TEANECK — About 900 Girl Scouts packed the Teaneck Marriott at Glenpointe ballroom Monday night, gripping small electric candles, each representing a girl’s potential to be her best.
The ceremony was one of several held throughout North Jersey and across the nation on Monday to mark 100 years of the Girl Scouts, an organization dedicated to developing girls’ character and leadership in their communities.
“We’re history-makers, each of us,” said Helen Wronski, president and chief executive officer of the Girls Scouts of Northern New Jersey. “How often do you get to be a part of something that’s 100 years old?”
Founded by Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Ga., on March 12, 1912, the organization has a strong presence in North Jersey, with some 34,000 girls currently participating.
A sea of brown, green and blue uniforms flooded the hotel’s ballroom. It was a party fit for young females: “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” blasted on the sound system, as they snacked from bowls of chips, popcorn and Girl Scout cookies.
Generations of Scouts mingled. Ann Witkoskie, 93, of Bergenfield, seated in the front row next to her walker, took questions from a group of Girl Scouts from Paterson. She gripped one girl’s hand as she answered their questions.
“It’s a new generation; you do different things,” said Witkoskie, who in 1936 was awarded a Golden Eaglet, the equivalent to today’s Gold Award, which is the Girl Scouts’ highest service award. She remembers attending the Girl Scouts 25th anniversary and seeing Eleanor Roosevelt.
Girl Scouts who stick with the organization into their teens have a chance to make a major impact in their communities through service projects. To earn a Silver Award, Cristina Diaz and Stephanie Morrell, both 17 and from Saddle Brook, said they spent several months cleaning up the front lawn at St. Phillips the Apostle Convent in Saddle Brook. They planted roses and raised money for a statue of The Virgin Mary.
“The nuns were too elderly to do it themselves,” Morrell said. “They were ecstatic.”
Ariel Murphy, 15, of Mahwah, helped run the science fair at her school for her service project. She’s involved in a Girl Scouts robotics program and wants to pursue a career in computer engineering when she grows up.
“We’re the leaders of tomorrow,” Murphy said.
Standing next to her, Aynsley O’Neill, 15, added: “It gives you practice, it feels like you can be a leader.”