MacKenzie Scott donates a lot of dough — $2.8 million — to Girl Scouts of Orange County

Girl Scouts from Newport Beach troops 7483 and 5381 salute one another during a meeting at Newport Ridge Community Park.
Girl Scouts from Newport Beach salute one another during an Oct. 28 meeting at Newport Ridge Community Park. The Girl Scouts of Orange County received a $2.8-million donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
(Don Leach / Times Community News)

Sophie Harris lives in Corona del Mar, where most of her transportation needs are met by personal vehicles. But during a recent Girl Scout trip to San Francisco, she discovered the joys of mass transit.

“I liked the public transportation — we went on the trollies and the cable cars,” the 11-year-old recalled of her summertime adventure. “In Corona del Mar we don’t get to do that a lot.”

Lisa Anhalt, mother of two Scouts and leader of Newport Beach Troop 7483, said the trip was packed with new experiences for the girls and for the adults who supervised them.


“We were trying new foods. We rode all the public transportation — it was so much fun,” she said during a troop activity at Newport Ridge Community Park. “The best thing about Girl Scouts is it provides opportunities girls may not be able to have with their families.

Headquartered in Irvine, Girl Scouts of Orange County provides programs, activities and leadership skills for some 15,000 Scouts in 1,200 troops countywide. And now, thanks to a $2.8-million commitment from billionaire and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the nonprofit is supercharging its mission by expanding to serve more girls in more local communities.

A woman stands while girls sit and work on an art project at a park
Troop leader Lisa Anhalt leads Scouts in an art project in Newport Beach.
(Don Leach / Times Community News)

Leaders of the organization were informed they were among 29 councils of the national organization personally selected by Scott to receive a portion of the total $84.5 million in funding that she donated to the Girl Scouts of the USA. Scott was previously married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Chief Executive Vikki Shepp said staff have drafted a plan to use the funding to build pon Girls Scouts of Orange County’s All-Girl Initiative, launched in 2020 to expand access to girls in underengaged communities, bolster career readiness and outdoor programs, and invest in research and staff and volunteer training.

The former wife of Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has donated two mansions worth a combined $55 million to the California Community Foundation.

Sept. 29, 2022

Part of the contribution will be used to establish a greater physical presence in Santa Ana by opening a program center and to hire an arts program manager to build on programming and an inclusion specialist to accommodate Scouts with diverse needs.

“This gift really benefits every girl in some way,” Shepp said. “I know how important the [Scouting] experience is, and I want every girl to have that opportunity.”

Girls assembled last week in a multitroop activity at Newport Ridge Community Park, where they decorated pumpkins and penned cards and letters to first responders. Scouts huddled together at picnic tables, the backs of their vests emblazoned with badges that hinted at what the organization offers its members.

A girl decorates a pumpkin at the park
Girl Scout Tatum Porter decorates a pumpkin during an activity session in Newport Beach.
(Don Leach / Times Community News)

Some heralded completion of units related to storytelling, kindness, self-defense, hiking and climbing. Others advertised trips to national parks in Death Valley, New Mexico and Utah.

Laila Mork, a leader for Newport Coast’s Troop 5381 and the mother of two Scouts, said the news about Scott’s donation to Girl Scouts of Orange County has been spreading among members and volunteers.


“It’s big news around here — I’m very excited,” she said. “This means more experiences and leadership opportunities for more girls. We’re only reaching about 3% of the girls in our area. [Girl Scouts] is so great for the girls who are in it, but who are we missing?”

One man’s opinion on the best (and worst) Girl Scout cookies available.

Feb. 24, 2021

Mork hopes the funds can help provide more regular meeting spaces for troops that often rely on relationships with schools and other groups that run local facilities. Anhalt said she’d love to see more outdoor events and outreach into underserved communities.

“I think Girl Scouts is great for all girls, and every girl should have access to it if they choose to be in it,” she said. “I would like all the girls in the world to learn leadership skills and make friendships and have those experiences.”

Girls are sitting at a table and drawing on pumpkins at the park
Sophie Harris, far left, draws a face on a pumpkin during a Girl Scout meeting. The 11-year-old recounted her adventures riding public transportation during a recent scout trip to San Francisco.
(Don Leach / Times Community News)

Aside from the many interpersonal skills and opportunities Girl Scouts affords its members, it’s also just fun, say the Scouts.

“It’s something outside of school you can do to not be bored, like sports,” said Mia Balabanian, a 12-year-old Cadette who attends Corona del Mar Middle School. “I’ve done a lot of sports activities and things like camping — there was this whole hiking trip to Crystal Cove. [This] is like a community you can just go to.”


MacKenzie Scott makes $436-million donation to Habitat for Humanity International and 84 of its U.S. affiliates as part of the “Giving Pledge” she signed.

March 22, 2022

Amari Agren, a sixth-grader at Andersen Elementary School, agrees. She recalled singing holiday carols to seniors in a care facility and earning badges related to acting and endangered animal protection.

“Say you have a bad day at school,” she said. “Then, you go to a Girl Scout meeting, and it makes you feel better. I’ll stay in it as long as I can.”

Girls standing with their Girl Scout vests on at the park
The vest of a local Girl Scout provides a snapshot of the many programs and opportunities offered by the organization to girls and young women.
(Don Leach / Times Community News)

“They don’t judge you,” chimed in Sophie, the rapid transit fan. “You can be comfortable.”

Shepp said her team is working to make Scott’s donation go as far as possible to reach the greatest number of girls in Orange County and accelerate the organization’s efforts to do more, with more, for more well into the future.

“This life-changing gift for our organization is a starting point, not an ending point,” she said.