On Friday nights at 6 p.m., nearly 30 Girl Scouts decked out in colorful vests crowd into a former breakfast nook at the Sleep Inn in Long Island City, NY. On any given week the girls might practice first aid or learn about bridges, towers, and pyramids to earn a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) badge—as do all Girl Scouts. But what makes these girls special is more than a penchant for patches. They're all members of Troop 6000, one of the first Girl Scout troops for girls who are homeless.
In February 2017, Giselle Burgess, 32, started the troop at the hotel, which serves as a temporary shelter for up to 100 New York City families. She and her five kids had been living there since August 2016, when they were forced out of their rental home after the building was sold to make way for new condos.
"When we first got to the shelter, it was depressing," says Giselle. "I thought, What can I do to make this situation better?"
As luck would have it, Giselle works as a community development specialist for Girl Scouts of Greater New York (GSGNY). She talked to her bosses and quickly got the green light to give the new troop a try.
At the first meeting, only eight girls, including three of Giselle's daughters, showed up. But thanks to signs she posted around the shelter, the numbers quickly doubled and continue to grow.
"The activities we do are a good distraction," says Giselle, who recently helped chaperone the troop on a camping trip to upstate New York. "It's giving these girls something positive to focus on and teaching them skills they're going to need in the future."
Meridith Maskara, CEO of GSGNY, says Troop 6000 helps dispel stereotypes: "When you see these little girls, it changes what people think of as the face of homelessness."
In July, members of Troop 6000 were invited to New York City Hall for an exciting announcement: The program they helped start will expand to 15 additional shelters throughout New York City over the next three years, meaning that hundreds more homeless girls and women will have the opportunity to join the Girl Scout community.
"I pray for the day when there's a troop in every single shelter," says Giselle, who recently moved her family into permanent housing. "When you're in that situation, you need something to look forward to."
All girls deserve a mentor to boost their confidence and teach them new skills. You can help transform today's girls into tomorrow's leaders. Landcruisers is collaborating with Girl Scouts of the USA to help support the future generation of female leaders with its new initiative: the G.I.R.L. Agenda. (Only donations made within the U.S. can be accepted by GSUSA.)
Help Landcruisers and Girls Scouts of the USA build tomorrow's female leaders. DONATE NOW at hearstforhumanity.com/wdgirls.