Girl Scouts has a long history of serving as a platform for all girls’ voices, regardless of their background. Here in Middle Tennessee, our history is filled with countless examples of Black pioneers, innovators, and heroes – including the trailblazers at Lake Providence Missionary Baptist Church.
Special thanks to Paulette Allen, Valarie McAdoo, Bria Woods, and Gold Award Girl Scouts Courtnee and Bethany for their help in gathering the information included below.
How many years has Service Unit 51 served the girls of Lake Providence?
In late 1984, biological sisters Rosalind Buford and Zelma Hockett, whose parents were original members of Lake Providence Missionary Baptist Church, were approached by Ms. Etoill Jordan.
Ms. Jordan, who was a Girl Scout leader, asked if the sisters would be interested in organizing a Girl Scout troop at Lake Providence. After obtaining more information, they were granted Pastor H. Bruce Maxwell’s approval and received the necessary training to get Service Unit 61 up and running in early 1985. In the mid-1990s, Lake Providence changed to Service Unit 51.
The service unit started with eight girls, and their first trips involved the girls touring the Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee (then Girl Scout Council of Cumberland Valley) Service Center, followed by attending a Black History program at Fisk University along with a tour of the university.
How has your approach to Girl Scouts benefitted the girls of Lake Providence over the years?
Our approach at Lake Providence has allowed Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors to realize the importance of the program and the opportunities available to them with regard to preparing them for responsibility, opening the doors to scholarships for college, determining collegiate majors, and applying for internships. We have also presented them chances to become familiar with community service ideas and projects, work independently, stand strong in leadership roles, offer letters of reference for job recommendations, and be examples for younger girls through their work as assistants to the leaders and/or when sharing their projects.
What do you believe is the biggest legacy of Service Unit 51?
Our biggest legacy at Lake Providence has been the establishment of a secure, welcoming environment for the girls (girls from all ethnic backgrounds are welcomed), their families, and volunteers; as well as the unity, empowering and strengthening girls for life in general, and the responsibility that comes with it. This is evident in fall product and cookie sales and their presentation skills before their peers and the church body.
How many girls have earned Gold Awards and other highest awards?
Our first Gold Award Girl Scout was Miss Shenita Williams who received the award in May 1999 under the leadership of Miss Valarie McAdoo. To date, there have been 72 total Girl Scouts to complete the “road to the gold” (12 under the leadership of Miss McAdoo, and 60 of these teens came under my own leadership). We maintain a plaque to recognize our Gold Award Girl Scouts.
Bria Woods, a Gold Award Girl Scout from 2011, is now the head leader of Troop 539, taking the girls to a new and higher technological level.
Many of the leaders who started out with us – Mrs. Buford, Mrs. Hockett, Jackie Beaird, Kimberly Buck Jackson (deceased), Megan Stafford Gregory, Joyce Stafford, Cynthia Dirkson, Veronica Marable Johnson, Jackie McKie, Joan Kelly, and Regina Hambrick – have gone on to work in other ministries in the church but did not leave until they made sure we were fully up to the challenge. Service Unit Manager McAdoo continues to carry the torch and smooth out any challenges we may face.
In support of Lake Providence Girl Scouts changing the world, we share with you a few of their amazing stories.
Bethany – Helping Others Understand Autism
Bethany worked with Advocates for Autism to increase community awareness for her Gold Award Take Action project. Bethany created brochures with educational information and games to educate her community on the different characteristics of autism, the different severities of it, and how to help and support those who have been diagnosed with it.
“Autism continues to be an unanswered question, and many people do not understand the wide spectrum of symptoms. I wanted people to know that just because a person has autism does not mean they don’t have feelings. In my brochure, I gave information on nonverbal responses. Just because I don’t speak does not mean I want to be ignored, but I am not able to express myself like the typical person. It really feels good when I am acknowledged by my peers, and saying hello and getting eye contact is crucial to my growth and understanding.
After people read my brochure they began to have a little more insight into my feelings. I now have more people stop and speak to me or acknowledge me in different ways. This alone has made me want to be more verbal, and I am trying to communicate and give eye contact more because I feel comfortable. I am loved and adored by my family but to have others want to make me feel comfortable has been a huge impact on my life. Understanding Autism was the first step in impacting my community.”
Courtnee – Wright Middle Rules
Courtnee worked with Wright Middle School to enhance the school’s outdoor area for her Gold Award Take Action project. She painted flower beds, planted flowers, rebuilt vegetable garden beds, and placed new picnic tables in play areas. Courtnee spread awareness about her project around the school, her community, and social media.
“My project was solely based on having the students and community of Wright Middle School learn more about ecology and what it has to offer. The outside area of their school wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, and I wanted to help. This project is important to me because I live in the area. I wanted to inspire the students and community about what was around them (including the plant and vegetable life) and how it could benefit them to live healthy and see their schoolyard as something they can learn in rather than just being in the classroom all day.”