Holiday Volunteering that Counts

By GSKSMO CEO, Joy Wheeler

Holiday music, religious observances and all the lights tend to get most people thinking charitably this time of year. And while some organizations rely on extra volunteers and contributions during November and December, most of them need help year-round.

Have you thought about where your own instincts to volunteer and contribute came from? I suspect many of you can trace your earliest philanthropy exposure to the Girl Scouts – whether you were a Girl Scout or watched your mom, your sisters or your classmates in action. I couldn’t wait for the holiday season to arrive when I would join my Girl Scout sisters to spread cheer with carols, crafts, conversation and treats with our community’s nursing home residents.

Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri communities benefit greatly from the contributions of Girl Scouts. Our 22,000 girls gave an average of 30 hours each this year, doing things like helping with environmental cleanup, supporting pet adoption organizations, holding food drives, collecting personal care items, making sandwiches for the homeless, and attacking hunger with the Harvesters. And yes, they’ll step those efforts up in December, with caroling, nursing home visits and special cards for veterans.

Girl Scouts at Harvesters giving back to our community!

All told, they’ll give more than 600,000 hours this year. And what do you think would happen if those hours went away? How would that impact our most vulnerable populations? Ultimately, how would the absence of this experience change the way the next generation of women operates in their communities?

The leaders at Harvesters – The Community Food Network – can give you an idea. Girl Scouts were responsible for about 1 of every 50 volunteer hours during the agency’s last fiscal year. According to their Communications Manager Gene Hallinan, Harvesters depends on Girl Scouts. “Without them, we would have to hire more staff and would not be able to reach the number of people we do today.”

What’s more, through multiple events with Harvesters throughout the year, Girl Scouts get an education on the challenge of hunger. With hands-on programs like Maddi’s Fridge, they come to understand that one in six U.S. children don’t know whether they’ll eat tomorrow. And they’re inspired when they can translate that to their own neighborhoods to make a difference.

“What you hope is that this kind of experience – started early – will inspire girls to give back and to grow up and be community supporters,” says Gene, “teaching their own children to give back, too.” (By the way, Gene is a lifelong Girl Scout volunteer herself. She serves as an advisor to girls working toward their Gold Award.)

Now that’s exactly the way Girl Scouts builds courage, confidence and character. It’s exactly how we turn out women who are leaders in business and philanthropy. And it’s exactly how we’re delivering the 51% solution to our communities now and in the future. As you consider how you’ll pitch in this holiday season, I hope you’re inspired by these go-getter girls, too.