Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Discover, Connect, and Take Action: Girls Change the World"—GSCTX at the 2014 Girl Scouts national convention

"On Wednesday, October 15th Texas bound girls headed for Salt Lake City, Utah. Why you ask? For the 53rd annual Girl Scout national convention, of course! 

Twenty representatives made up of girls, volunteers, staff and board members represented Girl Scouts of Central Texas among the 6,000 participants in the week-long conference. Scouts who are members of GSUSA flew in from all over the world to participate in delegate sessions, Girl Scout leadership institute (GSLI) activities, meeting with collaborators, and listening to inspirational speakers. International guests and Girl Scouts were welcome too, introducing our girls to Girl Scouting outside of the states. Our GSLI girls represented the entire council area and were chosen to work on projects in their communities from the information they gained at the convention. 

Right now, our girls are working on such topics as addressing basic needs, education, teen violence and gender equality. Discover, Connect and Take Action was the theme of the conference and after meeting our new board, learning great ideas and sharing general practices our girls, staff and volunteers are ready to Take Action and change the world! The next conference will be held in Columbus, Ohio in 2017."

Thanks to Emily Magnotta for sharing the excitement of the national convention with us. We can't wait to see the projects our Girl Scouts will take on after this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Girl Experience Special Announcement: Outdoor Badge Voting

Girl Experience Special Announcement! When asked what the girls should do, Juliette Gordon Lowe responded, “What do the girls WANT to do?” During the national convention, GSUSA announced that starting in the fall 2015 program year, girls will be able to enjoy new outdoor badges and they want your input into what those badges will be. Girl Scout Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes and Seniors will vote first on an outdoor badge content area (i.e.: Outdoor Recreation, Outdoor Environment, or Outdoor Survival). Once there is a majority vote on the content area, girls will vote on the actual badge topic (i.e.: Hiking, Camping, Trail Blazing, etc.). Click here for more details!

This is going to be great!

Dripping Springs Girl Scouts Help Helping Hands Food Pantry

Dripping Springs/Wimberley Girl Scouts came to the rescue of a current protein shortage at the Helping Hands Food Pantry! Brownie Autumn P. from troop 406, and Cadette Sarah H. from troop 755, used donations from local Girl Scouts to fill a food cart to the point of overflowing with canned meats, fish, beans, peas, nuts, nut butters, dried beans and peas, hearty meat soups for the those in need in the Dripping Springs  area. These girls are setting the example for other community organizations and individuals to help make the world a better place through serving food nutrition for those that are down on their luck.

Following that trend, in early November, Dripping Springs/Wimberley Girl Scouts will contribute time and energy to the upcoming Empty Bowl Project, an effort that will feature area chefs at their best. This annual family-friendly event invites the community to select their favorite locally crafted ceramic bowl—many made by Girl Scouts— and fill it with gourmet soup & bread, and listen to live music while enjoying their meal. 

This year’s event will take place on Sunday, November 2, 2014 from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM at Sunset Canyon Pottery located at 4002 E. Hwy. 290 in Dripping Springs, TX 78620. Proceeds from the event will benefit Helping Hands, Inc. in providing food and aid to those in need.

Dripping Springs/Wimberley Girl Scouts is a 350 girl member unit organization, which specializes in growing girls into leaders through community service, and teaching girls skills in personal leadership that will last them a lifetime.  The area parent organization, Girl Scouts of Central Texas, serves 46 counties with  over 17,000 girl members who are making the world a better place. Girl Scouts make a lasting impact in the communities where they live!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Enriching the Lives of the Elderly: A Gold Award Project for the Aging

Gold Award Girls

The following entry was written by Leah Hook, and covers her Gold Award Project "Enriching the Lives of the Elderly." Learn all about why she chose this project, how she accomplished it and what it's doing to bring joy for a particular group in her community. Amazing work, Leah!

For my Gold Award project, I created a bird and butterfly sanctuary in the main outdoor garden (the Rose Garden) of the Wesleyan at Scenic Skilled Nursing, Rehabilitation and Memory Care facility in Georgetown, TX. This entailed providing appropriate habitat for the birds and butterflies by creating new garden beds of native plantings that attract wildlife as well as installing a variety of birdhouses and bird feeders.

My project addressed the social and emotional needs of the 165 aging residents at the Wesleyan.  As in most health care facilities for the elderly, many of the residents there spend a great deal of time in their rooms, secluded from the other residents.  In medical terms, they are "socially isolated."  The bird and butterfly sanctuary enticed them to come outdoors more often to enjoy the beauty of nature. It also provided them opportunities to socialize with more of the residents and guests.  The enriching activity of bird- and butterfly-watching allowed them to develop both new hobbies and new social connections, thereby reducing their isolation and loneliness.

Over a year's time, I completely renovated the Wesleyan's Rose Garden which serves as the main gathering place for residents and guests.  This involved a great deal of manual labor (of my family, volunteers, and me): we weeded all existing beds, pruned all trees and shrubs, removed leaves and debris, planted new ground cover, drew new garden borders, developed landscaping plans, and selected and installed new native plants and a decorative garden trellis. The other part of my project entailed the the creation and installation of birdhouses, bird feeders and a butterfly house in order to draw wildlife to the gardens.

