Troops Get Girl Scouts' Gift of Caring

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2007 - When the Girl Scouts combined their knack for selling cookies with their dedication to community service, they cooked up the Gift of Caring program. Each Girl Scout troop can choose a Gift of Caring partner to receive donated boxes of Thin Mints, Do-si-dos, Trefoils and other baked favorites throughout the cookie-selling season.

Many girls of the 4,000 troops in the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital have chosen the United Service Organizations as their partner, encouraging customers to purchase additional cookies to be given to U.S. servicemembers.
"I think it makes soldiers feel good," Lexi Rhem, an 8-year-old member of Troop 652 in Springfield, Va., said. "One of the girls actually got a (thank you) letter back from a soldier."
Many GSCNC troops in the past have selected U.S. servicemembers as their Gift of Caring recipient, and this is Troop 652's third consecutive year.
Knowing that U.S. troops are serving their country abroad makes Lexi feel "safe, but kind of sad, because they're away from their families."

But giving the troops cookies can help them feel closer to home, she said.
"For little girls who hear a lot about what's going on in the world but don't have a direct connection, this is a great way to make a connection," Laura Basset, GSCNC product sales specialist, said. "It takes something that's abstract in their lives and makes it a little more concrete."
For older Scouts, giving cookies to U.S. troops is a way to learn civic responsibility, Pam Horton, USO volunteer coordinator and Girl Scout troop leader, said.
"The older girls had discussions about (troop deployment) and they said they wanted to do something to help," Horton said. "They got lots of thank yous and positive feedback from people who had taken the cookies over and distributed them. ... It made them feel good."
Washington-area Girl Scout troops donating to servicemembers will deliver the cookies in one of two ways: sending boxes abroad to deployed troops or handing servicemembers care packages at the USO International Gateway Lounge at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
"Our flagship lounge at BWI is 5,000 square feet, and it gets a lot of foot traffic," Horton said. "We make the cookies directly available to soldiers in the lounge who are deploying and returning.
"We usually take two or three girls to deliver care packages there, and I never have a problem filling those spots," she said.
The Gift of Caring is not just a great way to sell cookies, but it also instills a good lesson, Basset said.
"Part of the whole mission of Girl Scouts is service to community, service to country," Basset said. "So the (Girl Scout) troop gets the benefit from selling the cookies, but they're also doing it as service. Everybody wins."

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