National Girl Scout Day is celebrated every year on March 12, as Girl Scouting in the United States began on this day in 1912 when Juliette Gordon Low organized the first Girl Scout troop meeting in Savannah, Ga. It’s a day for members both young and old to celebrate experiences, friendships and life skills gained through involvement in the organization. 73-year-old Janet Sims, a resident of The Terraces of Boise, joined as a Brownie when she was seven years old and is a lifetime member. Sims has been impacted by the organization and its members for most of her life, as the Girl Scouts introduced her to like-minded girls, connected her with people from around the world and reunited her with close friends made through scouting. Wanting to celebrate an organization that has touched many lives over its more than 100-year history, Sims, fellow residents and a local Girl Scout troop came to visit The Terraces of Boise in recognition of this special day to do a meaningful flower planting activity.
“While Girl Scouts has changed since my younger years, its mission is still the same: building girls of courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place,” said Sims. “When I was a Girl Scout, we didn’t have Gold Awards. These service projects allow young women to receive similar recognition as those who achieve Eagle Scout status. The cookies have also changed over time. While Thin Mints are my favorite cookie today, but when I was younger we sold these sandwich-style cookies, of which I’d have to say the crème filled chocolate ones were the best. The cookies have improved a lot, though I bet you didn’t know that the cookie recipes, names and packaging still differ to some extent depending upon which regional market you buy them.”
Sim believes that selling cookies in today’s market is probably easier because the taste and variety have changed. Though she admits she did have an advantage back then, as her father was a salesman in the printing business and constantly drilled her on sales techniques. Her mother also helped her through her connections, as she worked in the legislature at the state capitol building where everyone always bought an excess of the cookies. Selling cookies was only a fraction of what Sims learned during her youth as a scout. She also learned techniques for surviving in the wilderness, setting up and managing campsites, working in teams, building positive relationships, understanding the value of community service and developing skills for being an effective leader.
“The highlight of my experience was a wilderness encampment that I did as a senior scout, an experience that I applied for and won,” said Sims. “I traveled to central Oregon one summer for the camping experience of a lifetime. We had a base camp, and those running the camp sent us out in patrols of six to eight girls without a leader for a six-night wilderness camping and backpacking experience. Girls with different personalities came from all over the United States and some from foreign countries for this unique learning experience. It was imperative that we learned how to get along with everyone in our patrol, because out in the wilderness we all depended upon each other to survive. Afterwards, I knew I could depend on myself and get along with girls I had never met before in a new environment just fine.”
On another occasion, Sims’ senior Girl Scout troop traveled to Cuernavaca, Mexico for an international meetup. Girl Scouts has several international sites attracting troops from all over the world. During these trips, approximately 100 girls would come together from all over for a two-week community building project. Locally, Sims and her troop went to annual summer camps in Oklahoma where she was born and raised. Sims has kept up with girls she befriended while in Girl Scouts over the years, one of which she discovered lives in Boise. After spending many years in western Colorado with her husband, the couple decided to move to Idaho, ultimately choosing to retire in Boise due to the location and retirement options at The Terraces of Boise. A fellow troop member moved to Portland after graduating from high school, and she too ended up retiring in Boise. They met for lunch as soon as they reconnected. There are other girls Sims kept up with over the years as well. She always valued the organization and the girls she met through it.
“In school, I was president of the city-wide planning board, and I did volunteer work with the local troop,” said Sims. “I haven’t been actively involved since I started my career, but I do value the experiences, knowledge and friendships gained from Girl Scouts, which is why I became a lifetime member. Those who participate in Girl Scouts have many opportunities to learn about things in different fields. It also shows young girls how to effectively lead and helps them understand the impact of volunteer work. I feel Girl Scouts have an advantage overall because of the unique experiences for learning and growth offered to them through the organization. There are wonderful life skills learned every step of the way.”
“We feel privileged to hear Janet’s stories,” said Jud Severns, executive director of The Terraces of Boise. “We were delighted to welcome a local troop to our community for a special flower planting activity as well, as we believe the residents and young girls benefited from it greatly. Intergenerational events create an environment in which we all learn from each other by working together. We thoroughly enjoyed celebrating National Girl Scout Day at our community.”