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Taking Christmas cheer to nursing homes

Groups of Girl Scouts worked together to decorate wreaths with donated Christmas ornaments on Monday. They will take the wreaths to people in local nursing homes. Pictured from left are Olivia Dye, Madi Garrison and Miley Congleton.

By BOB HANSEN - bhansen@newsexaminer.com

Wall-to-wall Girl Scouts packed into the meeting room at The Pizza Place on Monday, assembling wreaths and getting ready to take them to people living in local nursing homes.

Marrisa Taylor, leader of the Fayette County Girl Scout service unit, talked to them about the people they will be visiting.

“Older people have different kinds of wisdom,” Taylor said to girls many years younger than typical nursing home residents. Scouts are aged from kindergarten through high school. Older people “... see the world in a different way than you do.”

“The advantage that older people have is they have walked a mile in the shoes that you are in,” she said. “They have had experiences that you can only dream of.”

She asked the girls why it’s important to visit people in nursing homes. Some girls said that maybe the people there are lonely and need visitors or that many are not able to get out because they don’t walk well or don’t drive.

Taylor’s talk warmed the girls to their task: making wreaths from donated Christmas ornaments. After the crafting project, each troop would get to decide which nursing home to visit with the wreaths.

“I will tell you that no matter what you do, they will love it,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Deana Sargent, a troop leader and past service unit leader, spoke to Connersville Rotary Club about Girl Scouting in the county.

“Ten years ago when I started as a leader, we had one troop in Fayette County. Now we have 14 troops that are very active,” she said. In Connersville, 105 girls are members this year, compared to 80 in 2018.

Girl Scouting develops leadership in its members, she said, with troops deciding on their own activities. Girl Scouts has different levels of programming depending on age or grade level.

Cookie sales help the girls learn about personal finance and running their own business, she said. The annual sales -- the chocolate-covered peanut butter cookies called Tagalongs are Fayette County’s favorites -- are the major fundraiser for troop and individual activities.

During a yearly cookie rally that precedes the sale, leaders teach the girls skills such as the correct way to count out change and how to make a good sales presentation. They also help the girls learn to set goals and then make a sales plan to raise enough money to accomplish what they want to do.

As a result local troops have taken some big trips. One troop took a cruise during the recent fall break from school. Another participated in robotics competition and another visited Disney World.

“Many of these kids don’t get that kind of opportunity,” she said. “If I can do that with them, they will have a memorable experience that they might not have any other way.”

Community service is also part of the program. Local troops collected old shoes which were taken to a place in Rushville, where usable shoes are reused and unusable ones are ground up for recycling. A local troop works with the Department of Child Services adopt-a-child program at Christmas.

Troops are now collected plastic bottle caps which will be melted down and turned into Buddy Benches like one placed at the Roberts Park playground last year. 

In sum, Sargent said, Girl Scouting “is a little bit of fun, a little bit of give back, a lot of learning.”