Girl Scouts: '100 years of history, a future of possibilities'

Sellers of Thin Mints parade Downtown to celebrate centennial


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Those exuberant young ladies who sell Thin Mints and seven other kinds of cookies each spring paraded their considerable girl power through Downtown Pittsburgh Saturday morning to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts.

In 1912, Juliette Gordon Low founded the group in Savannah, Ga., and later sold a strand of her pearls to raise money for the first troop.

In the lead car of the parade rode Kriss Svidro, the first woman in Western Pennsylvania to be honored as Volunteer of the Year for Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania. Mrs. Svidro, 62, of South Strabane, received 10 letters of recommendation for the honor.

She wore a strand of pearls that belonged to her late mother, Muriel Miller, who assisted in leading an Eastern Pennsylvania troop.

On her navy jacket was a specially designed gold pin that honors her 30 plus years of service. She topped off her outfit with a tiara of pink and white rhinestones.

"It's amazing what these girls can do," said Mrs. Svidro, who led a troop for 21 years and has taught adults how to work with various age groups.

"It's all about new experiences," she said, adding that Girl Scouts offers opportunities where girls "can be the role models and the leaders."

Her 29-year-old daughter, Kate Svidro, who was busy snapping pictures, helps her mother with scouting and registers troop members in Washington County.

Behind Mrs. Svidro in the tan convertible sat one of the region's oldest Girl Scout leaders -- 92-year-old Virginia Halt, who lived in Shaler for 50 years before moving to Arlington, Va., four years ago.

Around 1950, Mrs. Halt founded a Brownie troop that included her daughter, Sandy Fischer, now of Great Falls., Va. Mrs. Halt devoted more than 30 years of her life to the Girl Scouts, trained other troop leaders and also spent plenty of time at Camp Red Wing, which is south of Butler.

Starting a troop from scratch, Mrs. Halt said, "was just the joy of new discoveries -- things that the girls had never seen or done or talked about or read about. I put up a bulletin board with possible activities. The girls had a part in planning the programs. It was a we thing. The girls loved to sing, as did I."

Mrs. Halt stopped to talk to Girl Scouts along the parade route on Grant Street and the Boulevard of the Allies; one troop taught her new words to an old scouting favorite "Head and shoulders, knees and toes."

Saturday's parade was one of numerous events during a celebration weekend that started Friday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. A key event was a bridge ceremony, held Saturday evening, on the Roberto Clemente Bridge. In a bridge ceremony, Scouts move from one level to another. The youngest Scouts are Daisies in kindergarten and first grade and the oldest are Ambassadors, who are high school juniors and seniors.

The region's youngest and most successful saleswomen, each of whom sold more than 500 boxes of cookies, rode atop a red double decker tour bus from The Pittsburgh Tour Company, merrily waving signs that showed their sales figures. Many had sold 2,000 or more boxes of treats.

Through costumes and signage, every decade of Girl Scouts was represented. A group of 18 girls, attired in white dresses, represented that first troop from Savannah, Ga. The first radio Girl Scout troop was formed in the 1920s, the same decade KDKA Radio signed on the air.

Members of Troop 30421 from Edinboro dressed as butterflies because they are creating more than 30,000 handmade butterflies for a Holocaust Museum in Houston, Texas. Each butterfly represents one of the 1.5 million Jewish children who perished during the Holocaust.

Eliza Resetar, a 13-year-old student at West Mifflin Middle School, was an absolute standout in a dress she stitched together out of 40 recycled neckties. Another member of her troop wore a skirt made of cookie boxes.

Troop 55102 from Shaler created a float decorated with all eight cookies -- Thin Mints, Do-si-dos, Tagalongs, Trefoils, Dulce de Leche, Thank U Berry Munch, Savannah Smiles and the Samoa.

Amy Fedorek, who made the float with her husband, Jason and their friend, Angie Marshall, said it will travel to Shaler Area High School football games and be used during next year's cookie sale where the couple's 9-year-old daughter, Caitlin, will participate.

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Marylynne Pitz: mpitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1648.


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