As the culminating activity, I presented a bird-watching program to the residents in which I educated them about the birds most common to Williamson County and their unique characteristics and calls.  This enabled them to identify the birds that are frequenting the Rose Garden.  Along with a slideshow presentation, I also created a bird reference guide, The Georgetown Chorus, of the ten most common birds to visit bird feeders and gardens in the County.

The most successful aspect of my 110 hour project was increasing senior resident's interest in coming outdoors and viewing the numerous birds and butterflies within the Rose Garden.  The overgrown, weed-filled, poorly maintained Rose Garden is now a beautiful, thriving bird and butterfly sanctuary teeming with life.  Some of the residents are participating in the project by adding birdhouses, bird feeders, and plants of their own.  Most importantly, the residents are interacting with each other as they talk about the new plantings and the different birds and butterflies that are drawn to the sanctuary.  With the new activity of bird- and butterfly-watching, they are building common interests and connecting socially.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Meet the Team: Program and Travel Specialist, Emily Magnotta

Howdy friends!

My name is Emily Magnotta and I'm the Program and Travel Specialist in Bryan/College Station. I have been with GSCTX since March 2013. Prior to my time as a staff member with GSCTX, I graduated from Texas A&M in 2009 with a BS in Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences specializing in working with at-risk youth and youth with disabilities. I traveled the world for three years all through Girl Scouting before I landed back at GSCTX!

I love to travel, hence my extensive resume in Girl Scouts. I have been in the organization since I was five years old and have done everything from getting my Gold Award, attending 8 destinations, working and directing as camp staff, working as an independent contractor for GSUSA, to finding my nice and comfy home at GSCTX.

My hobbies are sewing, classic Hollywood, spending lots of time with my dog, Money Penny, and running in races. In my spare time outside of GSCTX I am a volunteer firefighter and CPR instructor. I love working with my brothers and sisters within the department to learn about something new each week! Firefighting is super cool!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Volunteering Doesn't Just Benefit Girls

As Girl Scouts staff members we don’t always see the impact Girl Scouting has on an adult volunteer – at least not as it happens. So, I felt privileged to see this happening with one volunteer.  

She joined Girl Scouts to help with her daughter’s troop, but wasn't sure she was quite up for the challenge of taking on the role of leader.  She is an introvert by nature; could hardly talk to other adults sometimes.  However, she understood the importance of her responsibilities  and took them on in order to become a better leader. 

She attended the council’s leadership training, sat in the back, and took it all in.  During a break, several experienced volunteers were talking and joking with the staff members that were there.  She stood on the other end of the porch – listening quietly.   When something funny was said, she would just smile, but she never quite joined in.

The next encounter with volunteers and staff members, she continued learning.  However, this time during the break she took a position a little closer to the action.  It took her four or five training sessions and a couple of years, but now she had mustered up enough courage to walk her way across that porch!  She began to talk and to share with others. 

Eventually, she joined the Service Unit team. Then, she undertook the role of a volunteer trainer.  She went on to became a Master Trainer and then a member of the council’s staff.  She insisted on working for free and had to be persuaded to take a paycheck.
Today, she is a lifetime Girl Scout and has worked for two councils for approximately ten years!

Sometimes, we forget that Girl Scouting can make a huge impact on adults as well!  We assume that all adult volunteers just have “what it takes.”  They do have the drive and the understanding that what they do is crucial, but there is also a lot of growth to take place when adults are in the picture.  

I know that Girl Scouting has impacted my life in a way that few people would realize. 

Let this be a reminder to slow down and spend time with volunteers!  You may be surprised at what you learn.  By all means, don’t be too quick to judge that shy lady in the back; she may surprise you!

-Lana Turner

Monday, September 22, 2014

Meet the Team: Awards Specialist, Miranda Sterling-Rains

Greetings, Girl Scouts! My name is Miranda Sterling-Rains and I'm the Awards (Bronze, Silver, Gold) Specialist for the Girl Scouts of Central Texas. I've been with the Council since December 2013.  Before that, I worked for the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles for two years.  I hold a Master's Degree in Organizational Leadership and a BA in Theatre.  I have a lot of experience working with children and I really enjoy it!

Here's a little background on me that you won’t get from reading my resume:  I have two black belts, one in Tae Kwon Do and the other in Shotokan Karate.  I currently train in kickboxing and Krav Maga.  On September 30, I will celebrate my one year wedding anniversary with my husband, Alec. We have two rescued dogs, Roxy and Henry (photo attached). We also have 3 adorable nephews and one beautiful niece - courtesy of my older brother and sister.  I also love to go SCUBA diving, fishing, snowboarding, camping, hiking…practically anything outdoors or athletic.  

My husband runs a martial arts school and teaches children and adults in Pflugerville.  I also love improv and theatre.  In LA, I performed with an improv group at Comedy Sportz and have been in several (small) professional productions.  With my training in martial arts, I also performed and choreographed fight choreography for theater and independent film.

