Giving Back on 9/11
“When I found out I was having a daughter, I said ‘She’s going to be a Girl Scout!’” Jen Mitchell said. This reaction sums up the passion for Girl Scouting that runs deep in this alum. For Jen Mitchell, Girl Scouting has been a family affair that provided countless opportunities. Girl Scouts also ties her to a tragic period in recent US history – the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept 11, 2001.
Jen Mitchell’s Girl Scout life began when she was in 1st grade and her mom started a troop. “Both my parents were extremely involved and as my troop got going, my grandmother said ‘well, I’ve got to get in on this.’ Then, of course, my grandfather said ‘well, I’ll have to drive her, so I’m getting involved’ and it ended up being an entire family affair for about 17 years,” Jen said. Her dad later became her troop’s co-leader and even joined the Board of Rolling Hills Council in New Jersey.
With a support system like this, it’s no wonder Jen became close with her troop. They took trips to places like New York City and Niagara Falls. With travel and sisterly love in their hearts, they went to London after a troop member moved there. “One of our troop members came to a meeting and said ‘my dad’s job is moving and you guys are my best friends and I’m never going to see you again’ and we go ‘That’s not true, we’ll come see you!’” Jen said. And in true Girl Scout form, they did.
Throughout their troop years, they stayed active in service projects as well. They completed their Highest Awards, including a Silver Award project where they collected yarn and took it to a retirement community, then collected completed scarves and hats made by the residents and took them to a local cancer center. They volunteered with the VFW, and local high schools as well.
During her senior year service took on a new level of meaning for Jen. On September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was destroyed in a terrorist attack just 45 minutes away from her home, Jen had the most impactful Girl Scouting experience she could imagine – giving back to a country in crisis.
Jen’s words best describe the experience:
“Even though we were high school seniors, coming to the end of our troop years, we wanted to do something together. The aunt of one of our troop members was a Port Authority officer and told us they needed supplies for the morgue, including things like Chapstick for the workers who were spending all day in cold rooms, and that need wasn’t being addressed.
Our troop started collecting items and took them to those in need. A couple of times when we would make the drop-offs we were able to go to places normal volunteers couldn’t. Security was high, but because we were Girl Scouts, we had the credibility we needed to be able to help.
It was Girl Scouts that let me be part of helping families get closure. It was such an emotional thing to be 17 and have volunteers and workers so excited to see us and get the supplies. There were a couple instances where a fallen first responder was brought in while we were there and we were able to be part of that and help the family. It brought our troop closer together. Girl Scouts gave us the opportunity to do something so much bigger than we could have ever done as individuals,” Jen said.
Today, Jen is excited to be a Girl Scout mom to Ellie, her brand new Daisy. She went to a New G.I.R.L. Event and couldn’t be more excited to help Ellie on the same path that she, her mom and grandmother have taken. And while we all hope Ellie doesn’t have to experience tragedy like 9/11 again, we know she will find connection and meaning through service like her mother did.
As the anniversary of 9/11 comes once again, we remember and honor the victims, families, first responders, volunteers and city workers who came together to bring New York City and the country together. We thank Jen and her troop for being part of that recovery and for being Girl Scout Strong in one of the darkest moments our country has experienced.