Giselle Burgess, one of Troop 6000's original leaders, is a mom of five who lost her home in August 2016. She helped create the Girl Scouts troop in February 2017 with the help of the Department of Homeless Services. "My family lives here in the shelter with the rest of the girls," she explained. "We all share the same feeling of constantly wondering when we will have a home again."
They're not alone in that feeling. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression. In November 2020, there were 57,016 homeless people — including 18,368 children — in the shelter system.
"When I first arrived at the shelter, all the girls who lived here barely spoke to each other," Burgess said. "They had the mentality of 'I won't be here long and won't make friends,' and I wanted to do something to make the situation easier." The troop started with only eight girls, including three of Burgess's kids, but word spread quickly and membership ballooned to 25 scouts ranging in age from five to 15. Today, Troop 6000 has expanded to include thousands of girls in the New York City shelter system, with troop leaders made up of women also living in shelters plus local volunteers. Burgess's daughter, Hailey, says being a Scout changed her life. "I learned to be an advocate for girls and the homeless."
The companionship is so important, since homelessness can impact girls' confidence in a huge way. "My daughters were ashamed," Burgess explained. "They didn't want anyone to think they were dirty, and they worried about people treating them differently."
Troop 6000 is still meeting weekly amid the pandemic, but they're in need of funding now more than ever. You can donate directly to the girls by visiting girlscoutsnyc.org/donate and selecting Troop 6000, or you can stock up some delicious Girl Scout cookies by ordering online from the troop.
"100% of the proceeds from each box of cookies sold by members of Troop 6000 directly supports their troop experience and is used to pay for things like badge activity supplies, uniforms, field trips, and trips to Girl Scout Camp," the Troop 6000 website explains. "Like all Girl Scouts, Troop 6000 members work together to set goals and to decide how their cookie profits are spent."
The Girl Scouts mission? "Every girl in the five boroughs of New York City deserves a chance to reach her full potential: to have her eyes opened to possibilities for college and careers, to make loving and supportive friends, to learn from caring female mentors, and to chart her own course to achieve her goals."
To find out how to support Troop 6000, visit girlscoutsnyc.org, and to buy cookies directly from Troop 6000, click here.
Additional reporting by Melissa Mills.
This story originally appeared on Parents.com .
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