Girl Scout alum and volunteer, Marthena Mitchell of Miami Gardens embodies the Girl Scout Mission. Over the past 30 years, she and her girls have brought heart and soul to their community through community service. We recently sat down to talk about community impact, watching girls develop and what inspires her to keep on going.
When did you start as a Girl Scout?
I started out as a Cadette. Years later, as an adult, a friend who was in Girl Scouts with me wanted to start a Girl Scout Troop at our church. When she called me, I thought I would be her assistant and I ended up the Troop Leader. That was about 30 years ago, when my niece started as a Brownie.
I promised myself that when my niece graduated high school, that I would stop. She graduated high school, got her masters, got married and had two kids and I’m still at it.
What inspired you to become a Girl Scout volunteer?
I had been a Girl Scout, and when my friend suggested starting a troop, I was like ‘Ok, I’ve got nieces. They need to be involved in something.’ I had a great time as a Girl Scout and I wanted them to be involved. One thing led to another and I kind of stayed.
What did your troop look like then and what do they look like now?
At the time, it was Troop 1039 - a brand new troop. I started at my friend’s church. Then I moved neighborhoods and went to a new church. I brought some of the girls with me to service, and they wanted to start a new troop. I thought about it, and thought about it. Then we split the troop and we became Troop 1040. Over the years we did a lot of stuff together.
Our church [where the troop meets] is really good to us, they help provide transportation so that my parents don’t have to drive. We have free reign of the kitchen where we have three stoves. It’s been a blessing to be there.
What inspires you when creating experiences for your girls?
My thing is all about giving back, community Service. I tell the girls, ‘you are fortunate. You may not get everything you want, but you get everything you need.’ My heart is with Miami Rescue Mission - we do a lot of things with them for community service.
My oldest girls are working on their Journey Badge for So What. We served lunch to more than 300 people in the Miami Rescue Mission’s soup kitchen. They got to actually speak to everyone and see that what looks like a hopeless situation can be turned around.
We recently did a project where we hosted a Health and Resource Fair. There’s a lot of resources out there that a lot of people don’t know about. We had more than 20 vendors from different organizations.
Over the summer we did a water drive and collected 14 cases of bottled water for the homeless.
Another one of our projects is called “Thanksgiving on Good Friday.” Some kids have never received an Easter basket, so we made baskets - we bought the bags and parents donated toys and candy and we put together 38 baskets.
We’re collecting canned goods for Fill the Pantry and we also participate in Operation Christmas Child, through Samaritan’s Purse. We take plastic shoebox so that if it ends up in a third world country, they can use the box for something else. We ask the parents to donate and we take the kids shopping so they can choose what goes in the box. It also teaches them finance so that they can budget, manage money and understand taxes while buying something for someone that they would like to receive.
We use Cookie Proceeds towards these items and then parents donate as well.
We’re about to start a new project - we’re starting a farm share at our church after we complete some paperwork.
Marthena'a favorite part of being a Leader
My favorite thing is intermingling with the girls. Watching them grow up. To see them mature and become independent.
When it stops being fun, then I’ll quit. Right now I’m still having a good time. The girls are having a good time and that’s all that matters.
Marthena's advice for women who have never volunteered in this sort of role before
If someone’s interested in being a leader but they don’t know too much about being a Girl Scout, I invite them to come to a meeting, get to meet the parents and the girls and see what we’re all about. I encourage them to go through our Four Star books and see what we have accomplished so far. We’re here and we’re trying to make a difference in our community. It’s more than just camping and Cookie sales.
How Marthena mentors her girls to handle rejection
During cookies, I tell them, ‘We’re going to go to the booth and we’re going to sell. Some people will say yes, and some people will say no.’ And when they say no, I tell them to say ‘Ok, thank you anyway.’ And sometimes people come back and say ‘you know what, I don’t have the money but I want to donate.’ It’s all about the attitude.
How Marthena models kindness and acceptance
We had a girl who came with her grandmother and she’s 5. She has autism. Her grandmother asked ‘will you accept her?’ I said, ‘it’s not if we accept her. Will she accept us? Come to our meeting and see if she feels comfortable. If she’s comfortable then we would love to have her join.’ I can’t say no kids. How do you do that?”