Published: Mar 20, 2012 11:37 PM
Modified: Mar 20, 2012 11:38 PM
Cary Girl Scouts celebrate 100 years
Cary Girl Scouts from all generations come together to celebrate
CARY - The catalog at the other end of the table included the names of the best of the Girl Scouts’ best. Among them: former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.None of them, though, had 10-year old Katlyn Hall, of Girl Scout troop 209 – her face beaming and painted with whiskers, a pink nose and cat ears – leaping up and down with excitement. That was due to Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts – and Hall’s personal hero.For her Bronze Award, the highest given to a Junior Girl Scout, Hall worked with fellow Girl Scouts to honor Low and the organization’s 100th anniversary, celebrated Saturday at the Expo at Cary Towne Center. When the subject of Low’s deafness arose, Hall came to life, explaining how a grain of rice trickled into the founder’s ear on her wedding day. When a doctor attempted to extract the grain of rice, he punctured her eardrum, rendering Low completely deaf in one ear.“Even today, learning about her problems, she felt like she could do anything, so I feel like that, too,” said Hall, who struggles with a reading disability. “She’s a role model to me.”Between that story, a history on honor badges and a PowerPoint replete with video and voice recording, the exhibit at once served as an ode to the Girl Scouts’ past and proof of its evolution into an organization that makes leaders out of its 3.2 million members.Of the many Girls Scouts to visit the Expo Saturday, Helen Bell Leverton was perhaps the oldest. At age 94, she flashes a nostalgic smile as she reflects on the campfires, the singing and the roasting of marshmallows, “what the Girls Scouts still do,” she said.Back then, Girl Scouts were trained in domestic skills, such as dressmaking and cooking. Today, the Girls Scouts’ mantra, “Be prepared,” is very much alive, but with an emphasis on leadership and science, technology, engineering and math.“You got a good, sturdy foundation for your life,” Leverton said. “You learned to be helpful in everything you do.”Those experiences were not to be shared with Leverton’s daughter, Debi Willis – at least not at first.Four weeks as a Brownie was the extent of Willis’ Girl Scouts experience – until her eldest daughter entered kindergarten. Willis went on to volunteer for the Girl Scouts, she said, when the mother of her daughter’s best friend “twisted my arm.” Now 22 years later, Willis is director of Wake County Area 19. “I’m that person now? It makes me laugh,” she said.Today, Willis credits the Girl Scouts for giving her oldest daughter the “courage, confidence and character” to graduate from Northwestern University and leave for South Africa with a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship and no pre-existing contacts.Growing up in Charlotte, Jennifer Bjurstrom wasn’t in the Girl Scouts for long, either. But in the years since her 10-year-old daughter Payton joined, she’s come to appreciate the group for showing girls “what’s possible.”At the Expo, Jennifer and Payton Bjurstrom were together to present one of troop 447’s three Bronze Award projects, a community planned for the residents of Manor Village, a Cary retirement community. With elevated garden beds, Payton said gardening will prove less strenuous for the residents. They aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the public service.“I was a little bit shy and, at first, not knowing what was going on,” Payton said. “Now, I can jump right in and introduce people to things. Now I’m used to it when I’m in front of other people. I can speak out in public.”
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