Young Girl Scouts in Palmerton are learning an important lesson this holiday season: It is better to give than to receive.
The Daisy and Brownie Girl Scouts of Troop 301 have adopted a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan as their annual service project. They marked the start of the holiday season by preparing gifts and homemade cards to mail to their adopted soldier and her unit members.
"Every year we have a service project. This year we wanted to find a soldier to support," said Troop 301 leader Tammy Stetler, who leads a group of nine girls in kindergarten through second grade.
She began her search at www.adoptaussoldier.com, and was thrilled to be assigned a female soldier who the girls might be better able to relate to. After discovering that their adopted soldier was one of six women in her unit, the Girl Scouts began sending gifts for all of the soldiers.
"We've basically adopted all of them," said Stetler. Each of the women is from the New York Army National Guard, and all are scheduled to return home in June a perfect match for the Scouts, who end their regular meetings when school ends, she added.
Why adopt a soldier? Troop leaders felt it was important to support members of the military, and to remind the young Scouts that there are American military members serving around the world. It was also a chance to take their annual service project to a global level. The girls quickly jumped into the project and were eager to start their Christmas package.
"I hope they will be happy because we made cards for them," said Destiny Markulics, 7. "Soldiers help us and they protect us. We should honor them."
"She takes care of our country," added Ashley Stetler, 7, when asked why she enjoys writing letters to her adopted soldiers. "I really like writing to her."
The Girl Scouts began sending letters and emails this fall, and will soon mail their holiday packages filled with personalized mugs, hot chocolate, and homemade Christmas cards. In addition to packages at each major holiday, the Scouts are also sending regular letters, cards and emails to their adopted unit.
"They go home and write letters, then bring in them in to mail to the soldiers," said Stetler.
The Scouts have been asking their adopted soldiers lots of questions about life in Afghanistan, and have learned that their adopted unit works to keep lines of communication, like email, open for fellow soldiers. The adopted soldiers have also been communicating on Facebook and posting pictures of the gifts they've received from the Scouts.
"This is part of teaching the girls about the importance of helping others. They're brightening somebody else's day," said Stetler. "These service projects are so important, just to give back. I try to get the girls to think about what they can do that will benefit others without necessarily benefiting themselves."