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© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001
Re: To keep a pledge, Scouts pay leaders, March 5.
As one of the "unpaid" volunteers currently leading two Girl Scout troops in the Clearwater area, I am concerned that your article referred to people who were hired as program specialists and continually referred to them as "paid volunteers." Volunteers are not paid employees. The program specialists are hired to serve girls as a last resort when absolutely no volunteers are found to serve a given venue.
My concern is that after reading your article, parents who might have been on the very edge of accepting a volunteer position may just throw up their hands and say, "Why should I volunteer my valuable time when Girl Scouts will hire someone to be a leader for a troop for my daughter?"
As the neighborhood director for the area comprising northeast Clearwater, Safety Harbor and Oldsmar, in addition to being the leader for two troops, I have had the responsibility of attempting to find leaders for new troops to serve the girls in our area. It is not easy to find new leaders. I have heard all the excuses that people use -- single parent, going to school, pregnant, other children, working parent, going to college. You name it, I've heard it. Believe me when I say that there are many mothers volunteering as leaders who are single parents holding down one or two jobs while going to school. I should point out that I am not a stay-at-home mom either.
The awful truth is that some parents just don't care enough to help. Those who care find a way to help -- there are other volunteer positions in addition to being a troop leader. That is why having Girl Scouts for our current generation is so very important: because if the girls see other people volunteering for them, maybe when they are asked as adults to volunteer for their daughters, they will be willing to say, "Yes, I will be a Girl Scout volunteer so that my daughter can have the wonderful experience that I did as a child."
It is a shame that a volunteer organization has to spend hard-earned and/or donated money to pay people to go out and do what others volunteer to do.
I understand the plight of the girls in Pasco and Hernando counties. I grew up in central Pasco County. I was in a Girl Scout troop for a few years; however, that area was more interested in 4-H (an equally important organization) and eventually there was no leader to serve the Girl Scout troop. My parents together operated a business that was open seven days a week, closing only on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. I preferred Girl Scouts to 4-H, but our leader could not continue to do both. That is why it is so very important to me that my daughters not have to say when they are adults, "I was not in Girl Scouts because there was no leader."
I am sorry to say that I feel your article has done more harm than good for the name of Girl Scouts, where we are trying to serve every girl everywhere (preferably by volunteers).
Martha C. Stolz, neighborhood director, Old Harbor Bay Girl Scout Neighborhood, troop leader for Troop 813 (Junior) and 896 (Brownie), Clearwater
Re: "Hi, it's me. Just letting everyone know I have a cell phone," by Robert Trigaux, March 4.
I thoroughly enjoyed Robert Trigaux's article. The most common absurdity I've noted is the self-important stridency adopted by so many as they shout into the cell phone.
In the relative quiet of a line at the tax office recently, the woman behind me "rang" -- loudly. She had not only her phone set to its loudest ring, but her pager also. She had chatted briefly and quietly with another in the queue. Yet while on the phone, she belted out each phrase as if her words might be carried on different air waves separate from the cell phone's. Surely you've heard the "shouters" in restaurants, also. Why do people feel they must talk so much more loudly on cell phones than on regular phones or in person?
I try to keep my cell phone set on "low" and snuggled down deep in my purse. Frequently, I don't answer a call (it's on limited rings), letting the caller leave a message when I note on the caller ID that it's not one of my possible emergency callers. There are times when my ill husband must be able to reach me at a moment's notice, when my grandson is in the hospital for cancer and related treatments, or when we're expecting a call from a physician's office. Only then is it set up to "medium" and still down in my purse and muffled.
Oh yes, and I have begged family and friends to let me know immediately, if they ever feel that I have joined the "abominable shouters!"
J.H. Sallows, Seminole
In light of the recent spate of cruelty to animals, I cannot believe the insensitivity of the St. Petersburg Times in publishing such a cartoon on a page that is read by adult and child readers. Is it possible that your paper has become so inured to loathsome acts that it believes them to be worthy of a cartoon on a "funny" page?
Please tell me it isn't so. I prefer to believe that someone on the Times staff simply failed to spot such a tasteless insult to your audience.
