Larry's Blog: Girl Scouts visionary Giselle Burgess

Larry C. Mullins
January 28, 2019 - 10:19 am

“…I don’t know if I could have done it.”

I met Giselle Burgess, the troop leader for Girl Scout Troop 6000 here in New York. And I truly don’t know if I could have been in the mindset to pull off what she did, while living at a hotel turned homeless shelter in Queens.

She and her girls had been looking for an apartment since “forever.” Long story short: No landlords would allow her tenancy, because she didn’t make a whole lot of money and she had five kids in tow. So she ended up in a homeless shelter. Burgess says it was dark and gloomy and no sense of community. It impacted her mindset and not to mention her younger daughters.

But then, a funny thing happened on the way to her job at the Girl Scouts of Greater New York. She figured, “Well, why can’t we start a Girl Scout Troop right here inside the shelter?” It wasn’t as farfetched an idea as even she first thought. She presented to her bosses (at GS of Greater New York) who thought it was a great idea. Then it was off to convince the people at the shelter (which was housed in a hotel in Long Island City) to give her shot. They did. And as they say, the rest is history!

Actually, Burgess thought the idea was history, because only a handful of girls showed up at their first meeting. But then, girl magic took over: her daughters went out and told EVERYBODY about how much fun it was, how they built relationships and the badges they achieved and lessons in advocacy, etc. That’s all it took. At that shelter alone, they got over 30 young girls (and their moms) to participate on the regular!

Girl Scouts Troop 6000
Girl Scouts of Greater New York

The City of New York and the Department of Homeless Services got involved and granted Troop 6000 a $1 million dollar boost to expand GS-6000 into homeless shelters in all five boroughs. And here’s the really cool thing: once they leave the shelters, they can join ANY Girl Scout Troop in the city closest to their new home!

So all of a sudden the girls can proudly wear two badges—with the Troop 6000 badge signifying that they’d “been through a tough time in their lives, but managed to get out!”

Burgess says its inspiring and the girls along with their parents are embracing GS Troop 6000 more and more each day. The troop is currently up to more than 600 members strong. Burgess says it has given her a sense of achievement and empowerment to do anything in life. The city (and first lady Chirlane McCray) even granted her a proclamation for her inspiring work with girls. No longer homeless, Burgess says she will always carry with her the lesson she and her girls learned to share with others: This (homelessness) is just a season, and it will pass.

I gotta tell you folks, I was so proud to meet with this young lady and see with my own eyes a lesson in “stick-to-itiveness.” Girl Power! I love the spirit of Troop 6000! And Giselle if you’re reading this, I want to know how do I get my vest and my badge??

Godspeed my sister!