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Girl Scouts

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After almost four decades of service, Alice Robinson “retires” from local service unit. Or Not…

Alice Robinson surrounded by Girl Scouts. Front row kneeling: Penelope Russell, Julia Caldwell, Isabella Webster, Addison Rudnik. Second row kneeling: Genevieve Hyland, Madison Mello, Connecticut Langhammer. Third row (with Alice): Milla Clarke, Sylvia Carroll, Elaina Cacchiotti, Alice Robinson, Ingrid Jims, Faith Fecitt. Back row: Juliette Forgette, Evelyn Brewer, Loralei Forgette, Samantha Caldwell, Amity Harris — Adrienne Forgette

There’s a lot of Girl Scout History on Martha’s Vineyard, and you can trace much of it back through Alice Robinson, who after 36 years of volunteering, is about to retire. Or so she claims.

“My parents met because my grandmothers were on a New England Girl Scout board together,” Ms. Robinson told the Times recently. Ms. Robinson and her husband, Tom, moved to the Island in 1977 to take care of her 86-year-old great aunt Dorris Hough — one of the original founders of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

“Dorris was a lady in the finest kind.” Ms. Robinson said. “I loved the joy she took when any Girl Scout came in to her life, whether it was a six-year old planting a ‘Brownie’ marigold in her garden, or joining in an official award ceremony.”

Miss Hough was born and raised in New Bedford, but her father, Garry deNeuville Hough, was born in Tisbury and practiced medicine in both Tisbury and New Bedford. The family can trace its roots to the original Mayhew family through his mother’s family. The Hough family had been coming summers since the mid 1800s, owning property in Tisbury and West Tisbury (Indian Hill). Miss Hough bought the house where her father was born in 1939, and she moved to the Island permanently after her retirement in the mid-1950s. Her cousin was Henry Beetle Hough, former owner and publisher of The Vineyard Gazette. Miss Hough is buried in Vineyard Haven’s Oak Grove cemetery with the Girl Scout Promise and trefoil emblem etched on her grave.

Ms. Robinson likes to relate stories from her great aunt’s early days working with Girl Scout Founder Juliette Gordon Low. “Mrs. Low asked Dorris to join the national Girl Scout staff when it was first formed in 1912,” she said. “One of Dorris’s first jobs was to work with the troops being formed in the southern states because Dorris was the ‘least objectionable’ Northerner Mrs. Low knew, and Mrs. Low felt she wouldn’t insult the Southerners.”

Miss Hough was instrumental in the purchase of the land for the very first Girl Scout camp — in northwest Georgia.

“The land owner was not impressed with Mrs. Low and didn’t want to deal with her,” said Ms. Robinson. “So he set up what he thought would be a ridiculous scenario — meeting early in the morning in a remote location — as the condition for the donation of the land to the Girl Scouts,” Mrs. Robinson said. “Lo and behold, both Mrs. Low and Dorris were waiting for him when he arrived the next morning. He made good on his promise for the donation, meeting all of Mrs. Low’s conditions for exactly which parcel of land she wanted. The land became the site of the first Girl Scout camp, and Dorris was the director of the camp for its first 10 years.”

It was Miss Hough, of course, who introduced Mrs. Robinson to Girl Scouts on the Island.

“While I was living with her, I became acquainted with Dorothy “Dot” Packer, who was a friend of Dorris and the leader of a Vineyard Haven Brownie troop,” Ms. Robinson said. “I agreed to help Dot’s troop with some of their badges. Shortly thereafter, I met Lynn Gatchell and we agreed to lead the Island-wide Cadette troop.”

That was in 1978.

For the next 36 years, Ms. Robinson volunteered as a leader or coordinator to multiple troops. She served as Service Unit President, Registrar, the Be A Reader sales chairman and Service Unit Cookie Manager as well as Camp Wampanoag Day Camp counselor, assistant director and director. She also served on the Jean L. Silva Lodge fundraising committee and the scholarship committee for the past six years. Oh, and she and Tom raised three sons and no daughters.

“Running two weeks of Girl Scout day camp with JoAnn Murphy and then Kathy VanAken for 12 Augusts is one of my fondest set of memories of scouting on the Island over the years,” Ms. Robinson said.

In her “retirement” from the Service Unit, Ms. Robinson hopes to work to create a museum to the history of Island Girl Scouts at the Jean Silva Girl Scout Lodge in Chilmark. A majority of the Island history of Girl Scouts currently resides in the closets at the American Legion and the attic of the Silva Lodge.

