BY STACI WILSON
Over the past 100 years Girl Scouts of the USA has been shaping the lives of women while building lifelong friendships.
And for 65 of those 100 years, Harford Twp. resident Virginia John, better known as Ginny, has been a Girl Scout with Troop 38. The Bucks County troop began meeting in 1947.
John said, “We have been together for 65 years and still meet. We’re like a family.”
On Saturday, John and her sister Barbara – along with Troop Leader Betty (Berger) Porter, now in her 90s – were recognized at the annual meeting of Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania inHarrisburg. Ginny and Barbara were presented the “Forever Green” award at the meeting.
She said troop members gather at least twice each year at their Porter’s home for lunch and “catching up.”
Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania’s Chief Executive Officer Jane Ransom said of Troop 38’s longtime dedication, “To me, it underlines the need for Girl Scouts. We needed it 65 years ago and we need it now. It’s an organization that really focuses on girls’ leadership and self-confidence by exposing them to all the opportunities there are in the world.”
John said, “It was the best organization in the world for girls – it still is – you can’t get away from that.”
At the meeting, John and her sister spoke about the troop’s weekend camping trips in cow fields in homemade sleeping bags and no tents.
Over the years, the troop became more adventurous setting off to hike a portion of theAppalachian Trail.
Troop 38 headed west in 1959, camping on golf courses, reservations and at Girl Scout camps on their way to the Grand Canyon where they traveled to the bottom on mules.
Cost of the trip, John said, was $87.
Ransom said, “They were just having a blast all the time. Their leader took them out on some difficult camping trips and to theGrand Canyon– it was just a life changing experience for them.”
John said, “(The camping) made me love the outdoors so much – you can’t get away for that.”
Ransom said Girl Scouts helped John and others in her troop become the women they are today.
“So many people relate to that feeling of bonding in Girl Scouts. It’s really great helping girls find their voice and their place in the world,” Ransom said.
John, a retired English and physical education teacher fromMountain View, has not kept her love of Girl Scouts to herself.
She has spent most of her adult life as a troop leader. Both John and her sister, who now lives inLancasterCounty, are currently trainers in outdoor skills and basic leadership.
John believes learning outdoor skills are some of the useful lessons in scouts.
“I use those skills everyday of my life – from tying square knots to fire building,” John said.
“(Learning those skills) is what keeps people in scouting and fun is a by-product of learning those skills,” she said.
John also credits Girl Scouts with instilling her with strong sense of honesty, as she recounted a story of one Troop 38 experience.
“We were in the leaders’ cars, going to meeting place one time when one girl threw a chewing gum wrapper out of the window,” John said.
The leaders stopped the cars, handed each girl a bag and the troop picked up litter along about a quarter-mile of the roadway.
“Nobody was ever scolded,” said John, “but everybody learned their lesson.”
“That was day that started me knowing I would never litter. And we wouldn’t think of lying – probably much more so because of Girl Scouts.”
But it isn’t just the camping and camaraderie that have kept John a Girl Scout all these years.
“I love the Girl Scout Law and the Promise,” John said. “The ideals set forth by Girl Scouts are something to strive for.”
“I won’t give it up.”