New ‘Lunch Bunch’ Service Unit of Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi helps volunteers manage a full plate

Girl Scout volunteers share at least a few things in common, starting with a passion for empowering young girl entrepreneurs. They also have families and children to care for, and many have careers and callings outside of Girl Scouts®.

Gretchen Zmitrovich and Elee Reeves, volunteers at the service unit level of Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi, are prime examples of volunteers with busy plates. Gretchen is an attorney who is the mother of a Girl Scout and two boys. Elee is a financial advisor, mom of three daughters in three different troops and has responsibilities in the political realm.

In 2016, Gretchen and Elee asked their council for an alternative to meetings held at night, when dinnertime coincides with sports, homework and other family activities.

Always open to suggestions from volunteers, the council came up with a new service unit called a “Lunch Bunch,” and the idea has been extremely well received.

Hour-long meetings, with a focus on problem solving

Meetings for the Lunch Bunch happen on the second Tuesday of every month and are held strictly to an hour, to keep the planning sessions quick and inspiring.

While the meeting length is fixed, the topics for discussion vary. For some months, there’s a set agenda. In December, for example, the group passed out Samoas® cookies sent by Little Brownie Bakers® and worked on getting girls registered in the Girl Scout Cookie Program®. They also firmed up locations for booths and deliveries.

During other months, decisions about topics are made at the meeting, and volunteers address any issues that need attention.

“We spend the hour we have together discussing things the ladies want to talk about, and we focus on problem solving together,” says Gretchen, manager of the Lunch Bunch service unit.

Support throughout the Girl Scout Cookie Season

Gretchen and Elee say they greatly appreciate the support they get from other volunteers in the group. Elee adds that volunteers in the Lunch Bunch are encouraged to follow up with email or text if they have any questions about an item discussed, like how to use a particular feature of the eBudde™ Troop App Plus.

Gretchen says this support can make all the difference during the cookie season. For new volunteers who are starting out in the Girl Scout Cookie Program, and may not be part of a larger group, she recommends that they reach out to people who have been through a season.

“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or learn everything at once. Most volunteers are willing to share ideas and will readily share their phone numbers,” she says.

Asked about her advice for other volunteers in managing the Girl Scout Cookie Season, Elee says it can be helpful for volunteers to know that they can take an à la carte approach, if that works best. Elee is the Treasurer and Cookie Chair for the Lunch Bunch and also serves on the Board of Directors for the council.

“You can be super active or focus on just one aspect of the Girl Scout Cookie Program,” says Elee. “Girl Scouts gives us a guide, and you can follow the plan exactly, but there’s a lot of flexibility built in. You can adapt the plan in a way that works for you and your troop.”

A growing bunch of volunteers and troops

Because of the enthusiasm for the new Lunch Bunch service unit, Gretchen and Elee report that their service unit has expanded significantly since it started three years ago.

In the first year, Gretchen, Elee and a couple of other volunteers met for lunch each month at a different restaurant, usually in the Jackson downtown area.

When the group grew larger—to about 19 volunteers—the women sought out a permanent meeting location. They now gather each month at a Whole Foods location in a second-floor conference room. Elee says she and others in the group go through the salad line or pick up items from the Grill Station and then take the food to their meeting.

The success of the service unit has led to growth for the council and Girl Scout Cookie Program. The unit now serves troops from about six different cities in Mississippi. Most troops are located within 15 miles of Jackson, though some are up to 30 minutes outside of the city.

Lasting impact for girls, like lessons on how to eat bugs

Gretchen and Elee love being part of their Lunch Bunch, but they’re mostly excited about the impact that the new service unit has had on girls in their troops.

For the 2017-2018 cookie season, the Lunch Bunch planned a Zombie Survival Camp that was funded in part by council revenue from the sale. They put together a skills committee and got input from federal, state and local agencies, as well as moms, dads and girls.

Girls had the opportunity to take part in workshops such as basic self-defense, how to make soap and how to eat bugs when food is scarce. Each earned badges for their accomplishments. The zombie theme was the extra cherry on top.

Approximately 90 different sessions were held over a three-day period, and the lessons learned and relationships formed are something girls will take with them for a lifetime.

View a slideshow of photos from the camp using the button link provided below.

Plans to Go for Bold in 2019

As the Lunch Bunch talks to troops and girls about goals for the 2018-2019 cookie season, one idea that’s being considered is a Camp Wahi Workday. Situated on 156 acres of forest in Brandon, Mississippi, Camp Wahi is marking its 70th anniversary in 2019. In honor of this milestone, the service unit would like to do 70 projects at the site, from planting new flower beds to installing solar lighting for the flagpole.

Other goals being discussed by troops include:
• Earn funds to cover membership for girls returning next year
• Earn funds toward a trip to Europe, and find opportunities for Bronze and Silver projects
• Earn funds for an Alaskan cruise
• Create sensory kits at Camp Wahi to help girls on the autism spectrum get more out of the experience