Being part of a Brownie Troop a big deal in little Lehigh

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
The young girls in Lehigh Brownie Troop 92 may come from a small community in Marion County, but their numbers are surprisingly large.

Beginning its new year this fall, the troop had 12 members. Nine of the 12 are officially registered, seven to eight regularly attend the weekly meetings, and two girls have said they will join after the first of the year.

“Our little girls just really love this type of thing, and their parents advocate it,” said Ruth Coyle, administrative leader of the troop.

Lehigh has 70 children in a town of 200 people, according to Coyle.

“We have very strong community support, and we have a group of enthusiastic young girls and about five volunteer assistants.”

The troop operates in cooperation with, and under the guidance of, the Girl Scout Council of the Flint Hills based in Emporia.

At the 2004 Flint Hills Summer Day Camp in Marion, the Lehigh troop was recognized as the third-largest Brownie troop in attendance. Wichita and Peabody came in first and second, respectively.

As a former Brownie and Junior Girl Scout, troop leader Lyn Harris recently accepted her position beside Coyle when the group officially started the new year in fall.

“It’s been challenging, but it’s been exciting,” Harris said. “My mind has been going full throttle since I started this. An hour doesn’t seem like a long time, but when you have a room full of seven to eight girls, and you have to find something for them to do for a whole hour, it’s challenging.”

The troop lost its leader from last year, and the new year looked bleak, Coyle said.

“We didn’t have any books or flags or uniforms or money to buy them,” she said.

But true to the Brownie spirit, the girls and their new leaders took a positive approach to overcome financial obstacles, made plans to raise needed money and sought help from the community.

“The girls sold candles to earn money, and we were able to track down some of our missing supplies,” Coyle said.

From the residents of Lehigh, the troop has received donations of arts and crafts supplies, uniforms and an American flag. One Lehigh couple, whose children are both grown, is having a dozen sashes made so the girls can show off their badges, patches and pins.

An anonymous individual bought uniforms for the girls this year, and the girls are completing chores at home to earn money to pay $5 toward each uniform purchased.

“The city of Lehigh not only provides our meeting place, but recently approved a monetary sponsorship of $150 for the troop,” Coyle said.

“Lehigh Parks and Recreation Committee…voted to match the city. But the girls must agree to do something for them in return.

For the city, Coyle said the girls will clear the park of litter one Saturday a month for a year. For Parks and Recreation, they plan on planting flowers near the school memorial at the new baseball park.

Beginning Jan. 7, the troop will join other Scouts as they begin the biggest fund-raiser of the year-selling Girl Scout cookies.

“They’ll be selling eight different varieties of Girl Scout cookies for $3 a box,” Coyle said.

The Lehigh troop, as with all Scouts, will receive a portion of the funds raised from the cookie sale.

“The girls can choose how to spend it-whether they want to use if for registration fees for next year or maybe a handbook or items from J.C. Pennys for their uniforms,” Harris said.

Troop 92 met in Hillsboro in past years, but this year the leaders decided to move the meetings to Lehigh.

“There were more Scouts from Lehigh the last several years,” Coyle said. “So it just seemed the natural turn of events to meet here in Lehigh.”

Coyle and Harris became involved as leaders this year after the troop lost its former leader. Coyle’s granddaughter Shian, 9, and Harris’s daughter Kelcie, 8, are friends. Both girls are Lehigh Brownies.

“My daughter enjoys it because she likes to get together with the other girls,” Harris said, who moved to Lehigh in May.

“The reason she got involved is because I wanted to get her into some kind of activity. She’s a very social person, and this is an opportunity for all the girls to get together to learn leadership skills as well as social skills.”

The Girl Scout organization suggests that Brownie meetings and activities include one adult for every four Brownies.

“And sometimes we use a Junior Scout,” Coyle said. “We have five or six Junior Scouts here in town who don’t have a leader. They come in and help us.”

For girls in grades one through three, the Lehigh Brownies meet at 7 p.m., Tuesdays, at the city building.

“We usually start with the Pledge of Allegiance, and then we recite our Girl Scout Promise,” Harris said.

“Then we have activities and a snack and songs. Each girl is responsible for a different job that night, like either flag leader or bringing snacks or bringing drinks or cleaning up.”

Since their first meeting in mid-October, the girls have been involved in many Brownie activities, such as the following:

n Conducted a get-out-and-vote campaign.

n Learned cooking skills making Rice Krispie treats and S’mores.

n Earned their “I’m a Star” badge by attending the musical “Annie” at Canton-Galva High School.

n Sewed Sit Upons to learn sewing skills.

n Caroled at 12 homes during the Christmas holiday.

“With Brownies, adult volunteers, Junior Girl Scouts and Junior Girl Scout volunteers, we had over 30 people,” Coyle said about the night of carolling.

“It was a wonderful evening. We were able to go to Weldon Meier’s house and carol at his house just two days before he passed away. He was such an important figure to the kids in Lehigh.”

A registration fee of $10 is required to join the Brownies, but no one is turned away if she doesn’t have the money.

“For those who can’t afford the registration, there’s something called Scouterships,” Coyle said. “The Girl Scout Council has those available, and it’s kept anonymous.”

As a first-time leader, Harris said she relies on a Brownie handbook for guidance.

“And we have our Try-It books, which give us activities to go through to earn the different Try-Its,” she said. Try-Its are badges. for the Brownie age.

The troop appears to be in good hands when it’s time to sell Girl Scout cookies. As a young Scout, Harris was the top cookie seller in her group, with a record of 600 boxes.

The future looks bright for the troop. With the help of city officials, volunteers and donors, the Lehigh Brownies were able to buy handbooks, supplies for crafts, badges and even admission to the play at CGHS.

“If it wouldn’t have been for all of them helping out, we probably wouldn’t have been able to do half the stuff that we’re doing now and we’re going to do,” Harris said.

“I think we have a great bunch of girls. They work well together, and they’re so friendly. It’s like one little family. It’s great.”

For more information or to join Lehigh Brownie Troop 92, call Harris at 620-483-3024 or Coyle at 620-483-3005.

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