By Lancaster resident, volunteer and parent Megan Miller. Miller is co-leader of her daughter’s troop and a volunteer recruiter for the local service center.
Just last week, the Palmdale Store of the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles (GSGLA) was shut down with no notice to the local Girl Scouts, the volunteer leaders, and most importantly, the staff that worked there. It was a chance run-in between a Girl Scout parent and the very recently terminated manager of the Girl Scout store that we were made aware of this closing. If not for that, a global e-mail with a half of a sentence dedicated to the closure would have been all we knew about it.
To be clear, the Service Center with six remaining staff is still standing… for now.
In the newly remodeled building, there now sits a space full of merchandise and cheerily decorated to entice young and old. But a cloud sits over the bleak store because none of the merchandise is for sale. The store is closed indefinitely, and the only part of the building with an actual cash income is gone. Right now, the service center is one year into a five-year lease. Just last year, the home of the local Antelope Valley Girl Scouts was moved from the Lancaster Marketplace to the posh brick building off the freeway on Avenue N. At a cost of almost double the price in rent, and then lavished with premium upgrades, the move led us to believe that there were no budgetary concerns.
Not only did they take away our valued store, GSGLA took away two members of the Antelope Valley Girl Scout family. Paula and Melinda were terminated along with the store. I’m not really sure how long they have worked there, but I’ve never met two more dedicated people that were totally committed to the girls out here.
If you had a question, they were the ones who would help. With their help, I always found new items and was given suggestions for purchases that would help my troop. When my Girl Scout came in with me, they were nothing but supportive of her. When she asked how to get service hours, talked about her cookie sales, or was trying to decide how to spend the money she had in her wallet, they were always encouraging and loving to her.
The Antelope Valley has unique challenges that other parts of Los Angeles County do not experience. This is true for most things and scouting is no exception. As part of the GSGLA, we are at least an hour away from most events they offer.
If we want to participate with the rest of the council, we must find a way to transport 10-20 girls 40 (Santa Clarita) to 100 (Montclair) miles away from home. This includes begging parents to not only give up their weekend to drive a car full of young girls for hours, but also to spend $100 in gas to do it. Fortunately, we have amazing parents up here. Programs that have been produced by the GSGLA are never local, and it has been dependent on individual troops to host events. With poor communication between service units, the turnout is always low. To make up for this, the GSGLA has hired a Program Specialist. They have told us that she is there to develop more “volunteer led” programs. What weighs on the minds of the volunteers is that they have laid-off two members of our family and hired a new person to make more work for us.
The reason for these lay-offs, according to the GSGLA, is purely money. Throughout the Greater Los Angeles area, membership is low, and cookie sales are low, but only one store was closed – Palmdale.
While the Santa Clarita store hours were severely cut back, only the Antelope Valley girls lost their shop and its employees. Santa Clarita is right between two stores and can drive either way, but the Palmdale store is the last store in the GSGLA boundaries that serve all the way in to Kern County. Even Ridgecrest residents make the drive to our store. Our territory is being managed by people who have no clue what it’s like out here. When they visited us [recently], they admitted that the drive was incredibly unappealing.
That brings me to the point of why everyone should care. This is another example of how the Antelope Valley is undervalued. We are not given the respect that our area deserves based on the number of people served, the distance they have to travel, and the need for leadership role models. Losing the shop is blow to any girl that needs a uniform for her meeting tonight, or a leader who added a girl and needs a Journey book for her so she can join in with her troop, or a parent who is completely lost about where to put all those badges and how to make them stay on the uniform (Paula will help you with that!).
The worst part of it all is that we weren’t given the decent courtesy of a warning. We knew shop sales were low, so we asked everyone to buy from the shop and business was picking up. We knew membership was low, and the service units were putting together recruiting events. When there was still time, we could have been told that this was happening and worked harder.
Many of the volunteers here work the equivalent of part-time and full-time jobs for the GSGLA without seeing a dime, and we’re still willing to work more. If the GSGLA was willing to be “honest and fair” or “considerate and caring” (two very important parts of the Girl Scout Law), they would give us a chance to turn the Antelope Valley around with our shop, and with our shop employees.
It hurts that we weren’t even given a fighting chance.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The AV Times.
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