Girl Scout Troop 6000 Receives $1 Million Grant


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The first troop in the nation dedicated to homeless girls will expand throughout the city


Photos



  • At the expansion announcement at City Hall on July 12. Photo: Office of City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer




  • Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer gives members of Troop 6000 a tour of City Hall on April 25. Photo: Office of City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer




  • At the ribbon cutting ceremony for Troop 6000 at the Sleep Inn Hotel in Long Island City. Photo: Office of City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer



By Estelle Pyper

Five girls donning green and brown vests dotted with stitched patches approached the podium in City Hall’s Blue Room last Wednesday. They had an exciting announcement for the news conference: their Girl Scout troop, Troop 6000, the first serving homeless girls and women, will expand far beyond their Queens shelter.

Mayor Bill de Blasio granted over $1 million for the expansion, which will grow to include 14 more shelters throughout New York City in addition to the original Long Island City location. The exact locations of these shelters will be announced at a later date.

The current troop is modest, but certainly not small, with 28 active members; this expansion will present at least 500 more girls the opportunity to join this national club.

“It was only a few months ago that Troop 6000 stole the hearts of New Yorkers and garnered support from people around the country,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement. “Together with the Mayor’s Fund, we are proud to expand and support Troop 6000, allowing more young homeless children to participate in a program that is helping them cope and deal with the challenges they face every day.”

Established last March, Troop 6000 is the first Girl Scout troop in the nation dedicated to women in the shelter system. It was made possible by an alliance between the City’s Department of Homeless Services and the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, catalyzed by a passionate single mother named Giselle Burgess.

Burgess, a community engagement specialist at the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, found herself and her five children in the Long Island City shelter last year. Transitioning to her new, challenging environment, she longed to start a Girl Scout troop for the shelter and asked her employer for help.

“They said, ‘Absolutely, why not?’,” recalls Burgess. “Living here is not the best feeling in the world. My first thought was, ‘What can I do to make this situation light?’”

Being the first to start a troop of this nature, Burgess and her colleagues dove in blind, figuring out the details of the process as they went. By March, the chapter was official.

The buzz surrounding the development of their troop has helped draw attention to the city’s homeless population: children under 17 constitute one third of the Department of Homeless Services’ shelter census, and 70 percent of the census are families.

Burgess is ecstatic that they “can offer this program to the girls and give them this sense of stability and motivation and sisterhood” — something that has meant the world to her and her three young daughters over the years.

Having previously participated in other Girl Scout troops and now Troop 6000, Burgess’s daughters “feel that deeper connection [with Troop 6000] and that sense of need to be a role model to the girls here,” Burgess says. The troop meets once a week and participates in various impressive activities like coding, STEM programs, community service and outdoor experiences.

The Girl Scouts of Greater New York will manage the three-year expansion with funding provided by the Department of Homeless Services and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, led by de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray (a former Girl Scout herself), with annual donations of $320,000 and $55,000 respectively. The funds will cover expenses like member fees and dues, uniforms and pins, and financial aid for activities and camps.

For Burgess, it’s a step closer to a greater goal. “We’re totally trying to break the stigma of what a real homeless person is or looks like or where they’ve come from,” says Burgess. “That’s been my main goal: trying to give these girls that really, they’re no different from everybody else.”



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