There are miracles after all, and one just happened in Queens.
Without fanfare, the city’s first Girl Scout troop in a homeless shelter opened last month in Long Island City, welcoming 22 eager members who are making new friendships, building self-esteem and learning to dream.
Girl Scout Troop 6000 — the designation indicates the homeless girls can still belong even if they move to another borough — is unlike traditional troops, which are based in each county.
The ground-breaking troop meets at the Sleep Inn Hotel shelter, where 100 families live with 155 children under the age of 18. The new scouts, ranging in age from 5 to 14, are earning badges, studying math and developing skills that will last a lifetime.
Girl Scout traditions are being followed under the watchful eye of Giselle Burgess, 32, who started the troop after she and her five children moved into the shelter when their rented home in Flushing was sold.
Burgess, an engagement specialist for the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, had help launching the troop with a colleague from Sunnyside and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
In November, Van Bramer, who had been homeless as a child and lived in a shelter for six weeks, teamed up with the Girl Scouts to serve Thanksgiving dinner to homeless women. The idea for the troop was born at a shelter that day, but it was uncharted territory and the very-willing Department of Homeless Services had to be enlisted in the cause.
Troop 6000 is “truly just about the most right thing I’ve ever been a part of, and I’m committed to its expansion all across the city,” Van Bramer says.
As the young Scouts begin to feel empowered, new horizons are opening for the women in the shelter. Several of their mothers are preparing to be scout leaders.
Too often, people who live in shelters are dismissed as unworthy, unfit and a drain on the city because fellow New Yorkers often do not understand their struggles to lead a normal life.
But Scout Troop 6000 is now setting a high bar for the entire city with the support of homeless czar Steven Banks, who plans to expand the Girl Scout partnership to shelters in the other boroughs.
The City Council, which is on board, just issued a ceremonial proclamation that honored the girls and celebrated the founding of Troop 6000.
The foresight of Burgess, Van Bramer and the Girl Scouts is particularly striking at a time when the number of students living in shelters jumped to 33,000 in the 2015-2016 school year from 29,000 the prior year.
Their compassion, determination and swift action marked a new Miracle on the Hudson, but this one is on land in Queens.
©2017 Community News Group
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