Six years ago, Nashville mom and Christ Presbyterian Church member Kate Etue went searching for a Girl Scout troop her kindergarten daughter could join.
When she couldn’t find anything nearby, Kate decided to start her own troop. She already had her hands full as a working mom with three kids who served as a volunteer with Christ Presbyterian Church’s Cub Scout Pack 555. But she kicked off Troop 2123 with her daughter and six other young girls around her kitchen table. She never dreamed it would eventually grow into Middle Tennessee’s largest and most inclusive troop, which now includes seven dedicated troop leaders who oversee more than 50 girls from kindergarten through ninth grade and is comprised of both homeschoolers and students from nine different schools throughout Middle Tennessee.
Shortly after the troop formed, Christ Presbyterian Church invited Troop 2123 to become a Missional Community at the church. The troop holds its regular meetings on-campus and has become a catalyst for connecting a growing number of families with the ethos and ministries of Christ Presbyterian.
“Some of these families don’t necessarily come from a faith-based background,” Etue said. “Through an interest in Girl Scouts, they’ve been introduced and have shown interest in our church, in Christ Presbyterian Academy and in Christ Presbyterian’s Special Saturdays.”
Special Saturdays are an ongoing event the Christ Presbyterian Special Needs Ministry hosts where children with special needs and their siblings are invited to enjoy an uplifting time of Bible stories, music and crafts.
The multi-level troop is unique in that it doesn’t restrict how many girls can join or when throughout the year they must register. The decision to make it an “open troop” allows sisters of different ages to participate simultaneously. Meetings also occur the same night on-campus at the Old Hickory Blvd location as Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, so families can attend together.
Because of its relaxed, open-enrollment status, Troop 2123 has also benefited from gaining diversity among its membership. To date, families with roots from countries such as Ethiopia, India, England, China and Guatemala have been involved in the troop. A highlight each year occurs during an activity called “Festival of Countries” when the girls select a country they want to research and represent. The culminating event includes creating a display board, costumes, food and crafts in a festival where families and Cub Scout Pack 555 visit each booth to learn from the presenters. The troop routinely has girls representing their own diverse countries of origin during the event.
Many of the inaugural core group of Girl Scouts are still part of Troop 2123. As fifth graders now, the girls have spent six years learning valuable life lessons and practicing the habit of giving back—whether it’s donating to charitable causes internationally or right in our own community.
The annual Girl Scout cookie sale, for example, has provided Troop 2123 with several opportunities to learn about and support the needs of others abroad. Because of the large size of the troop, the girls annually sell around 4,000 boxes of cookies. In recent years, a portion of the profit they’ve earned from cookie sales has been used to invest in organizations such as Love + One International, a group that provides health care for HIV-positive and malnourished orphans in Uganda.
These girls also donated funds to a backpack program in Giles County that provides groceries to food-insecure students. Another year, a deaf troop member had the idea of supporting an orphanage for hearing-impaired children in Jamaica. The girls spent time learning about weather systems and water conservation before using their cookie profits to purchase two large tanks of clean drinking water for the orphanage.
To advance in earning scout badges, the girls also identify and participate in ways to serve their local community. Recent efforts have included volunteering at a local animal humane society, visiting senior citizens in assisted living facilities and creating a neighborhood Little Free Library.
“A mindset of service and a desire to give back has been cemented into their perspective through all these experiences,” Etue said.
Activities such as camping—where girls must prepare their own food, assemble a tent, sleep on a hard surface and complete challenges such as a high-ropes course or a zip line—build strength, resilience and teamwork among the girls.
“We’re seeing great moments of character formation through these experiences,” Etue said. “The effort it takes to go camping, for example, can act as a buffer against the entitlement mentality so many kids and teens face today.”
From Etue’s own viewpoint, she’s deeply grateful for all that has transpired in the last six years.
“To see how God has built this troop that’s been meaningful to so many girls is really amazing,” she said. “It’s also been a great way to bond with my daughter and be present in her life and in the lives of her friends. Those moments of connection make everything worth it. “
To learn more about the Girl Scout Troop 2123 Missional Community, email Ashley McDonald.