The Merritt Girl Guides may be wrapping up their year of planned activities before summer break starts, but their presence in the community will remain as the group continues to grow in size while planning for the fall.

The Merritt Girl Guides are a part of the Girl Guides of Canada, a service organization for girls ages five to 17 that promotes personal growth and learning, as well as leadership and community service. The Guides have operated in Merritt for decades, with the most recent revival of the group seeing continued growth in membership.

“We started with 16 at the beginning of the year and we ended with 20,” said Susan Doncaster, a local organizer for the Girl Guides. “Our numbers keep on growing every year. Three years ago we were only at eight girls.”

This group of 20 guides embarks on multiple service projects throughout their year, which mostly lines up with the school year besides a few summer activities. Their recent projects taught them about community organizations, cleaning up the community, and spending time with other generations.

“We’ve done a lot of volunteer work with seniors, trying to brighten everyone’s spirits over the past couple of years. We do charity walks and we also pick up garbage on our free time, and just help out wherever we can.”

On top of this work, the Merritt Girl Guides often volunteer at other community events, as well as working with the Merritt Centennials to sell their iconic girl scout cookies. Their plans for next year will be decided over the summer and at the beginning of fall 2022, with the Guides first earning a well deserved break.

The Merritt Girl Guides is also sending a few of its members to summer camps this year, thanks to support from the community and parents involved in the group. Their fundraising efforts are continuous, with proceeds directly funding programs in the community. Doncaster said that the social and emotional benefits of joining were incredible to witness.

“They made connections with each other this year. With COVID, lots of us forgot how to connect and be with each other. The friendships that they grew this year were amazing. You could see them shine and shake off some of that shyness.”

Despite the years of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, fires, and flooding, the Merritt Girl Guides have stayed resilient and continued to serve the community and support each other, as well as other nonprofit organizations and learning committees in Merritt.

“We’re going to be doing a couple of service projects that the girls get to pick in the fall. We try to do projects with some of the other committees, like the Literacy Week last January we did with Literacy Merritt.”

Doncaster added that the response from Merrittonians has been overwhelmingly positive, with support coming from all directions during the Guides’ time spent learning, volunteering, and leading in the community.

“Everyone is there with open arms. Everybody wants to help out and work with us, so it’s a really nice response. We want to thank the community for everyone who has helped us, the list is so long it’s hard to name them all.”

For more information, or to get involved with the Merritt Girl Guides, call Chelsea Werrun at 250-936-9015, or email [email protected].