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FAQs

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Membership and General Questions

Q: At what age can a girl join Girl Scouting?
A: Girl Scout membership is based on grade level rather than age: Daisy (grades K-1), Brownie (grades 2-3), Junior (grades 4-5), Cadette (grades 6-8), Senior (grades 9-10) or Ambassador (grades 11-12). Girls attending summer camps or programs are considered to be at the grade level they will be entering in the fall.

Q: How can a girl participate in Girl Scouting?
A. Girl Scouting offers several “pathways” in which girls and adults can participate. Some girls participate in one pathway, while others may select any combination of the five:

  • Troop – Girls meet regularly in their community with the same group of girls and adults on a year-round basis.
  • Events – Different girls and volunteers at one-day programs sponsored locally or even over a series of days statewide or nationally.
  • Series – Girls and volunteers attend multiple sessions to explore common goals or interests.
  • Camp – Girls attend day or resident camp programs to meet new friends, learn new skills over a series of days or even weeks!
  • Travel – Regional, national or international trips are available to girls and travel chaperones, guides or host volunteers.

Q: My daughter’s schedule doesn’t permit her to belong to a troop. Can she still earn badges or awards?
A: Yes! In our council, Girl Scouts who don’t belong to a troop are Indie Girls (short for Individually Registered Girls.) An Indie Girl can participate at any grade level and in any of our pathways. If she’s an Ambassador, our Girl Scout Gold Award Committee can also help mentor her, monitor her success and provide her with the advice she needs to receive the highest award in Girl Scouting.

Q: What does it cost to join?
A. Annual membership dues are $15; and most troops charge minimal dues per girl for materials and activities in the meeting place. Typically, parents or guardians also pay for a girls’ uniform (components) or insignia, Journey books or handbooks, and Girl Scout pathway opportunities that a girl wants to do in addition to troop planned and budgeted activities. Troop families often provide refreshments or transportation.

The Girl Scout Cookie Program and MagNut Program are designed to allow each troop to raise the monies they need to pay for field trips, events, troop camping, ceremonies, workshops, service projects, etc. These experiences also provide girls with five essential skills, like money-handling and goal setting.

Financial assistance is available so that every girl can benefit from the Girl Scout experience.

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Volunteering

Q: Who can be a Girl Scout volunteer?
A: Girl Scout volunteers are 18 years and older who can be a positive adult role model to girls, and who accept the Girl Scout Promise and Law.  Today’s girl needs the time, resources and commitment of a community of volunteers to help pave her way.

All Girl Scout volunteers who have direct contact with girls, handle money or manage finances or provide supervision to girls (other than their own child) at overnight or travel events are required to complete the Volunteer Application, and pass a criminal background check and Pennsylvania Child Abuse Clearances.

Q: How do I become a volunteer?
A: Visit the Volunteer page and fill-out the simple online form. Once you submit the form, a GSWPA staff member will get in touch with you to discuss the various volunteer options and how you'd like to participate.

After you've spoken with a staff member (or if you're a current volunteer renewing your volunteer application and background), you'll be directed to complete the screening process.

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Camp/Outdoor Experiences

Q: What are the ways to camp at GSWPA camps?
A: GSWPA has nine camps offering several different options, whether you want to camp overnight or just for the day as an individual, with a troop or as a family. Learn more about the different kinds of camping we offer.

Q: Who can go to camp?
A: Girl Scouts is for every girl--and you don't even need to be part of a troop. Simply become an Individually Registered Girl Scout (we call them Indie Girls), and enjoy all of the activities, programs and projects that make Girl Scouts so much fun--including camp!

Q: Who are the camp staff?
A: Camps are staffed with activity specialists, a cook, a healthcare manager and specialty staff for the horse and adventure programs. These staff members are carefully selected for their skills, as well as how they work with children and adults. They participate in extensive training sessions where they earn appropriate certifications. At CORE Camp, troop or group leaders (or adult volunteers) assume responsibility for Girl Scouts' Safety Activity Checkpoint ratio and American Camping Association (ACA) standards. We provide lifeguards, National Rifle Association instructors and boating instructors--depending on your camp's features. In addition, each camp has a resident camp ranger and there’s always a person at camp certified in CPR and First Aid.

