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Girl Scouts mark birthday

| Sunday, March 11, 2001

Girl Scouts of the United States of America celebrates it birthday Monday.

The anniversary is marked during Girl Scout Week, which begins today.

The 89-year-old national organization was founded in 1912 in Savannah, Ga., by Juliette Gordon Low.

At the start of the 21st century, there are approximately 880,000 adults involved in the program and 99 percent are volunteers, the national organization reports. They serve as leaders for 3.6 million members.

Because of increased membership of late, the Girl Scouts' program age level has had to expand. There were three program levels in the 1930s. Today, there are five: Daisy, for ages 5-6; Brownie, 6-8; Junior, 8-11; Cadette, 11-14; and Senior, 14-17.

Helping to keep the movement active in the Mon Valley area have been two adult leaders who share more than 20 years in Girl Scouting.

Debbie Tyburski has been a Girl Scout leader of Cadette Troop 4031 in Belle Vernon for eight years, while Marguerite Patterson has 12 years with Senior Troop 4029, also in Belle Vernon.

According to Tyburski, she started as an adult leader with the Daisy Girl Scouts, then directed Brownie Scouts followed by Junior Girl Scouts. She currently leads the Cadette Troop.

She noted that Cadette Troop 4031 recently merged with Cadette Troop 4046 of Monessen.

Also for three years, Tyburski has been a coach and supervises seven Brownie troops. 'A coach,' she explained, 'provides one-on-one support to the troop leaders to make sure girls receive quality programs. Coaches are mentors.'

Tyburski sees Girl Scouting as fun. 'I like doing field trips because they are interesting. I learn right along with the girls.'

She recalls the days when she was a Girl Scout. 'It seems that I've always been interested in Girl Scouts. I've always liked it.'

She pointed out that Girl Scout activities are based on four program goals - developing self-potential, relating to others, developing values, and contributing to society. The organization's mission, she adds, is to inspire girls with the highest ideals of character, conduct, patriotism and service that they may become happy and resourceful citizens.

Patterson said she's been a Girl Scout leader of Troop 4029 12 years and noted that the girls she had started with in the troop are now Senior Girl Scouts.

Patterson's dedication to Girl Scouting earned her an Outstanding Leadership Award three years ago. 'I didn't even know that the girls in my troop and their parents submitted my name for it. I was surprised,' she said.

For the past year, she has also been serving as a coach and supervised troops in the Junior Girl Scouts.

In relating her start in Scouting, Patterson said, 'I went to summer camp with a group of seven girls because they had no adult leader that was able to go with them. The girls had so much fun, and I had just as much fun.

'In Girl Scouts there are so many opportunities. You can do many things that you couldn't do by yourself, such as high adventure-like activities that you need special permission to do.

'For instance,' she continued, 'we go horseback riding. At Ohiopyle, we have gone camping and whitewater rafting. We've done rappelling, and that is where we had to climb down a mountain holding on to a rope. We even rappelled in the Laurel Caverns.'

She said, 'I love Girl Scouts because the kids get so much out of it. I have so many memory books filled with photos of what the kids and I have done together. It has been a big part of my life. The leaders in Girl Scouts are so well trained. I think I took every kind of training class offered. Is is unbelievable.'

THE FOUNDER
Juliette Gordon Low, or Daisy as she was known to her family and friends, was born in Savannah, Ga., on Oct. 31, 1860. After she married, she lived in England and Scotland. While there, she met Lord Robert Baden-Powell, a British officer and founder of the Boy Scouts (1908), and his sister, Agnes, founder of the Girl Guides (1909).

They interested Low in becoming a leader of Guide companies in Scotland and London. She thought the concept of a girl-centered organization was a great idea and dreamed of starting one in the United States.

Low sailed back to America in 1912. Described as a woman of tireless energy and full of enthusiasm, upon arrival at her home in Savannah she was quick to telephone a friend with the invitation, 'Come right over, Nina, I've got something for the girls of Savannah and all America, and all the world, and we are going to start it tonight.'

A meeting followed the phone call with a group of 18 girls from Nina Pape's school, and the first Girl Guide company was organized in the United States. In 1913, the name was changed to Girl Scouts.

Low believed that women could do anything if they wanted to. She thought women could appreciate their traditional roles, as well as explore, learn and experience other things as well.

Low wanted girls to get out, use their talents, serve their communities, and experience outdoor life.

She was an accomplished artist, sculptor and painter. She also adored animals, particularly cats and dogs, and had a number of pets. Low even acquired the skills to pilot aircraft.

Within months of the first meeting on March 12, 1912, the girls were out hiking, participating on basketball teams, going on camping trips and learning about first aid.

Low personally funded these early projects by selling her pearl necklace, valued at approximately $8,000.

Today many Girl Scout program activities are made possible from money earned from the annual Girl Scout cookie sales. The first national cookie sale was held in 1936. The cookies remain a favorite today.

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