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Girl Scout troop in Long Island City homeless shelter to expand citywide

Members of Girl Scout Troop 6000 join its founders Meredith Maskara (l), leader Giselle Burgess and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer at City Hall Wednesday.
Courtesy Van Bramer’s office
By Bill Parry

Members of Girl Scout Troop 6000 joined City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) Wednesday at City Hall where the de Blasio administration announced an investment of more than $1 million to expand the first-in-the-nation troop dedicated to serving homeless girls and women.

The program, which started in March with 22 girls living at a shelter for homeless families in the Sleep Inn Hotel in Long Island City, has proven so successful it will be expanded to 15 shelter sites for families with children across New York City. At least 500 girls and women will have the opportunity to join the Scouts.

“It was only a few months ago that Troop 6000 stole the hearts of New Yorkers and garnered support from people around the country,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “The Girl Scouts of Greater New York embody the type of program this administration is dedicated to supporting, with the shared goal of helping young people build confidence and foster community support. Together with the Mayor’s Fund, we are proud to expand and support Troop 6000, allowing more young homeless children to participate in a program that is helping them cope and deal with the challenges they face every day.”

Over the next three years, the Department of Homeless Services will provide $320,000 annually and the Mayor’s Fund will provide $55,000 annually, totaling $1,125,000 for this expansion. Families compromise nearly 70 percent of the DHS shelter census, and roughly one third of the population is school-age children 17 years old and younger.

“Earlier this year, the Scouts in Troop 6000 inspired all of us with their strength and positive attitude in the face of challenges like homelessness,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks, who oversees DHS. “We are thrilled to expand this partnership, fostering a supportive community and giving more New Yorkers the opportunity to join an organization that is so committed to engaging young people, teaching them to get involved and helping them grow into future leaders.”

Troop 6000’s genesis began at Thanksgiving when Van Bramer and Girl Scouts from Sunnyside were serving Thanksgiving dinner to the women living at Pam’s Place, a shelter for homeless women at the former Verve Hotel in Dutch Kills.

“It was there that we dreamed of a Girl Scout troop created specifically for homeless girls,” Van Bramer said. “Troop 6000 gives these girls a place to find lifelong friends and discover the beauty, power, and strength they have inside; it gives these girls a place to realize their dreams, find stability, and discover the strength they have inside to be whoever they want to be. Helping to expand Troop 6000 is just about the most right thing I’ve ever been a part of, and I remain committed as ever to its expansion all across New York City.”

Giselle Burgess, 32, a community engagement specialist for the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, and a single mother of five, became homeless herself last summer when the home she rented in Flushing was sold. Her family ended up living at the Sleep Inn Hotel, where she is now the Troop 6000 program manager. She started the program with help from Meredith Maskara, the chief operating officer of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York.

“I am honored and grateful to be a part of the creation of Troop 6000 and its first leader,” Burgess said. “Having a Girl Scout troop in a shelter brings joy to girls, but more than that, it helps prepare them for success in school, in their communities and for the future.”

To contribute to the expansion of Girl Scouts Troop 6000, visit: https://nyc-csg-web.csc.nycnet/site/fund/initiatives/support-girl-scout-troop-6000.page.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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