Q. What sleeping arrangements and facilities are available at camp?
A: Each camp is different, but the three arrangements widely available are:

  • platform tents-mattresses on the floor or cots
  • yurts (semi-permanent tent structures)-mattresses on the floor or cots
  • lodges- include basic necessities

Our camp section has more details on the amenities at each property.

Q: Are visitors and phone calls permitted at camp?
A: For safety reasons, access to camp properties is limited when camp is in session. Mail from home is welcome and is delivered daily. Parents may leave mail at check-in for delivery during the session. (Please include the following information in all mail you send: session name, session date and camper’s name.) In the event of any emergency or change in plans, please call the camp director. Camp phone numbers are provided with your confirmation materials, and camp directors contact parents in case of an emergency or illness. Please note: camp phones are limited to camp business only.

Q: What training is required of adult volunteers before taking girls to camp?
A: Volunteers accompanying girls to Troop or C.A.P. camping are required to complete Outdoor Skills Training and CPR/First Aid Training. See our Adult Training section for more information. Adults accompanying girls to CORE or Family camps are not required to have these trainings.

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Cookie Program

Q: When do Girl Scout Cookies go on sale and how do I find them? 
A: Girl Scout Cookies can be purchased only from girls and only during cookie season, which kicks off in January 2016 (check back for an exact date).

For more information on the Cookie Program, visit our cookie program web page or like us on Facebook for regular sale updates.

Q: What is National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend?
A: This special two-day event held each cookie season is a great opportunity for Girl Scouts and Girl Scout supporters to share with the community the importance of the Cookie Program and what it does for the girls and their communities. Stay tuned for information on the 2016 National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend.

Q: What is Operation: Sweet Appreciation?
A: Operation: Sweet Appreciation allows cookie customers to purchase boxes of cookies to be sent to veterans and men and women serving our country at home and overseas in the U.S. Military. Cookies to benefit OSA can be purchased on individual girl's cookie order forms, at booth sales, and online at gswpa.org/military during cookie season.

Anyone donating online to Operation: Sweet Appreciation can choose a specific Girl Scout troop or individually registered girl (also known as Indie Girls) to benefit from the donation, just as they would through the traditional Cookie Program. Girl Scout Cookies purchased with the donations from this program will be shipped directly from the baker, Little Brownie Bakers, to military troops serving overseas.

Q: Can I purchase Girl Scout cookies online?
Yes, during Cookie Season only, you can purchase Girl Scout cookies online from a Girl Scout through Digital Cookie.

Q: Why are Girl Scout Cookies available only for a short time?
A: The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the premier entrepreneurship opportunity for girls, but it is just one part of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. Girl Scouts participate in many activities throughout the year and work on many projects. Cookies are just one of those activities. And because only girls may sell Girl Scout Cookies, their market availability is limited to the 6 to 8-week period when they are engaged in the program.

Q: Where does my money go when I buy Girl Scout Cookies?
A: With every purchase from a GSWPA Girl Scout or troop, approximately 70% of the proceeds goes to the local council and troops, with the remainder going to the baker to pay for the cookies. Find out more about how cookie proceeds are used.

See more Girl Scout Cookie FAQs

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MagNut Program

Q: What is the MagNut Program?
A: The MagNut program, held in October/November, helps girls set and achieve goals at the beginning of the Girl Scout year by selling magazines, photo keepsakes, nuts and candy.

Q: How do I order products from the MagNut program?
A: During the MagNut Program, contact a Girl Scout you know to place an order either via the paper form or online. If you don't know a Girl Scout, email magnut@gswpa.org.

Q: Can a Girl Scout deliver my order from the Online Nut Store instead of paying for the shipping and handling?
A. No orders from the Online Nut Store will be delivered by the Girl Scout. They all will be shipped directly to the customer. If you order from the Online Nut Store, you’ll pay with a credit card at the time the order is placed. Shipping and handling will be included. 

