Girl Scout Troop 6000 provides growth and experiences for dozens of homeless girls in Queens
For so many women, myself included, being a Girl Scout was an integral part of childhood. But for some children, it’s not as simple as looking up a local Troop and enrolling. Being a Girl Scout takes certain things that a lot of us have and take for granted, like money and stability.
That’s where Giselle Burgess, a mom of five from Queens, New York, saw an opportunity.
The owner of the building where Burgess was living decided to sell it, and she wasn’t able to find a new apartment for her family. So Burgess and her five kids, three of them girls, moved into an old Sleep Inn that the city had repurposed as a homeless shelter. Burgess, who started a job with the Girl Scouts of America soon after, had an idea: She wanted to start a Girl Scout troop for girls living in the shelter. The organization gave her its enthusiastic go-ahead.
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Now, Girl Scout Troop 6000 has 28 members, all of them homeless. They all live and hold their meetings in the Sleep Inn where Burgess and her family still live.
Most people think about homelessness as “the man on the corner who came from out of state and has the cardboard sign,” Burgess told NPR. “I think my biggest goal here is to try to break that stigma of homelessness.”
The girls in Troop 6000 do all the things that other Girl Scouts do. They’ve studied women’s suffrage and STEM careers and learned first aid. On a recent camping trip outside of the city, they milked cows and roasted marshmallows. According to the New York Times, this isn’t the first time a Girl Scout Troop has been formed in a homeless shelter, but Troop 6000 is one of the most successful of its kind — the Troop was recently honored during a ceremony at New York City Hall.
The Girl Scouts of Greater New York covers the group’s costs, including $20 monthly dues for each member and a starter kit of vests, patches and workbooks. Donations are being accepted to help cover some of the costs, but New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio has already promised $1.1 million to help the organization expand Troop 6000 statewide so homeless girls all over New York can participate.
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As for the girls who are members of Troop 6000, their parents say the opportunity is one they wouldn’t have otherwise.
“My daughter always wanted to go. I just couldn’t afford it,” Takisha Wilson, mother of one Troop 6000 member, told the New York Times. In interview with the Times, the girls said they want to be fashion designers, pediatricians, basketball players and engineers when they grow up. 9-year-old Silkia plans to build a homeless shelter.
“I’m going to get mad money, and I’m going to ask them if they want a shelter,” Silkia said.
Her friend, 13-year-old Luz, chimed in, “And then you’re going to give food, give blankets, give pillows, and there you go. A shelter.”