I love providing our girls with opportunities that they may not have outside of Girl Scouts, expanding their horizons, and letting them see that they can achieve anything.  With the Gold Award, I love seeing the girls grow throughout the course of their project, from the beginning to end.  The leadership, passion, creativity, and determination they demonstrate is awe-inspiring.  I’m so proud of what our girls do!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Helping Sick Kids Sleep Tight

My name is Brittany M. and I am working on my Silver Award project. When I prepared for it, I knew that I wanted to help little kids.  I noticed that whenever I travel, I always carry a pillow with me. It makes me feel safe and, because it’s in the shape of a heart, it reminds me of my home because my house is filled with love.  

Thanks to a migraine, I ended up in the emergency room last year.  I was pretty uptight and boy, did I miss my pillow!  My mom and I came up with the idea of sewing pillow cases to give the children whose families stay at the Ronald McDonald House so they would have a one of their very own.   I wanted to make sure that when kids have to come to the hospital for treatment, they can carry a little piece of “home” with them so they can sleep tight.  I also wanted to teach others to sew these pillowcases so that more people can donate them to their local Ronald McDonald House.  My mom helped me think through this project and helped me stay motivated when the timing was tight.   While my original goal was 25 pillowcases, I am excited to say I will be donated 52 pillowcases! 

If you want to do a similar project, contact the Ronald McDonald House nearest you (  You can connect with local sewing groups, quilting groups, or maybe even your local cloth/hobby store if they give sewing lessons to see if they will provide the sewing machines (as well as someone that knows the machine to help you since they are all different).  Make sure you plan far enough in advance so others can come and ask for material donations or look for material on clearance.

MATERIALS   NEEDED: (If connecting with a sewing group, they will likely have most of the items below except the material and thread.)
·         Material 45” x 36”
·         Thread
·         Pins
·         Sewing Machine
·         Measuring Tape
·         A pair of scissors
·         Seam Ripper (optional)
·         Seam Gauge (optional)

1.     Choose a material that is washable as well as soft if being used for a sleeping pillow (not just one for decoration). 

2.     Second, fold the material inside out in half hot dog style (length-wise), otherwise it might not turn into a pillow case; I am speaking from experience when I say that it will turn into a blob and you’ll have to unstitch it.

3.     Line up the edges and trim off the salvage (the part at the sides of the material that sometimes has little pin holes or white space with no pattern). Cut off any ragged edges, too.  It’s easier to sew if it is a straight seam and it looks nicer, too!

4.   Pin the short side, starting from the folded corner, and the long side putting pins in as shown below. Make sure to only pin one short side, otherwise there won’t be a hole to put the pillow in. You can put pins about 1-3 inches apart depending on how comfortable you are with keeping the material together.

5.     After you are done pinning both sides, you are now ready to start sewing. Make sure the color of thread you are using matches the material, including the thread in the bobbin (the round thing below is filled with white thread).  (To determine how to thread the sewing machine and load the bobbin, see the instructions for your specific sewing machine.)

6.   Like you did with the pinning, start sewing the end where the material is folded over, keep about  ¼-½  inch away from the edge and make sure to lower the foot (that flat silver thingy that holds down the material to keep it well…flat). Hold the thread while you sew the first few stitches (then you can let go.)  After you sew about 5-10 stitches you are going to do what is called a back stitch where you go backwards for a few stitches and then continue forwards.  This keeps the thread from pulling out.  (See video below for steps 6-8.)   TIP:  Keep your fingers out of the way!  The needle is really sharp and accidents can happen fast.  (Thankfully, I don’t speak from experience).

7.   Continue to sew a ¼ inch seam along the pinned edges only as seen in the video. When you get about an inch away from the end make sure to keep the needle down and lift up the foot. Once the foot is up you are going to turn the material to the long side.

8.   Put the foot down and you can begin to sew again. This time you can go all the way to the end of the material and just like you did in the beginning, you are going to back stitch at the end.

9.  After sewing both sides you are going to lift the needle and foot and carefully pull the threads out a few inches.  Cut the thread close to the cloth…just don’t cut the cloth!

10. To make the hem for the opening of the pillowcase, you are going to fold over the open end about 2 ½ inches all the way around, while it is still inside out.

11. Fold ½ inch of material under the top. This will give you a 2 inch hem.

12. To keep the hem neat, you can use a seam gauge (shown below) or a ruler to measure 2 inches.  Pin tucked material all the way around with the pin head sticking out, through the first and second fold so it doesn’t unfold.  Make sure not to pin through both the top and bottom parts of the pillowcase or you’ll get to put the seam ripper to use and take out what you sewed!

13. Then open up the pillowcase and sew the hem.  Don’t forget to hold the thread!  Put the foot down so you can sew ¼ inch away from the double folded edge and start sewing. Be sure to back stitch after about 5-10 stitches in and then continue on until you have gone all the way around.

14. When you come to the end you are going to overlap the stitches and back stitch again. After all the sewing is done, trim the loose threads and turn the pillow case right side out.  You can also get creative in adding trim or decorations to the pillowcase if you want to. Just remember to use things that would actually be comfortable to sleep on!

Wash your pillowcase and donate!  Happy sewing!