Even from a distance, Washington Township Brownie Troop 61859 is having a huge impact on the community.
The group, consisting of 18 second graders, has been among the top-selling Girl Scout troops in Washington Township during the organization’s annual cookie sale in recent years. This year, the troop sold more than 7,000 boxes of cookies, a big leap over the 5,000 boxes it sold to lead all Washington Township troops in 2019.
“It instills in them a work ethic and entrepreneurial skills,” said Michelle Krueger, one of the two co-leaders of Troop 61859. “It teaches them a lot. We do a lot of booths and pound the pavements every day.”
“It’s not just about the cookies,” Troop 61859’s second co-leader Bonnie Marano added. “It’s about learning how to interact with customers, how to be business people and how to set goals.”
Each year, the troop donates a portion of its cookie revenue to a local cause. This year, with COVID-19 impacting everyone in the region, the group decided to give back to front-line workers in their own community.
The troop used $500 of its cookie revenue to pay for lunch for employees at Jefferson Washington Township Hospital. The group partnered with Mission BBQ, who prepared the food and delivered it to the hospital on May 18.
Krueger came up with the idea of donating meals to the hospital so the girls had a chance to lend a hand to front-line workers. Krueger and Marano wanted to show the troop how no one is too young or too small to make a difference in the community.
“I just really wanted to have the girls do something to make this whole experience that we had to be a little more tangible for them,” Krueger said.
“We really wanted to do something,” Marano added. “Our girls are second graders: They’re a bit young to sew masks. But we wanted to do something for the people on the front lines.”
The troop decided to partner with Mission BBQ in Deptford. The company regularly donates funds to various organizations supporting military personnel, veterans and first responders. The troop had previously gone to Mission BBQ on Veterans Day to say the Pledge of Allegiance and thought the restaurant would be the perfect partner for the hospital project.
With Mission BBQ handling the cooking and food distribution, the Brownies took charge of the second part of the project. Marano and Krueger asked the troop to create small signs, each spelling out either a word or displaying a symbol such as a heart or a rainbow.
All 18 troop members as well as Marano and Krueger created signs and took pictures of them. The signs were then combined into a collage and made into a poster that was sent to Jefferson along with the food. When put together, the sign collage spelled out an uplifting phrase: “Brownie Troop 61859 is in this together. Thank you for your service Jefferson Hospital. We are Jersey Strong!”
“This is the first thing during quarantine that everyone stepped up to participate in,” Marano said.
The meal donation has been a high point for a troop unable to meet in person for more than two months due to COVID-19, which has also forced members to get creative with earning badges and hosting virtual meetings. Despite the challenges, the troop has found a way to stay united. Krueger isn’t surprised, noting 15 of the 18 troop members have been together since starting on their Girl Scout journey as Daisies two years ago.
“The bond and friendships they’ve developed over these years has been incredible,” she remarked, adding the troop is planning to have a virtual slumber party via Zoom to close out the scouting season.
“Especially during a time of crisis and difficulty, for them to all have stepped in and participate with a smile on their face shows how meaningful it is to give back,” Marano added.