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More than cookies, Girl Guide leader finds sweet fulfilment

'I just love the program ... it gives them a taste of so many things,' says local Girl Guides leader Jessica Maitland

The back of Jessica Maitland's van is open, the wind is blowing hard and 30 girls wearing sashes and badges are gathered around.

The leader of the First Collingwood Girl Guides is reading out group lists for the evening's activity: selling cookies door-to-door at Blue Shores in Collingwood to raise funds for the spring camping trip to Doe Lake Girl Guide camp near Huntsville from May 24 to 26.

For the past five years, Maitland has been leading the girls in Grades 4, 5 and 6 through the Girl Guide program with weekly meetings, badge activities, community service, fundraising and two annual camping trips.

“I truly love doing things for the girls and creating experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Maitland said.

She finds presenting the Girl Guides program stimulating as well.

"I learn so much. It's a really creative outlet and a great networking outlet," said Maitland, who home schools her two daughters. The younger girl is in Girl Guides and the older girl is in Pathfinders.

Not only does it provide her daughters with a group of friends, it also broadens all the girls' education of the world.

"There is so many opportunities. I just love the program. It's so varied. It gives them a taste of so many things," Maitland said.

For Girl Guides, there are 48 badges to collect over the three-year program. Each badge requires the girls to complete eight to 10 tasks. The girls also make their own sashes and put on the badges as they earn them.

"I'm pretty big on badges and making sure their sashes are up all to date. They work really hard on making beautiful sashes and it takes a while to fill it. They are really proud of their sashes."

Maitland is also the leader of the 61st Iceland 2024 Independent Trip Unit, a group of 13 girls. The unit has been fundraising for more than a year.

"Girl Guide rules are that we have to raise 25 per cent through cookies sales. . .This is our last campaign and we'll have sold over 10,000 boxes of cookies toward the Iceland trip," Maitland said.

The girls in the First Collingwood group look up to their leader.

Carmen Pascuzzo, 12, a Grade 6 pupil at Admiral Collingwood Elementary School, has learned from Maitland since she was in Brownies.

"She's the best leader out of all the leaders I've had. She always has the most fun activities. She commits a lot of her time to this group," said Pascuzo.

Morgan Laughlin, 9, is in her first year with Maitland.

"She plans out good stuff, not boring stuff," said Laughlin. 

Ireland Lang, 10, said "She is a really good Guide leader because she understands what is important to do for the community and I like her."

For anyone interested in joining Girl Guides, the next registration opens June 10 through its website:

Cookies are trickier to find, but anyone interested in purchasing some can email Maitland at [email protected] .

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Gisele Winton Sarvis

About the Author: Gisele Winton Sarvis

Gisele Winton Sarvis is an award winning journalist and photographer who has focused on telling the stories of the people of Simcoe County for more than 25 years
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