me" time.
Thanks again for everything you do!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Volunteer spotlight: Mom loves watching girls build confidence, try new things

Tonia Seese and members of her Junior troop.
Tonia Seese was a Girl Scout as a child and recalls staying overnight at camp and sleeping in a tent unit. She remembers that the staff were from other countries. "One was from England and I loved her accent," she said. "I still to this day try to talk like her."

Now as a Girl Scout troop leader, Tonia is making lasting memories with her group of Juniors, which also includes her daughter Addison.

In her sixth year as a volunteer, Tonia started as a cookie mom in Ohio. After she moved to Pennsylvania, she became a troop co-leader. Now Tonia serves as a troop leader, service unit cookie and MagNut manager and delegate.

"I love leading my daughter's troop," Tonia said. "The girls teach me just as much as I teach them."

She enjoys watching the girls experience new things and have adventures in Girl Scouting.  During the service unit's Survivor Camp last summer, the girls learned archery, shelter building, first aid, made walking sticks and competed in an obstacle course. 

Tonia also appreciates the confidence that girls build in Girl Scouts. Last year her troop participated in the work weekend at Hawthorne Ridge and two girls were a little hesitant to stay the night at camp. 

"I told them they could just come for the day and both of them ended up calling home to ask if they could stay the night," she said.  "I love those moments when they show they are courageous and brave."

Like many volunteers, Tonia's biggest challenge as a troop leader is time. Many of her Girl Scouts are highly involved in sports and extra-curricular activities, but Tonia makes it work with careful planning. "We try our hardest to plan around as much as possible so they all can continue being involved in the troop." 

Our volunteers ROCK!

Without volunteers like Tonia, girls wouldn’t have the confidence-building, life-changing experiences that Girl Scouts offers. Thank you to all our volunteers for all you do to ensure girls’ futures are bright!

Volunteer spotlight: Dad leads Daisies, daughters

Greg Hill meets with the Daisy troop he leads.
Greg Hill and his wife Annah Hill joined forces to lead their daughters’ Daisy troop, and found that as a dynamic duo, they provided a valuable and unique experience that their daughters will never forget.

Greg was excited to take on this joint endeavor with Annah, hoping that their daughters will be rewarded with the same sense of accomplishment that he felt as a Boy Scout.

“I got involved because I was in Boy Scouts until I graduated high school,” Greg said.

“It was a great experience, and I want the same kind of experience for my kids. There’s a lot to be learned in Girl Scouts, and much of the same core lessons are similar. Both pledge to serve God, country, and others. I’d like to help these children along that path of service.”

Our volunteers ROCK!
Without volunteers like Greg and Annah, girls wouldn’t have the confidence-building, life-changing experiences that Girl Scouts offers. Thank you to all our volunteers for all you do to ensure girls’ futures are bright!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Gold Standard: Women share their stories of earning the highest award

As part of our celebration of the Gold Award 100th anniversary, we're sharing stories of women--from the business community, council staff, GSWPA volunteers and our own Girl Scouts--who have earned the highest award in Girl Scouting.

Today we're featuring an interview with Katie DeCapria, Digital Marketing & eCommerce Coordinator at 4moms, and a 2004 Gold Award recipient.

What role has Girl Scouts played in your life?
  1. Hard work. I served as an assistant camp counselor for several summers which laid a solid base in my work ethic. Those are long days that try your patience and energy level.
  2. Appreciation for different people. Even before it was "trendy,” the Girl Scouts have always been super inclusive of all types of people. Growing up in a more homogenous school, I appreciated this opportunity to make friendships with girls from different races, religions and backgrounds.
  3. My career. It was through the Girl Scouts that I found my passion for business. Originally, it was to be an entrepreneur but that evolved to my current profession in marketing. I participated in a business plan competition in my senior year which provided a ton of experience when applying to colleges.

Has earning the highest award helped you in your career?

My involvement in the Girl Scouts built up my confidence in a significant way while in a safe environment.

Tell us about your Gold Award project.

My Gold Award project was inspired by the cultural aftermath of 9/11. It was 2003-ish and at 16 years old, I couldn't help but notice and be worried by a growing division and prejudice among religious groups. It was a very sensitive time in the country for Muslims and I had this urge to show people that we really aren't different. There are commonalities within all major religions of the world -- kindness, honesty, compassion, and service. With the help of my friends and family, I secured four speakers, all of whom were religious leaders in major faiths (Islam, Judaism, Catholic, and Christian). They all spoke to those similarities as well as provide a little education on their religions' history, culture, etc.

The goal of this project was to showcase how we're one world, all united by a need to be kind and open to one another. The more we know about one another, the more accepting we will be of one another.

Join us!

Are you a member of this elite group of women who have achieved the Highest Award in Girl Scouts? Since 1916 these women have earned the Golden Eagle of Merit, Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar, First Class and the Girl Scout Gold Award. 

Join our network to connect with other award recipients and receive invitations to events for Girl Scouts’ top advocates, donors and supporters. Join today at

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bling Your Booth 2016 winners announced!

Congratulations to Troops 27127 and 16349 of Leechburg, who took first place in GSWPA's 2016 Bling Your Booth Contest! Their cute and colorful "Welcome to the Daisy Garden" booth garnered 388 votes! They'll receive a $100 Girl Scout Shop gift certificate and each girl will get a patch. Way to go!

Coming in a close second with 352 votes was Troop 36463 of Erie! Their super cool "Frozen" booth will earn them a $75 Girl Scout Shop gift certificate and a patch for each girl. 

Troop 27014 of St. Petersburg cooked up a third place finish, getting 338 votes for their kitchen-themed booth. They'll receive a $50 Girl Scout Shop gift certificate and each girl will get a patch.

We had 43 Bling Your Booth entries this year, and all of them were fantastic. Congratulations to our winners and great job to all who entered!