Addie Davis, 10, likes meeting people and going on trips and adventures.

Shelby Fulmer, 10, likes camping.

Jenna Lenko, 10, likes cooking.

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And Hannah Jones, 9, likes selling the iconic cookies.

All four girls get to do what they like as part of Linda Lenko's Girl Scout troop in the Newfield/Buena Vista Township area. Now in its fifth year, Lenko started as a volunteer when her daughter joined in first grade. She now leads a troop of fifth graders, whom, she admits with some pride, are starting to lead her.

"They're older now, and they'll tell me what they want to do," she said. A trip to Washington, D.C., is planned, and that includes having the girls develop a budget that includes gas, tolls, hotel and meals.

The Girl Scouts this month kicked off a nationwide campaign to boost membership among both girls and volunteer troop leaders. First Lady Michelle Obama is the group's honorary president, and the goal is to show how Girl Scouting is relevant to girls in the 21st century.

In New Jersey, about 100,000 girls ages 5 to 17 participate in Girl Scouts. Troops in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties are part of the Girl Scouts of Central and South Jersey which has about 25,000 scouts and 12,000 adult volunteers.

Recruiting more adults is crucial, since there can be no troops without troop leaders. Local leaders said so many parents work now that they just don't have time to take on a troop, and some areas have waiting lists of girls who want to join. Volunteers can also serve as mentors or lead programs.

Many leaders were Girl Scouts themselves and like the message of leadership and service it promotes.

Christine Scarpa, of Avalon, was a scout and started a troop because she wanted to share the same experiences with her daughters - Ainsley, 6, and Gianna 8. A former second grade teacher in Galloway Township, she said she enjoys being able to put her teaching skills to use with the troop.

Scarpa admits it is hard to recruit today because both parents and girls have so many other activities, but parents can just help out without taking on an entire troop.

"It is a lot of work to be a leader," she said. "I'll get parents who say they want to help, but don't want to lead a troop."

Tricia Lemma, of Cape May Court House, leads a troop based in the Whitesboro area. A teacher in Wildwood, she said leaders are especially needed in disadvantaged areas to give girls more opportunities.

"We want to give them a sense of pride in being a girl and show them all the things they can do with their lives," she said.

Her troop in October did an overnight scouting program at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and along with other local troops spent a warm October Sunday on the beach in Wildwood at a Healthy for Shore day that included lessons on nutrition and an obstacle course on the beach.

Lemma's troop has also spent a night a the Cape May Zoo, getting close up and personal with giraffes.

"I love being able to give them that opportunity," she said. "We do the pledge at every meeting, and even at five and six years old they understand it. They leave feeling good about themselves."

The Girl Scout Promise to serve their country and help people is the core of scouting and public service is part of every troop's activities. This year Girl Scouts even had a chance to earn a Hurricane Sandy "Restore the Shore" patch for their efforts. Girl Scouts offer programs in science, technology, engineering and math as part of their STEM initiative, and sponsor trips both local and overseas.

Linked to it all is the famous annual cookie sales, which along with donations helps fund programs and troops. The Girls Scouts of Central and South Jersey had revenue of almost $8.8 million in 2012. Troops get a portion of cookie sales for their own projects.

"They like to sell the cookies because it helps pay for trips," Lenko said.

Scarpa, said she tries to get more parents involved in the hopes that some of them might become interested in becoming leaders. As a facilitator, she said, she can help start new troops, then let parents take them over.

"I started by myself, and how I have four leaders," she said.

Contact Diane D'Amico:


More information

Information on volunteering or joining a troop in the Girl Scouts of Central and South Jersey is available at

In Ocean County, information about the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore is available at


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