Over the past century, young girls and teens across the country have put in more than 70 million hours of service as members of Girl Scouts of the USA.
In this, the year of the national youth organization’s 100th anniversary, one group of women based in Tempe are still working hard to earn their proverbial sewing badges — all while learning that they’re never too old to embody what it means to be a Girl Scout.
Every Wednesday, a group of veteran Girl Scouts gather at Friendship Village retirement community in Tempe to continue their own years of service. Since 2009, the group has restored more than 600 Girl Scout uniforms in preparation of the national organization’s centennial celebration.
A collection of vintage uniforms were first discovered while the Valley Girl Scout council’s history committee was moving the museum collection to the council’s new Phoenix location.
“As we began to move to the (new site), boxes were uncovered, bags that had uniforms in them, and I realized that the job was bigger than I could handle,” said Joyce Maeinschein, a Friendship Village resident and member of the history committee for the Girl Scouts’ Valley-based Arizona Cactus-Pine council.
Thus, Friendship Village’s own “troop” was formed.
Maeinschein started the group three months after moving into the village. When the group receives a vintage uniform, the first step is to label every piece of the outfit and record the pieces in an official Girl Scouts of the USA documentation book.
“It describes the uniform, gives it a number and then we use these numbers to mark ours so that we could contact a council,” Maeinschein said.
Once the uniform is repaired of loose badges, buttons and tears, it is sent back to the council for display as part of the Girl Scouts History Museum.
From there, the vintage garb is showcased for visitors to see, or for troops to rent to wear or display at parades, award ceremonies and other events, telling the historical Girl Scouts story in the process.
As Maeinschein puts it, younger generations of scouts learn about American history through the vintage uniforms. They learn why zippers were replaced with buttons, and how the wearing of skits, in some cases, turned into wearing pants over the years.
All of the outfits that the group receives are at least 5 years old, and each one reflects a different decade, she said.
Not only have the veterans restored hundreds of uniforms, but they have taught the traditional songs to current Girl Scouts and their leaders, in addition to starting a statewide recycling initiative to collect plastic bags.
Residents have collected 85,000 plastic bags, just in their own community, Maeinschein said.
But the “troop” at Friendship Village doesn’t plan to stop at 600 uniforms.
“Just last week we got a bag of uniforms,” Maeinschein said. “The ladies just keep working.”
Caitlin Wendt is a senior studying public relations and journalism at Northern Arizona University. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org