Q: Are the same products offered on both the paper forms and online?
A: The Online Nut Store will offer all the 16 nut and candy items that are listed on the girl’s order taker plus nine additional nut and candy products and five corporate gifts. The girl’s order taker will have only the sixteen nut and candy products. 

All magazines and photo keepsakes are available both on the paper form and online. The online magazine catalog will have a larger and up-to-date selection of magazines to choose.

Q: Can a donation to Operation Sweet Appreciation be made through the Online Nut Store?
A: No. All donations for Operation Sweet Appreciation must be entered on the Girls’ Order Taker or on the GSWPA website.

Q: Do I pay the Girl Scout when I place my nuts and candy order?
A: When ordering in-person, you do not pay until the Girl Scout delivers their order. Only online orders are paid when the order is placed.

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Donors/Fund Development

Q: How can I make a donation to GSWPA?
A: There are many ways you can change the life of a girl by supporting Girl Scouting. See the Ways to Give page for more information.

Q: How do donations made to GSWPA benefit local girls?
A: Personal contributions are directly applied to the many critical resources that make Girl Scouting successful in 27 counties. While the Girl Scout Cookie Program helps to keep the cost of activities affordable, Girl Scouting needs financial support from donors to develop new curriculum, provide transportation, recruit volunteers, meet safety standards, and provide financial assistance so more girls can benefit from a quality Girl Scout Leadership Experience. When you make a donation, you can specify an area of need that you’d like your contribution to support. Learn more about what your donation can do.

Q. What is the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC)?
A: Any business that pays Pennsylvania taxes is qualified to receive tax credits for making contributions to educational improvement organizations or scholarship organizations, including Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania. The EITC program is unique to Pennsylvania, allowing businesses to make a charitable donation based on the amount of PA state taxes they pay. In return, they receive a 75 percent tax credit when filing state taxes. For example, a $10,000 donation earns a $7,500 tax credit, plus it can be claimed as a donation on the federal tax return. A two-year $10,000 donation earns a 90 percent tax credit or $9,000 per year. Learn more about the EITC program.

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Social Issues

Q: Does Girl Scouts have a relationship with Planned Parenthood?
A: No, Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania and Girl Scouts of the USA do not have a relationship with Planned Parenthood. Learn more.

Q: Does Girl Scouting support girls of all backgrounds and beliefs? How can I be sure that Girl Scouting is a good match with our family’s values, heritage or traditions?
A: In Girl Scouts, we’ve always been, and remain, an organization with a deep spiritual commitment. We also have a deep and very longstanding commitment to inclusiveness. We welcome and embrace girls of every race, ethnicity, level of ability and religion. The Constitution of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America is very specific on this point:

The motivating force in Girl Scouting is spiritual. The ways in which members identify and fulfill their spiritual beliefs are personal and private.

The Girl Scout Movement is open to all girls and adults who accept the Girl Scout Promise and Law and meet membership requirements.

We encourage girls to develop connections to their own spiritual and religious beliefs by earning recognitions provided by their faith communities and by earning the My Promise, My Faith pin, which helps a girl deepen the connection between the Girl Scout Law and her faith. We support the right of faith leaders to verify that programming delivered to girls in their places of worship is consistent with their faith’s teachings.

Learn more about Girl Scouts and faith and also read about Girl Scouting and the Catholic Church

Q: Why is palm oil used in Girl Scout Cookies?
A: Palm oil is an ingredient found in the majority of baked snacks sold in the United States. GSUSA's licensed bakers tell us it continues to be necessary to use palm oil in our cookies to ensure shelf life, to offer customers the highest quality and to serve as an alternative to trans fats. However, GSUSA and our licensed bakers are members of—and our bakers source palm oil exclusively from—members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an organization of growers, buyers, manufacturers, conservationists, and interested parties who are striving to develop and follow best practices to ensure sustainability. Learn more

See more FAQs on Girl Scouts and social issues