When the flight attendant’s push cart stopped at Mildred Wallerstein, she requested coffee. But seeking an accompanying snack, she opted for potato chips with a promise to pay for the snack once she was able to reach her bag, then safely stowed below her seat.
When the 94-year-old came up to the flight attendant hours later to make good on her word, in shock, the stewardess said, no one has ever sought her out to make a payment.
“Well I happen to be a girl scout,” she replied. ”I can’t help it.”
Girl Scouts of the USA is celebrating 100 years of instilling such values Wallerstein said have remained with her until today.
Several events are being held nationwide to celebrate the organization’s March 12, 2012, anniversary, one of which is a float entry in Pasadena's Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 2.
“It will be a historical indication of what girl scouts have been to girls and women for the last 100 years,” said Carol Dedrich, external relations officer for the Girls Scouts of Greater Los Angeles.
She said the float will capture “what girl scouts is today and will launch what the dreams and hopes of girl scouts will be in the future.”
With a $5 donation, girl scouts past and present can have their names displayed on the float. The organization hopes to secure 20,000 names before the float sets sail, Dedrich said.
The organization announced its featured riders will include Anna Maria Chavez, the first Latina Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of the USA and alumna Gayle I. Boyle, senior vice president and manager of National Fund Finance at Union Bank. They will be joined by several former and active scouts.
Wallerstein said she was a contender to sit atop the centennial landmark.
“I think I was more proud than if the president had asked me to eat at the White House,” she said of the offer.
When most people think of girl scouting, Dedrich said they think of three words: cookies, camping and crafts.
She added that while these things are traditional, it isn’t all the organization is today.
“I think the depth of programs for girls isn’t quite understood by the public,” Dedrich said. “In girl scouting here in Los Angeles we have five main programs.”
No longer merely about learning to tie a knot and start a fire, the program's themes cover several bases: Arts & Culture; Business Smarts & Financial Literacy; Environment & Outdoor Adventure, Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) and Wellness & Healthy Living.
“We are striving to keep up with the times and girls’ interest,” Dedrich said. “The reason why we are still around and it has been 100 years is because we evolve with the girls.”
Bronwyn Adams-Cohen is one of more than 40,000 girls actively scouting in the greater Los Angeles area.
The 16-year-old is in the home stretch of her time with the organization but can attribute more than a decade of leadership skills and memories to her time scouting.
Giving back to the organization that has provided for her, instead of throwing a Sweet 16 party as many girls her age do, Adams-Cohen launched a campaign to help raise money for the Girl Scouts’ entry into the Rose Parade.
She raised more than $2,000 through her effort.
Adams-Cohen earned the Gold Award -- the highest achievement in girl scouting – in 2010 after spearheading and raising funds to gift a facility that seeks to remedy abusive family relationships an art studio. Still, she also recognizes the friendships she has made along the way.
“I have had three amazing groups of girls that I have had amazing experiences with,” the San Marino resident said of the three troops she’s been a part of. “I’m still friends with all the girls I have been in scouts with.”
And perhaps 70 years from now she will be able to call up with ease as many memories as Long Beach resident Wallerstein could of the sisterhood she was granted through girl scouts.
Thinking back on her fondest memory, Wallerstein recalls an overnight trip to a beach house with her troop in Massachusetts.
There was a terrible electrical storm, and Wallerstein and her roommate Dora could see the lightening hitting the water outside the wooden house.
“Dora jumped into my bed,” a now white-haired Wallerstein chuckled.
The two stayed friends long thereafter.