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Girl Scouts gather at Brooksby Village

Nearly 100 Girl Scouts live at Peabody community

Created date

March 14th, 2017
Ethel Leonard, a longtime Girl Scout troop leader and volunteer, was instrumental in bringing together Girl Scouts who live at Brooksby Village, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass.

Ethel Leonard, a longtime Girl Scout troop leader and volunteer, was instrumental in bringing together Girl Scouts who live at Brooksby Village, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass.

It’s been 105 years since Juliette Gordon Low assembled eighteen girls from Savannah, Ga., on March 12, 1912, to form the first Girl Scout troop.

Since that time, Girl Scouts has grown to more than 2.7 million members—1.9 million girls and 800,000 adult volunteers, according to organization’s website.

Brooksby Village, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass., is home to nearly 100 Girl Scouts who get together each March to celebrate the organization’s birthday.

The first gathering of Brooksby’s Girl Scouts was arranged by residents Ethel Leonard, Bonnie Palace, and Marjorie Snodgrass in March 2012 to celebrate the Girl Scouts’ centennial anniversary. 

Rounding up the troops

“As the hundredth anniversary approached, I thought there must be other Girl Scouts living at Brooksby,” says Ethel, who joined her first troop in Dorchester in 1934 at the age of 12. “I put out a notice and received close to a hundred replies.”

To celebrate the centennial, the Girl Scouts gathered in Brooksby’s catering room, where they recited the Girl Scout promise and law, sang scout songs, enjoyed a performance by a Juliette Gordon Low impersonator, ate sugar cookies made from an original Girl Scout recipe, and closed with “Taps.”

“It was such a success that we decided to make it an annual celebration,” says Ethel.

In addition to the birthday celebration, Brooksby’s Girl Scouts have bonded through other scout-related activities.

In October 2012, a group of young Girl Scouts from Danvers invited former Girl Scouts living at Brooksby to join them on a walk along the Danvers Rail Trail, which runs past the community.

The generations swapped stories about their scouting experiences as they walked, then headed over to Brooksby for cookies and juice.

“We were thrilled to have the girls come,” says Ethel. “It was a great time of sharing between generations.”

Time of reflection

Brooksby’s Girl Scouts have also traveled together to Camp Cedar Hill in Waltham for annual brick dedication ceremonies.

At one time, Cedar Hill was a private estate featuring a replica of the maze at Hampton Court Palace in London. Now Cedar Hill is a day camp run by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts. At the site of the former maze is a path of commemorative bricks bearing messages from friends of the Girl Scouts.

Ethel purchased a brick to honor a troop she once led, and Ethel’s daughter Ellen purchased a brick to honor her mother.

“Several of us from Brooksby have gone to Cedar Hill for the brick dedications over the past few years,” says Ethel.

This month, as Brooksby’s Girl Scouts prepare to celebrate the organization’s 105th anniversary, many of them can’t help but reflect on its impact on their lives.

“I loved the program and felt it was a nurturing experience helping me grow up,” says Ethel, who spent 55 years as a Girl Scout volunteer.

Finding her path

Ethel’s contributions as a Girl Scout leader, first in Dorchester, then in Lynnfield where she raised her family, have garnered numerous accolades from the organization, including an engraved sterling plate given to her by the Hawthorne Council and recognition by the Spar and Spindle Council in North Andover. But Ethel’s most treasured Girl Scout memorabilia are the scrapbooks containing photos of all the girls whose lives she’s touched throughout the years.

“The Girl Scout mission remains the same: to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place,” says Ethel. “But Girl Scouts have also kept up with the times. Girls today can earn badges for website design, digital photography, or business etiquette. It’s all about helping each girl find her own path.”