Lots of help, enthusiasm make Girl Scout camps a summer highlight


IT'S MID-JULY, and Phil DeVito of Savage can finally get a bit of well-earned rest. The Savage resident has just finished directing a season of Brownie and Junior Girl Scout day camps at Camp Ilchester.

This year, the camp drew more than 500 elementary school-age girls from the region to Howard County's only Girl Scout camp.

It's the second time DeVito and her team - Tamarah Nuttle, assistant director; Cathy Tomaszewski, transportation coordinator; and Lorie Pfannenstine, business manager - have run the camps.

All went well, thanks to scores of volunteers. The camp was organized into 13 units of about 20 girls each, with three adult leaders and three teen-age program aides for each unit.

While there were opening ceremonies and singing and an overnight stay for the older participants - all staples of Scouting - the camp also had an educational agenda. This year's theme was Native Americans. Each unit was assigned a tribe to research, with the adult volunteers coming up with appropriate crafts for their charges.

"We tried to stay true to the history and culture of the tribes," DeVito said.

The girls made miniature tribal dwellings: adobe villages, plank long houses and bark homes. A tarp tent, covered in branches, was large enough for the girls to enter. Sue Grasso was in charge of programming.

Many of the adult volunteers are Scout leaders. But what make the camps a great experience are the program aides. These are older Girl Scouts, no longer eligible to attend the camps, who help run the activities. Many have been coming to Camp Ilchester since before first grade and have progressed through the ranks. Eventually, they volunteer as program-aide trainees and then as program aides.

The Camp Ilchester PA program is the most successful one in Central Maryland, reported DeVito with pride, thanks largely to the efforts of PA coordinator Monica Suchoski and Anne O'Keefe. Anne DeVito, 16, a senior at Long Reach High School, organized a school supply drive for underprivileged children. Each morning, during the camp's opening activities, Scouts with donations were asked to come forward. Those who donated supplies received a ribbon.

"There was a nice competition about who had the most ribbons," said Anne. The drive netted more than 1,000 donations, from highlighters and pens to notebooks and glue. Someone brought in a few children's books.

"The best part was just seeing the smiles on the girls' faces as they were singing," said Phil DeVito of her experience as camp director.

Silver awards

In notes from the Bollman Bridge/Guilford Girl Scout Cluster, two members of Cadet/Senior Troop 1617 have earned the Silver Award.

This is Girl Scouting's second-highest award and one reserved for cadets. Projects that merit the award must be completed before the end of ninth grade. Because the award has a minimum commitment of 25 hours , a cadet often takes her entire three-year stint to complete the requirements.

Heather Stewart, 15, a sophomore at Hammond High School, was awarded her Silver Award pin at the Community Fly-Up held June 7 at Savage Methodist Church. A fly-up is a Girl Scout graduation into the next level of Scouting.

Heather's project was to develop a walking tour of Savage. She used archival records from the Howard County Historical Society, from Savage United Methodist Church and from Savage Mill. She also spoke to community members.

So impressed was the Howard County Historical Society that it asked for a copy of her tour. A copy is also available at the library.

Fellow Cadet Kasey Vollmerhausen is finishing requirements for her Silver Award. She's at Camp Ilchester persuading fellow Scouts to get very dirty.

Camp Ilchester has a one-lane road that is dangerous to pedestrian traffic. Kasey is building a 400-foot paved sidewalk along a stretch of it. She first put down tarps along the planned sidewalk. Then she outlined it with fallen branches harvested from the camp. The toughest part came next: Using recycled asphalt chunks from the reconstruction of Route 175, she began filling the sidewalk bed she had fashioned. Part of her challenge was to demonstrate leadership in persuading others to help her and then organizing that help.

She was expected to have completed the project by this week.

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