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Girl Scouts donate cookies to service members

Published: 12:53PM April 17th, 2014

Girl Scout Troop 40221 has studied a variety of topics. The girls, who range in age from 10 to 12, have studied such subjects as rock climbing, aviation, oceanography and military branches.

“They love learning,” said Wendy Pena, whose daughter, Willow, joined the troop last year.

After studying their surrounding community at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Ruby Davies, Matti Dennis, Alexis Zamora, Willow Pena and Milani Ornelas were inspired to provide a service to the environment in which they live. The troop has previously worked on a beach cleanup at the Tacoma waterfront, cleaned up a base park and neighborhood and created and posted signs at a base dog park regarding waste removal and were only in second grade when they helped facilitate a renovation of a JBLM playground.

“Girl Scouts really influence girls to reach out to the community,” Troop 40221 leader Debbie Ornelas said. “It started them on a path of wanting to give back and it just snowballed.”

All five girls of the junior troop have ties to the military, and last fall worked together to fill and hand-sewn rice-filled heat bags for veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs American Lake campus. The VA hospital staff was grateful for the donation and expressed their gratitude for local Girl Scouts. This year, the troop decided to donate Girl Scout cookies to the VA hospital and made a cookie drop of nearly 125 boxes, worth about $500, at the hospital April 7.

The girls also made a second stop at the USO’s Northwest Shali Center on McChord Field to donate cookies to a unit of Marines headed overseas.

“They want to help the community in so many ways,” Ornelas said. “It’s not just the local community. They’ve done the base, of course, and they’ve helped with the school system, but they keep expanding worldwide.”

Troop 40221 joined with other troops to make blankets and ship them to those affected by Hurricane Sandy, and also put together shoe boxes of hygiene items to send to Third World countries.

Locally, the troop also selects one or two other nearby Scout troops to assist them in earning their patches.

“We’re always doing something,” Pena said. “It’s crazy how busy we get, but we pull it off and they have amazing memories.”

The troop doesn’t do these services for the recognition, but it certainly stands out. Milani Ornelas has earned the Presidential Gold Level volunteer pin for her more than 100 hours of volunteer service.

While Debbie Ornelas is the troop leader, all of the parents are involved with the group.

“They go all out for the kids,” Pena said.