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Girl Scouts organization celebrates 100th birthday

Girl Scouts of the United States of America is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Pictured above, local Girl Scouts are pictured with a banner they made for the centennial.

The Girl Scouts of the USA turned 100 on March 12 and the organization is a buzz of activity as troops plan their individual and group centennial celebrations.

In New Richmond, Girl Scouts have come a long way since beginning in the late 1950s. Deann Bauer, New Richmond's service unit manager, has been involved in Girl Scouts since she was in second grade. She and her family moved to New Richmond in 1995 and has been credited with growing the program in New Richmond from 57 Girl members and about 20 volunteers to 24 troops with more than 155 active Girl Scouts and more than 70 volunteers.

Bauer, whose mother was also a Girl Scout, said she got involved because she didn't have a choice. Her mother was going to volunteer as a troop leader and wanted her daughter to be involved.

"I grew up with it all," she said.

It didn't take long for her to get hooked.

The Girl Scouts were founded in 1912 by Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low in Savannah, Georgia. According to the Girl Scouts of the USA website, Low believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually. With the goal of bringing girls out of isolated home environments and into community service and the open air, the Girl Scouts of 1912 hiked, played basketball, went on camping trips, learned how to tell time by the stars, and studied first aid.

Today, Girl Scouts of the USA has a membership of more than 3.2 million girls and adults, a significant growth from its modest beginning when Low gathered 18 girls in Savannah in 1912.

"Girl Scouts allows members to do things they have never tried before," Bauer said. "I've met lots of really amazing women, girls and families."

Believe it or not, Girl Scouts are not all about Girl Scout Cookies, camps and crafts, Bauer said.

"That's just where we get our money," she said. "Without cookie sales, we wouldn't have any money to do the things we do."

Some of those things include: overnight camping trips, troop activities, take action projects, community service and other learning opportunities.

Most activities teach the girls true life lessons, Bauer said. For example, when Bauer's daughter, Anna, was just 14, she helped plan a 28-day trip to Germany and Switzerland. She was responsible for travel plans, money management and fundraising.

"All of these responsibilities helped to grow her courage and confidence," Bauer said. "That's what Girl Scouting is really about."

According to the Girl Scouts of the USA website, most girls join a local troop for fun and friendship; however, Bauer says that it is really because a significant woman in their lives had a great Girl Scout experience and wanted their daughter, granddaughter or niece to experience the traditions of Girl Scouts.

In Girl Scouts, girls find a safe place to grow and share new experiences, learn to relate to others, develop values and contribute to society in a positive way. Through this organization girls develop character and self-esteem while serving their communities -- all the core qualities of a true Girl Scout.

To celebrate the 100-year milestone, Girls Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys planned a weekend at the Mall of America where more than 135,000 girls from all over came to learn and share their love of Girl Scouts with each other.

In addition, Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys is planning a Day of Service event to help their communities improve water resource conservation and protection. The council-wide environmental service project is designed to reduce phosphorus levels in lakes and rivers. The idea is to physically remove 20,000 pounds of yard-waste from street gutters before it enters lakes and rivers, preventing the growth of 10 million pounds of algae and saving $6 million in clean-up costs.

In New Richmond, plans are a little different, Bauer said. Girls in the New Richmond area will be working with local churches and senior organizations to help those who are not able to rake or clean up their yard. Girls will weigh each bag of yard waste to calculate the reduction of phosphorus levels in water.

Each year, the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys serves nearly 45,000 girls in 49 counties. With the support of almost 18,000 volunteers, Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys helps girls discover new abilities, connect with friends and take action to improve their communities. Girl Scouts is the world's prominent leadership development organization for girls, building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. Girls of all abilities in kindergarten through 12th grade are welcome. Adult volunteers are welcome too. For more information, call 800-845-0787 or visit