Hollis Brookline Girl Scouts travel to founder’s birthplace in Savannah

n important life lesson is how to make an action plan to achieve a goal once it has been set.

A group of local Girl Scouts dreamed about traveling to Savannah, Ga., to visit the home of Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the organization in 1912. Following a year of planning and fundraising, that dream became a reality during April vacation. While in Savannah, the girls held their bridging ceremony from Seniors to Ambassadors, the highest level for 11th- and 12th-graders.

“I’d never been down to Savannah, so to go down there with the Girl Scout troop was such a motivator for me,” said Terésa Randlett, who also experienced her first plane ride on the trip. “It was full of history, which I love, and enough to get me to all those bake sales.”

Troop 12034 was formed a few years ago when troops from Hollis and Brookline merged. The troop is comprised of four high school sophomores: Natalie Lewis, who started as a Daisy Scout, Michaela Pillion and Terésa, who both joined as Brownies, and Cassandra Reijgers, who came to scouting as a Junior. Nora Lewis and Karin Pillion serve as the leaders.

This is not the first time the troop has traveled to have a special ceremony. According to Nora Lewis, they traveled to New York City two years ago, when it was time to move up from Cadets to Seniors, and held that bridging ceremony on the Brooklyn Bridge. That was when the girls first began to think about what to do for their advancement to the final level and decided on a pilgrimage to Low’s birthplace.

Fundraising teaches business skills

The annual fall product sale and midwinter sale of Girl Scout cookies raise money for the troop, but not nearly enough for a trip involving plane fare and overnight accommodations. Toward that end, the girls hosted a variety of fundraisers during the year, from bake sales to a spaghetti dinner.

“We learned how to do all of the business end of fundraising,” Terésa said. “We figured out how to set up, how to market it, and put a lot of thought into it.”

They held bake sales at Harvest Market in Hollis in November and December, and another for Valentine’s Day. Homemade goodies included chocolate covered pretzel rods, cake pops, cookies, brownies, breads and muffins.

“We asked for donations instead of just pricing items,” Michaela said. “People seemed to respond to us and wanted to give more for the cause.”

The final fundraiser was a spaghetti dinner at the Congregational Church of Hollis in April, just a couple of weeks prior to the trip. All together, the girls raised about $2,000 toward their expenses.

Planning the trip

Troop leader Lewis explained the amount of effort involved in planning the trip. Because it was an official Girl Scout activity, she had to submit a proposal to the council explaining the details of the trip, itinerary, accommodations and how it would be funded. That was in addition to making reservations for tours, hotel and plane flights.

To get the most of the experience, the Scouts also did their research before leaving town. They read up on Juliette Gordon Low and other local attractions so they would be prepared. At their end-of-the-year ceremony, they did a skit on Low, portraying different characters from her life, as well as a trivia quiz.

And Terésa had to prepare for her first airplane flight.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” she laughed. “I loved it. I just chewed gum.”

Low’s birthplace

Their first full day in Savannah, they woke up early, donned their khaki uniforms, and headed over to the main attraction: the Juliette Gordon Low Girl Scout National Center. The English Regency house where Low was raised was purchased and restored by the Girl Scouts in 1953, and was designated a registered National Historic Landmark in 1965.

While there, the Scouts toured the house and gardens, participated in a scavenger hunt, and viewed presentations on the woman whose organization grew from 18 Girl Guides in 1912 to its current 3.7 million members.

During the Sisters of the Palette tour, the Scouts learned about the kinds of art they did in Low’s day.

“I didn’t know she was such a good artist,” said Cassandra, who learned that Low sculpted, painted and worked in wood. She was a trained blacksmith who traveled a lot, as well as an accomplished equestrienne.

Terésa enjoyed the artwork, but also was impressed with the tour of Low’s parents’ house.

“They were a very interesting, wealthier family,” she explained. “There were a lot of interesting pictures and artifacts. I thought it was beautiful.”

Michaela said she was impressed with the slide show on Low’s life, and she enthusiastically recounted the story of how Low got an ear infection from rice thrown at her wedding that got lodged in her ear, resulting in a punctured eardrum and permanent hearing loss.

“She resembled what a Girl Scout is, what every girl should reach for,” said Natalie Lewis. “Even the patches we earn, she had everything each girl should learn.”

It seemed only fitting that the bridging ceremony from Senior to Ambassador Scout be held in the gardens of the national shrine.

Other Savannah sites

Another highlight of the trip was touring the beehives and honey shop at the Savannah Bee Company.

“We tasted 10 different kinds of honey and learned where they come from,” said Karin Pillion. “Some were local but some were from Italy or South America.”

The group enjoyed a special lunch at the Olde Pink House, a historic mansion built for the Habersham family in the 1700s, and also dined at Planters Tavern, built in 1811. New foods sampled included fried green tomatoes, grits and pralines. The girls confessed to buying and devouring a pound and a half of pralines.

Favorite attraction

Another favorite attraction was their tour of the Mercer Williams House, made famous in the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” It was not part of the original agenda, but they tried to make the best use of free time, and everyone raved about the tour.

The girls and leaders alike were impressed with the beauty of Savannah, from the squares and little parks to the trees draped with Spanish moss.

Reflections on Scouting

The girls were asked what being a Girl Scout has meant to them, and here are their responses:

“If I didn’t have Girl Scouts, I don’t think I would have gotten my fair share of camping,” said Natalie. “We also have done cool activities, like curling last year. I had never tried it.”

“We are a group, but we all are leaders,” Terésa said. “We may be a small group, but we still have our own opinions and learned to compromise.”

“We learn to be confident in ourselves,” Cassandra said.

“I got to experience new things,” said Michaela. “My family is not very outdoorsy so I never got to experience camp. Also, thinking about different cultures, not just random activities. They have a purpose. We volunteer and help others, and that’s very rewarding.”