“I would like to spend some time creating a series of displays at the Silva Lodge, so that the traditions and history of Girl Scouting on Martha’s Vineyard are accessible to scouts in the future,” Ms. Robinson said. “This is something that many people have envisioned, similar to the displays at the American Legion Hall in Vineyard Haven. Scouting has been a part of life here for so long, and I don’t want the legacy to be lost.”

Ms. Robinson envisions pictures of Scouts through the years on the walls, old uniforms on display, plaques honoring past Girl Scout leadership — Service Unit presidents and administrators — as well as longtime troop leaders. She’d  also like the memorials that have been displaced by the rebuilding of the lodge to be replaced and rededicated.

“The first thing that is needed to put this together is simply dedicated time and people to go through everything we have that is already archived.” Ms. Robinson said. “Jean Silva was our historian for many years, and she did an incredible job keeping track of what happened in the 1950s to 70s. The last 30 years are not as well cataloged, but there are lots of pictures.  We’ll also need expertise to preserve and display things properly. I’m sure money will be needed at some point to create the displays, but that’s further down the road.”

Currently there are three troops on the Island: a Daisy, Brownie, and multi-level teen troop. Thirty girls and 32 adults are registered through the Girl Scout Council of Eastern Massachusetts as living on the Island. Brownie Troop Leader Cherish Harris hopes that an additional Junior Troop is added next year because there are currently eight girls ready to bridge to the next level.

Amanda Kane, former Island Girl Scout, stepped up this year to co-lead the Daisy Troop when she found out there were not enough adult volunteers. She was a member of Pat Law and Sandy Dolby’s troop in the late 90s.

“I would like to see a troop in each town, like there used to be,” Ms. Kane said. “We need more adult volunteers to step up to lead. The interest of the girls is there.”

Ms. Robinson hopes that more volunteers will continue to lead the girls on the Island. “Scouting, both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, have gone through ebbs and flows throughout the years,” she said. “I hope that those who have been Girl Scouts remember the great times they had. So much so that they want the same opportunity for their daughters (or their neighbors’ daughters) and will commit the time and energy to continue the program with the next generation. I think the values of Girl Scouts — loyalty, caring, kindness, responsibility, honesty, preparedness, self-reliance — are as important today as they were in 1912.”

Interested in volunteering for the Martha’s Vineyard Girl Scout Service Unit? Contact Elizabeth Esborn, Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts Troop Pathway Specialist at eesborn@girlscoutseasternmass.org or 774-766-6928.

Loralei Forgette (blue coat) with her sister Juliette, selling Girl Scout cookies. — Courtesy Adrienne Forgette

Two Martha’s Vineyard Girl Scouts earned recognition as members of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts (GSEM) 500 Club. Each girl sold 500 or more packages of cookies during the annual December to March cookie sale.

Loralei Forgette of Edgartown just qualified with 500 packages, while Amity Harris of Oak Bluffs sold 600. Despite an average cookie season temperature of 29.9 degrees and 56.4 inches of snowfall, these girls were two of 227 girls in the GSEM region to achieve this level of cookie sales success, according to a press release.

“The cookie program is a valuable lesson in life skills and financial literacy, teaching girls five essential skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics,” GSEM leader Kristen O’Reilly said in a press release. “During the cookie sale, girls work toward a common goal as part of a team. Money earned from cookie sales help to fund community service projects, field trips, summer camp tuition and more.”

Both girls were celebrated along with all GSEM 500 Club members in ceremonies held at Girl Scout Camp Wind-in-the-Pines in Plymouth on April 27 and Camp Cedar Hill in Waltham on May 4. Club inductees received recognition in front of their friends and family members, certificates marking their accomplishment, and incentives including Girl Scout-themed jewelry and X-Boxes.

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Isabella Webster, Genevieve Hyland, and Samantha Caldwell holding up signs to entice customers. — Photo courtesy of Adrienne Forge

What every Islander in the winter needs: Thin Mints in the freezer, a small comfort that brings back nostalgia for the young and old.

Addy Craft-Rudnick shows her favorite cookie, Lemonades, to Jean Holenko, a teacher at the Oak Bluffs School.
Addy Craft-Rudnik shows her favorite cookie, Lemonades, to Jean Holenko, a teacher at the Oak Bluffs School.

Starting this month, Islanders will be able to get their fill on Thin Mints, Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Patties, Thanks-a-Lot, Lemonades, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Shortbread, and new this year, Cranberry Citrus Crisps and Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies through cookie booth and door-to-door sales.

For some, purchasing Girl Scout Cookies is an annual tradition.

