- Associated Press - Monday, March 5, 2018

MORGANTON, N.C. (AP) - When Kim Baker started a Girl Scout troop 25 years ago, little did she know she was planting seeds and cultivating growth of friends who quickly would turn into family.

Troop No. 10742 is not just an ordinary Girl Scout troop, but one filled with girls with special needs and compassionate hearts. Even though they may be limited in what activities they are able to do, each girl will be the first to say that they gave 100 percent in everything they have accomplished.

There are a total of 16 scouts in the troop with ages ranging from 10 to 36 years old, Baker said, who has been leading the troop since the start. Troop members include Ronnie Stevens, Catarina Mateo, C-mone Smith, Shelby Blankenship, Miranda Dempsey, Hailey Clarke, Amanda Campbell, Deann Plemmons, Chelsea Welytok, Natalie Mull, Therese Blystone, Marion Rogers, Elizabeth Presnell, Katelyn Harwood, Brenlyn Buff, Shelbie Gribble and Nicki Hall.

“Since these girls are special needs and there is nothing else in the community (such as) ladies organizations . the (Girl Scout) council has allowed me to continue in scouts for them,” Baker said.

The troop started at North Liberty School and, once each of them graduated, they have the opportunity to continue with the troop, she said.

“All these girls have been with me for many, many years ever since they were little,” she said.

When asked what their favorite thing about Girls Scouts was, their answers varied.

“ “Selling Girl Scout cookies,” said Shelby Blankenship.

“ “Helping each other,” said Hailey Clarke.

“ “To be with friends,” said Miranda Dempsey.

They also have learned many things as Girls Scouts that have helped them grow as a person.

Clarke had a fear of dogs and people dressed up in costumes, especially the Chick-fil- A cow, and now she begs to have her photo taken with it when at the fast food restaurant.

“I hope it builds character, confidence and self-worth,” Baker said. “I have seen girls be afraid of things and then realize , ‘Oh, that’s nothing, we can do this.’”

Seeing how they have grown as Girl Scouts and as women has made it all worth it to Baker.

“Just the love that I get out of these girls makes my life worth living,” Baker said. “These are my girls.”

They have crossed the swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain State Park and Baker even faced her own fear of holding a snake during a field trip to Lake James State Park.

“I wanted them to gain some skills and there was nothing else for them to do . they can’t go out and play community sports and a lot of times they are just not included,” Baker said.

While being in Girls Scouts , the troop has completed several community service projects including a food drive this past Christmas where they collected 106 pounds of food, 66 winter coats and several scarves, toboggans and gloves.

“We also did a treat bag for 130 officers who work at the Burke County Sheriff’s Office and made 450 cards using recycled Christmas cards and took them to the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital in Asheville.

As a group, they love to create trinkets that are called SWAPS, which stands for Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere. They create these pins out of recyclable materials and send or trade them with other troops around the country.

They also have earned special interest patches for accomplishments in hiking, art, music, cooking, citizenship and Girl Scout history. Last year, they were one of two troops in North Carolina to receive the Delta Kappa Gamma Award, where they learned about the women’s organization and helped raise money for a special cause.

“The mission for Delta Kappa Gamma is to help build schools in Africa for females,” Baker said. “We raised over $200 . it really hit their hearts hard to see other girls who didn’t have what they had.”

They troop currently is working toward raising funds to travel down to Savannah, Georgia , to visit the Juliette Low house. Low was the founder of Girl Scouts.

“I have seen so much growth in the girls,” Baker said. “They are so well-behaved and appreciative of everything you do for them and I see the joy in their eyes when they get to be with their friends.”

The parents of troop members say that the troop would not be as successful as it is without the leadership and help of Baker.

She is a friend, a leader and supporter for the girls, said Kim Campbell, mother of Amanda Campbell.


Information from: The News Herald, http://www.morganton.com

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