Courtney Fletcher has spent hours cleaning up the southeast corner of the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Md. 108 in Olney, which had been the site of a dilapidated civic monument.
She also organized a collection of tattered American flags on Sept. 11, and then gave them to the American Legion to be retired properly.
Fletcher, of Laytonsville and a senior at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, earned the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award — the highest such honor in the organization — for her efforts.
“I stayed involved with Girl Scouts because of all the fun things we did when I was little, and the opportunities it has given me as I got older,” Fletcher said. “It definitely helped when I applied to colleges, because the Gold Award is equivalent to an Eagle Scout, and people were definitely impressed when they saw that I had earned it.”
Fletcher and the work she has done represent an ongoing tradition for Girl Scouts, which celebrated its 100th anniversary Monday. In the Olney area, scouting is alive and well, with more than 520 girls participating.
Olney-area Girl Scouts are divided into two groups, or service units. Girls from Service Unit 31-2 come from Belmont, Greenwood and Olney elementary schools, Rosa Parks Middle School, Sherwood High School and St. John's Episcopal School. Service Unit 31-7 is made up of students that attend St. Peter’s School, Brooke Grove and Sherwood elementary schools and William H. Farquhar Middle School.
Service Unit 31-2 organized a community-wide, 100th anniversary ceremony March 12 on the plaza at Olney’s Fair Hill Shopping Center.
The Girl Scout movement began on March 12, 1912, when Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low gathered together a group of 18 girls in Savannah, Ga. She thought all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually.
Today, the organization has grown to 3.2 million girls and adults, 50 million alumnae and is the largest organization focused on girl leadership, according to the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital.
“Girl Scouts has always blazed new trails to help all girls discover their highest leadership potential,” said Lidia Soto-Harmon, the council’s CEO. “As we move forward, we are eager to continue our mission to help all girls build courage, confidence and character to make our world a better place.”
Troops from Service Unit 31-2 also participated in service projects related to the 100th anniversary. They donated birthday items such as cake mixes and candles to Olney Help, a food bank, and also donated baskets of baby items to be given to newborns at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center in honor of the shared birthdays.
Service Unit 31-7 Manager Christina Culp said there are plans to make the 100th anniversary a year-long event.
“We have asked troops to think about how they can work the ‘100’ theme into their planned activities and make an impact on our community,” she said. “One troop made and delivered 100 breakfast bags for the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, and set a goal of collecting 100 pounds of food during Manna Food Center's recent collection.”
Although cookie sales are an important part of scouting, today’s Girl Scouts do much more. (Combined, the two Olney service units have sold more than 32,000 boxes of cookies during this year’s sale.)
Carole Levy, troop leader and Service Unit manager for 31-2, has been involved for eight years. She said scouting has evolved to keep girls and volunteers interested. Gone are the traditional cooking and sewing badges; now, girls work on Journeys, which consist of three key concepts — discovery, connecting with community and taking action.
Levy’s girls recently focused on cyber-bullying, something that today’s teens can relate to because of the popularity of social media such as Facebook. They watched a video about a young girl who was bullied and came up with ideas to stop the problem; they then sent their ideas in letters to the Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent and the principal at Rosa Parks Middle School.
“One of their ideas is going to happen,” Levy said. “The school is going to have a spirit week to raise awareness about cyber-bulling, and the information will not only be shared with students, but also with parents at a PTA meeting. My joy is to see these girls develop these ideas to make the world a better place.”
Mary Nowotny of Olney, a Brownie troop leader, said her family has three generations of Girl Scouts starting in the 1930s.
“Over the past 100 years, the Girl Scouts have grown and changed with the times, but empowering girls to be their best will always be the heart of Girl Scouts,” she said.
Her daughter, Kayla White, 8, continues the legacy,
"Being a Girl Scout is being part of something special,” she said.