“I usually give my husband a case of Thin Mints for Christmas each year,” Lynne Silvia of Vineyard Haven said. Her supplier moved off-Island, leaving her husband, Jack, without his favorite cookie this holiday season.

“When Loralei came in to the Boys & Girls Club with her order form, I knew I had to order my husband’s present,” Ms. Silvia said. “It will be his birthday present this year instead.”

Loralei and her twin sister Juliette Forgette moved to the Island this August from Maryland where they were involved in Girl Scouts for the past three years.

“I like selling cookies because you learn more things every time you do like learning how to count, subtract, make more friends, and learn how to keep track of money,” Loralei said.

Suzanne Reppert and Kathy Smith are the leaders of the remaining high school troop on the Island and have helped organize

High school troop members Teika Lampart and Premala Reppert sold cookies at the Edgartown Stop & Shop on Superbowl Sunday. Last year, they sold almost a thousand boxes of cookies between them.
High school troop members Teika Lampart and Premala Reppert sold cookies at the Edgartown Stop & Shop on Superbowl Sunday. Last year, they sold almost a thousand boxes of cookies between them.

cookie sales over the past six years. Suzanne’s daughter, Premala, was the top seller last year, selling 634 boxes.

“She even went out in a snowstorm to sell cookies so Islanders could enjoy cookies, perhaps with hot chocolate that night or next day when school was cancelled,” Suzanne said.

The troop has used cookie profits to attend council-led camping trips off-Island and used saved profits to fund a sightseeing trip to New York City. Last March, Suzanne’s troop was able to spend the night at the Boston Museum of Science with Girl Scouts from all over the region.

“We slept in the room next to the Tyrannosaurus rex,” Teika Lampart said. Teika was the second highest seller of cookies last year, selling 437 boxes.

Alice Robinson has been involved with Girl Scouts on the island for the past 37 years. “Except for a period of 14 years, I have been either cookie manager or assistant cookie manager since 1981,” she said.

In that time, she has seen the organization ebb and flow.

“During the 1980s we had up to 184 girls in the program at one given time. Last year, our only Island troop sold 3,500 boxes of cookies with only 12 members,” Alice said.

This year, Island troops pre-ordered approximately 3,000 boxes of cookies. At the first cookie booth sale at the Edgartown Stop & Shop, the Girl Scout Brownie Troop sold 384 boxes of cookies in three hours. The third grade girls collected money, made change, and kept track of the number of boxes sold.

“I love Lemonades because I love lemons,” Addy Craft-Rudnick said.

Addy Craft-Rudnick tallied the number of cookies sold while Samantha Caldwell assisted the customer with the sale. Milla Clarke held the money envelope; Genevieve Hyland (black jacket) looks on.
Addy Craft-Rudnick tallied the number of cookies sold while Samantha Caldwell assisted the customer with the sale. Milla Clarke held the money envelope; Genevieve Hyland (black jacket) looks on.

Lemonades were the first cookie to sell out of the booth sale, perhaps because of Addy’s persuasive sales techniques. Thin Mints and Caramel deLites, however, were the overall top sellers.

“I love Thin Mints because they are minty and are covered in chocolate,” Girl Scout Daisy Isabella Webster said. “Caramel deLites are really good too. They are sugary and have coconut in them.”

West Tisbury third grader Genevieve Hyland sold 157 boxes in her first two days as a Girl Scout.

“I usually have to drag her out of bed on a school day, but the day after she got her cookie sale sheet, she had me wake her up at 5 am to start texting and calling people for sales,” Genevieve’s mother, Casandra, said. “She spent her recess break at school the first day running to classrooms selling cookies to teachers and staff. She has made all of the phone calls on her own and set up delivery.”

While the cookies sell themselves, Alice Robinson points out that it’s the process that is most beneficial to the girls. “Being an entrepreneur for young women is entirely different than it used to be,” she said. “Before, girls would learn how to bake cookies, now they are learning how to sell cookies, how to present the product, and how to keep track of the money. “Fundraising is secondary to helping the girls build entrepreneurial skills. Presenting themselves to the public, teamwork, marketing, are all a much more important part of the educational goal.”

Casandra Hyland has already seen a difference in her daughter since she started the Cookie Sale Program. “She has always been pretty shy,” she said. “I’m surprised at her determination and dedication.”

Interested in becoming a Girl Scout? A representative from the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts will hold registration event on February 18 at 5:30 pm at the American Legion in Vineyard Haven.

Look for cookie booths at area grocery stores each weekend this month as well as the Oak Bluffs Square Saturday, February 8,  from 11 am to 1 pm.

Adrienne Forgette is the mother of girl scouts, as well as a troop leader. She teaches English at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.