By: Georgia Gilbert, East Syracuse/Minoa Area Service Unit Manager
The end of the year holidays are a time for families, friends and fun! What better time to reflect on the year gone past and be thankful. It is also a time when people’s generosity runs high because of that thankfulness and that holds especially true for the Girl Scouts. While service to the community is a constant endeavor for the Girl Scouts, the holiday time offers additional opportunities to give back.
In the early days of Girl Scouting while children were making their list to Santa for the latest new toy such as Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys, the Girl Scouts were collecting dolls to give to the children that would not be getting a visit from Santa. Tuberculosis was a major health issues and Girl Scouts sold Christmas Seals to help raise money to keep the sanatoriums open that housed the ill. Girls sang hymns and carols at the homes for the aged, in hospitals and orphan asylums. They handmade ornaments for Christmas trees and shared their molasses candy and a new candy, peppermint Lifesavers.
The following years brought the depression and more war. Girl Scouts were still helping the Christmas Seal cause by stuffing envelopes and other duties for the organization. They helped to put together charity food baskets for the people who waited in bread lines. By the 1940’s more women went to work as men went off to war. Girl Scouts helped out more at home doing household duties and babysitting. They acted as couriers making deliveries by foot or bike. They rolled bandages for the Red Cross and helped make soft dolls and stuffed animals from scraps from sewing looms for the relief agencies sending toys overseas. Caroling now included some new songs such as “White Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
While the following decades brought the Korean War, the Civil Rights movement and the Gulf War, the Girl Scouts were still going strong. They held can drives and clothing drives, made cards for people who were hospitalized, and went caroling throughout the neighborhoods. By the 1970’s the Girl Scouts were still helping out the Christmas Seal organization by erecting signs. They helped serve meals at soup kitchens and collected books to donate to libraries and schools. They collected toiletries for the homeless and handed out drinks at community events.
Girl Scouts today are still collecting canned goods for food pantries, toys for underprivileged children in third world countries as well as local children’s hospitals; they are making and sending cards to our troops as well as sending Christmas trees and items that the military personal cannot normally find where they are stationed. Girls are making ornaments and table favors for the residents of nursing homes, holding holiday parities for the elderly and children alike, they are making bread and handing it out as a kind gesture based on the Spread the Bread philosophy, they collect blankets for the local animal shelters and, as always, they are singing.
Time goes on, traditions come and go. We went from chopping down trees in a field to purchasing a tree from a lot, to setting up an aluminum tree and then back to chopping down our own tree again. Children still asked Santa for the latest toy whether it be an erector set, board games, Barbie dolls, Easy Bake Ovens or video games. We feasted on plum pudding to cranberry molds to cheesecake. But one thing always remains the same and that is the Girl Scout tradition of giving back to its community. This tradition will never fall out of fashion. We just have to wait to see what the girls’ come up with next!