The Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan (GSHOM) has been working hard on its mission to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place even throughout the pandemic. Going above and beyond to make sure that programs are still available and all girls are still being taken care of are top of mind for the organization. Headquartered in Kalamazoo, the organization serves about 16,000 girls from 34 counties throughout Michigan out of which about 3,000 hail from the Kalamazoo area. Brenna Smith, communications manager at Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan, caught up with FIRST & 42 to share about the programs that have been keeping the magic alive throughout the past several months.
“In this recent six months as the pandemic started, I’m really proud of what Girl Scouts has done to step up and serve and meet girls where they’re at, even with all the obstacles that girls are facing,” said Brenna. GSHOM was one of the first councils in the nation to step up during the pandemic by offering daily virtual programming not only to Girl Scouts, but to any girl. “We really are here to be there for and to empower any girl, and we didn’t want there to be any barriers to that.”
The organization aimed to help girls improve their critical thinking skills, learn and try new things, and also have a safe place to fail with its free daily virtual programming. This programming has been available on its Facebook page and on YouTube throughout the past several months. “That was our way of immediately responding to the needs of girls and really reaching them where they are at,” said Brenna. “We covered everything under the sun, because that is how our Girl Scouts leadership series is really structured. We did tie dye, science, mechanics, and anything you can think of—I’m sure we have a video about it.”
Beyond the daily video postings, GSHOM made sure that girls could still have their summer camp experience, a critical component of girl scouting. In a quick pivot, it offered Camp Reimagine which was five weeks of camp programming that a girl could experience in the safety and comfort of her home. Boxes that contained everything a girl needed to have a meaningful camp experience for a week were delivered to girls’ homes from a camp staff member. Girls participated in two virtual meetings throughout the day to connect with peers. “The girls had a blast. Some of the girls were sad at first that they couldn’t go to camp, but at the end, they found that connection and feeling of camp. Even though they had to do it virtually, it was really what they needed. That inspired us to keep going and figuring out ways to meet girls where they are at right now,” said Brenna.
“What we heard over and over again from girls was that those experiences are what got them through the summer,” said Brenna about the alternative programming. Support from the community is what continues to fuel the mission of Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan. If you’re interested in volunteering your time or supporting girls whose families have experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19, visit their website or call 1.800.497.2688.