Editor's note: This is the 11th in a series of stories featuring the 25 agencies that will be receiving money from the Finney County United Way in 2014.


Special to the Telegram

Being involved in extracurricular activities can boost self-esteem, grades and work ethic among those involved.

But one organization is going above and beyond to turn girls into productive, successful adults.

Organizers in the Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland, a division of the Girl Scouts of America, say being involved with the organization helps to develop financial, business, social and other life skills.

Chandra Lay, regional director, said the local chapter is continuing to grow. Finney, Haskell, Kearny and Hamilton counties surpassed their goal of 386 scouts this year with 492.

In order to help support the number of scouts and troops, the Girl Scouts will receive $10,000 from United Way in 2014, the same amount the organization received this year.

Lay said those funds will be used for expanding the Girl Scout Club to partner with other organizations.

"That will help target girls who aren't already involved in Girl Scouts, but are involved in the YMCA, Garden City Recreation Commission and other community programs," she said.

Akasha Schnaithman, 10, has been a Girl Scout for five years.

She enjoys learning new things and cooking the most, but she said Girl Scouts also teaches lessons.

"We learn to be truthful, treat everyone the same and all kinds of stuff," she said.

Right now, Akasha is working on her art badge. Her troop learned the bird's eye view perspective and how to do abstract art.

Akasha encourages others to get involved in scouting.

"I'd say you'd like it if you signed up because you can make new friends and learn new things, and you get to have fun doing those," she said.

Jamie Schnaithman, Akasha's mother, said the social aspect of scouting has been beneficial for her daughter.

"We went from a very shy little girl to someone who is very outgoing," she said.

Schnaithman said she and her daughter went on a trip to New York City with the Girl Scouts, where they got to see "Wicked" and do a workshop with the cast. They also visited sights and museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art.

"For her to be able to do something like that, and fit it into a weekend trip, is just great," Schnaithman said.

Lay said the United Way funds also help with youth leadership, help provide free uniforms for curriculum and help pay for different programs the scouts attend.

As the number of scouts grows, the number of staff needed to support those scouts does, as well.

Last year, the Girl Scouts had two staff members in their office. That number is now at six full-time staff, which includes a regional director, membership recruiter, volunteer service leader, customer service leader, product salesperson and youth leadership and community development leader.

Having the larger staff is beneficial, Lay said.

"It's going awesome. We can accomplish so much more with six people on staff," she said.

With more on staff, the scouts are able to reach out more for volunteer work and training.

"We partner with a lot of organizations and businesses in town. We do financial literacy with First National Bank at no charge to the girls. They can earn financial literacy badges at all age levels," she said.

The older girls now can attend leadership conferences that before only adults attended, Lay said.

"Now, scouts from sixth grade and up can attend those leadership conferences and really focus on their skills to lead their troops," Lay said.

Lay said being involved at any age and at any level can be beneficial for girls.

"It really makes them believe in themselves. They become involved in the community, with the added benefit of seeing what their work can do for another organization," Lay said.

Girl Scouts was founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low and is the largest girl-serving organization in the United States.

The Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland serves 80 Kansas counties in the western two-thirds of the state. The division has more than 17,000 members 12,500 girls in grades kindergarten through 12th grade and 4,500 adult volunteers.

To learn more about the local division of the Girl Scouts, call 276-7061, or visit the office located at 114 W. Grant Ave.

The local United Way's annual campaign goal is $560,000, which is $10,000 more than last year.

The 25 partner agencies for the 2014 United Way campaign include:

Miles of Smiles; Real Men, Real Leaders; Russell Child Development Center; Santa Fe Trail Council Boy Scouts of America; Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association; Building Blocks Project through Russell Child Development Center; Spirit of the Plains CASA, Inc.; St. Catherine Hospital Lactation Program; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; The Salvation Army; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Garden City Recreation Commission Playground Program; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny Counties; Catholic Social Service; Circles of Hope; Community Day Care Center, Inc.; Family Crisis Services, Inc.; Finney County Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Garden City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross; Garden City.