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Girl Scouts having tough time finding troop leaders

Many Florida youngsters are being shut out of troops because there aren't enough leaders to serve them.

©Associated Press
February 3, 2003

NORTH PALM BEACH -- Membership in the Girl Scouts of America is at a 20-year high, but that popularity surge also has resulted in problems for some other girls still hoping to join the ranks of Daisies, Brownies and Cadettes.

The reason: There aren't enough adult troop leaders to meet the demand.

"We have changed with the times," national Girl Scout spokeswoman Ursula Castrillon said.

The problem is seen from New York to Alaska and most points in between. For example, as many as 500 girls in Palm Beach County are on a waiting list to join a Girl Scout troop.

"Ten years ago, you had more women who stayed home or worked only part-time," said LaClaire Bowdry, director of field services for Girl Scouts in Palm Beach County.

"Think about coming home at 5 o'clock, picking up the kids, getting dinner on and then you're going to have a scout meeting?"

West Palm Beach troop leader Wanda Meeks-Thomas has tried to lighten the load on adult schedules by arranging for several troops of different ages to meet at the same place at the same time. But no approach is sure to work.

Kim Sullivan became a Girl Scout troop leader five years ago so her 5-year-old daughter could join the ranks. The same problems persist today, despite Sullivan's regular pitches to other parents to offer their help.

"Yesterday, I was handed the name of a first-grader who wants to become a Brownie," Sullivan said. "The organization may call her (mother) to see if she wants to be a volunteer. That's the only way her daughter is going to be a Brownie."

The Boy Scouts also are experiencing record surges in enrollment, but have little problems attracting adults to help, Gulfstream Council president Woody Woodward said.

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