Dianne Dupre Zalewski, Palm Harbor
What is the answer to society's woes? Never have we seen such violence in our schools as we have since one person, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, was allowed to expel God due to the complacency and apathy of the rest of society.
With the breakdown of the family unit and decline of morals and values, society is reaping what it has sown. We are all responsible for what we see our young people doing today because, as adults, we have failed to be good role models and good examples to our youth -- from the White House in Washington to "our house," Anywhere, USA. We are a nation whose currency boasts "In God We Trust" and who say that we are "One nation under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance while, at the same time, showing indifference toward the things of God in the two most important places of influence -- our schools and our homes.
Until we, as a nation, return to a higher, godly standard of living, I'm afraid we are in for more of the same heinous behavior from our youth who can only emulate the God-ordained teachers known as parents who are charged with the scriptural responsibility to train up a child in the way he should go so when he gets older, he shall not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
Len Vivolo, Clearwater
Another in a long succession of high-school shootings has left a nation to gasp in horror and to ask, once again, "Why?" Again the students, teachers and parents will report for counseling sessions to seek answers.
The "shooter" will once more be described as a child who felt rejected and demeaned by the school community, but will anyone address the guilt that some of the students must share -- guilt that they were responsible for not offering a helping hand to a troubled child?
Children should be taught at home the importance of simple acts of inclusion and kindness instead of rejection and poking fun at personal differences so that kids who feel "picked on" won't turn into vengeful killers.
As a retired elementary school teacher, I believe that there are many opportunities to reinforce positive behavior principles at all levels, from pre-kindergarten on. When instances of cruelty are observed, action should be taken in one-on-one conversations or in group situations.
Angry kids don't shoot up schools and kill because of a one-day occurrence of cruel treatment.
Ruth Rosell, Tarpon Springs
It is almost impossible to put into words the anguish and pain we all feel when learning of yet another outbreak of youth violence like the one last week in California. When horrible things like this happen, we are reminded of the importance of the youth development work we do each and every day and the challenge of continuing this work with even more commitment and effort.
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast provide adult role models and guidance for kids. Our clubs are safe havens, open and available for children every day after school and into the evenings for our teens. Around the country, some 2,800 clubs offer programs that encompass everything from teen centers to fine arts, from conflict resolution to gang prevention. All of these programs are well-received by our kids, but it is daily interaction with caring adults, we believe, that makes the biggest difference in positively influencing their lives.
At the Boys & Girls Clubs we strive to bring out the best in all of our children. There is no "in crowd," so to speak. Our goal is to teach young people to be caring and compassionate toward others.
Within those clubs, the staff listens. Kids are free to express themselves and to just be themselves. It's often through informal conversation that we are able to detect when something is wrong -- and move quickly to help.
Our hearts go out to the families, friends and communities victimized by this tragic violence. All of us at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast commit ourselves anew to giving all our children hope, opportunity and a positive future.
Carl R. Lavender Jr., executive director, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, St. Petersburg
Every week there seems to be another episode of teen violence. The news media do a fine job of reporting the "hows" and "whys." The incidents are analyzed and reported in great detail. So much of this news is about the 1 percent of our teens who are on drugs, involved in violence or have perpetrated some crime against society.
Do you think that it would be possible for your newspaper to periodically feature articles that compliment our teens? I am not speaking of the teen who is class president or the teen who has the 3.9 grade point average. I believe that your readers would enjoy learning about the average good student who is struggling through his teens years. An article about the average son or daughter who is loved by their parents and family. I believe that it would be very refreshing to read some good things about our struggling kids. How about sending a reporter to a local park and interviewing some teenagers at the spur of the moment about their thoughts, dreams and desires? I am tired of reading about the kids involved in the schemes to blow up a school or about why a child would shoot someone.
Let us have more positive news about the son or daughter of "Joe Average." Let us have some news of the good kid next door who works at the local supermarket and belongs to the school band and has never been in trouble. This may not be easy journalism, but it will be interesting journalism.
Joseph M. Lucasiewicz, Spring Hill
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