CAMDEN NATIVE GIVES SCOUTS COMMUNITY FACE

Maria Spring is working to become the face of the Girl Scouts in Kershaw County.

The Camden native in June accepted a part-time job as membership manager for the county. While the position is not new, the philosophy behind it is.

The Girl Scouts Congaree Council is putting community members into membership manager positions throughout the Midlands to give those involved with Scouting a local contact for the organization.

Previously, the membership manager job was a full-time position responsible for three counties.

Spring said the new plan is working.

“It’s opened a lot of doors for Girl Scouts to have a face (community members) recognize,” Spring said. As a resident, Spring said she knows more about the community, including good places to meet and people who would be willing to help.

Margaret Bishop, who was a membership manager in 2000 for Lancaster, Fairfield and lower Richland counties, said being familiar with the community will have its benefits.

“I think that it’s going to allow that person really to be more effective,” she said.

Bishop, who now lives in Camden and is Spring’s sister, said when she was a manager, she had problems like getting extra supplies to volunteers at the last minute, because she lived up to an hour-and-a-half away. The constant driving was a big factor in her decision to leave the job after a year.

“It just wasn’t easy,” she said.

Spring has been back in Camden for just under a decade, after attending college and working outside the county.

Even though she has no daughters of her own, Spring is no stranger to the Girl Scouts.

She remembers as a child taking the train from Camden to Savannah, Ga., to visit the childhood home of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Lowe with a troop led by her mother, Rose Sheheen. Sheheen’s mother, in turn, was a Girl Scout leader in Baltimore, Md.

Spring remembers old Girl Scout traditions, like the bridging ceremony that graduates girls from being a Brownie to a Girl Scout – and from a brown uniform to a green one.

Some things have changed since Spring was in the Girl Scouts.

Uniforms are no longer required, because not everyone can afford them, and programs have become more modernized.

But Spring said the lessons she learned in Girl Scouts are still part of what the organization is about today.

“Girl Scouting gives you the confidence to make decisions, be sure of yourself,” she said. “It teaches leadership skills and giving back to the community.”

As membership manager for Kershaw County, Spring uses those leadership skills to recruit girls and volunteer troop leaders to the Girl Scouts.

She has a list of 60 girls who want to become involved from a membership drive held this past Saturday at Camden First Baptist Church.

“The girls here want it,” Spring said. “It’s just a matter of getting the volunteers.”

Spring said volunteering doesn’t necessarily mean being a troop leader.

She said she is looking for people who can lead just one or two sessions to teach girls anything from line dancing to nutrition, people who formerly have worked with children and can act as mentors to current volunteers, and people to organize and manage cookie sales.

“There’s just a lot of different ways to volunteer,” she said.

Volunteers must fill out an application, undergo a background check and have up to five personal references. They don’t have to be parents.

Spring recently met two young women who wanted to volunteer “because they had grown up as Girl Scouts and it had meant a lot to them. They just wanted to give back.”

This is one in an occasional series profiling people making a difference in Kershaw County.

PROFILE

Maria Spring

Personal: Husband, Steven; sons, William, 8, and Robert, 5

Age: 36

Background: Graduate of Camden High School (1987) and Clemson University (1991); master’s in public administration from University of South Carolina, 1993; worked in human resources in the public and private sectors.

Family connections to Scouts: Former Brownie and Girl Scout; grandmother, Josephine Serio, and mother, Rose Sheheen, were troop leaders; sister, Margaret Bishop was a membership manager

Notable: Spring has helped start a pilot program at Pine Tree Hill Elementary School that will involve girls in the after-school program in the Girl Scouts. She hopes that the program can be done at other schools throughout the county.

Quotable: “I just like the idea of helping people vs. making money.”

Upcoming events

* Girl Scouts fund-raising breakfast, 7:30 a.m. Sept. 28 at the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce

* Child abuse prevention night, 6-7 p.m. Sept. 22 at Blaney Elementary School, sponsored by Blaney Girl Scout Troop 968. Admission is one new or clean used Teddy bear collected for victims of child abuse.

For more information or to volunter, contact Maria Spring at (803) 432-1950 or springm@congaree.org.

Reach Rupon at (803) 771-8622 or krupon@thestate.com with suggestions.

September 15, 2005  State (published as The State)  
Columbia, South Carolina
Page 74

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