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Girl Scout Troop 596 Helps Build Self-Esteem

Times Staff Writer

“You can make new friends,” Aubrey Rouse said. “You can be happy.”

Eight-year-old Aubrey seemed to speak for all 13 girls who gathered this week at a house in Chino to work on a project, plan future community activities, eat cookies, do a few chores and have a good time.

They’re members of Troop 596, one of almost 900 Girl Scout troops in the Spanish Trails Council, which serves more than 12,700 girls from kindergarten through high school in eastern Los Angeles County and southwestern San Bernardino County.

The Spanish Trails Council received a $10,000 grant from the Los Angeles Times Holiday Campaign, which raises money for nonprofit agencies in Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

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“The most important thing is that the girls have a place to go to be themselves, to develop self-reliance and self-esteem, and to become resourceful, successful citizens,” said Jeanne Ferrara, a council spokeswoman.

For Troop 596, that place is the modest house on Center Street in Chino. The house, which was acquired by the council several years ago, serves as a meeting place for several troops and a base for excursions to local malls and other field trips. The backyard is a site for both daytime and overnight camping.

Troop 596 is a Junior Girl Scout group, serving girls in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades at several schools in the neighborhood.

The girls started drifting in about 6 p.m., checking a roster called a “kaper chart” to find out what their assigned duties would be that evening.

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Rather than wearing formal Girl Scout uniforms, most elected to show up in school clothes, over which they wore short green Scouting vests decked with medals and patches denoting special achievements and seniority.

Sarah Haug, 10, led the flag salute that opened the meeting. Another girl took attendance, and a third made sure the dues of $5 a month had been collected.

After readings of the “laws” and “promises” -- short declarations of commitment to themselves, one another and the community -- the girls settled noisily down to the current project, which was making “feel-good” boxes.

Each girl had a small paper box that she decorated according to her own taste. Into each box went “good memories,” slips of paper with notations about happy experiences and uplifting thoughts.

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This week, each girl wrote something nice about another troop member for that member to put into her box.

“When we get them done, I’m going to keep my box on my dresser, so I can see it every day,” said 9-year-old Tasha Gibbs.

After a relaxed break for granola bars and other goodies, the girls talked about a recent project, sorting donated clothing for victims of Southern California’s wildfires. Then they planned a new project -- visits to shut-in senior citizens.

Offering helpful suggestions was Cheri Jones, a Chino resident who serves as the troop leader. Jones brought along her 7 1/2-month old daughter, Erynne, who watched the proceedings contentedly from a vantage point on her mother’s hip.

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Jones said she became a troop leader “because I’d been a Girl Scout and they needed somebody....

“I love it,” she said. “It means being able to touch other lives in a positive way.”

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HOW TO GIVE

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The annual Holiday Campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, which this year will match the first $800,000 raised at 50 cents on the dollar. Donations (checks or money orders) supporting the Holiday Campaign should be sent to: L.A. Times Holiday Campaign, File 56986, Los Angeles, CA 90074-6986.

Do not send cash. Credit card donations can be made on the Web site: www.latimes.com/holidaycampaign.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Contributions of $50 or more may be published in The Times unless a donor requests otherwise; acknowledgment cannot be guaranteed. For more information call (800) LATIMES, Ext. 75771.

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