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Girl Scouts’ donations to hospitals unmask creative ways to help

By Jessica Garcia jgarcia@nevadaappeal.com

Troops of the Girl Scouts of the Sierra Nevada aren’t letting a little quarantine get in the way of community service. Actually, it might be motivating them to help others more from the confines of their homes.

At least two troops are using their time and practicing their skills to make masks for Carson-Tahoe Regional Medical Center, Northern Nevada Medical Center and other organizations, and their donations to these facilities are lending a hand during the coronavirus pandemic.

Acacia Rizzo, leader of Troop 1625 of Dayton and mother of Isabella Rizzo, 12, said her daughter and Mackenzie Gannon, another member, dropped off about 43 masks Monday at Carson-Tahoe. She and the girls of her troop had decided a few months ago that they wanted to improve their sewing skills and chose to help local patients and medical providers before anyone was even aware of COVID-19.

“The new transition has been trying to find our new normal,” Rizzo said. “This last week has been significantly better.”

The Girl Scouts remain active with their usual mission at the same time to fundraise and serve the community with its various projects. Rizzo said her troop also has been very successful with their fundraisers this year, selling more than 10,000 boxes of cookies.

The organization as a whole, according to Jessie Schirrick, marketing and communications manager for GSSN, has done well in recent weeks, and has been providing cookies to area businesses or nonprofits. Troops recently donated 48 packages of cookies to UPS drivers in Reno, 996 packages of cookies to the Northern Nevada Food Bank and 17 packages of cookies to ICU nurses in South Lake Tahoe.

While most communities would be used to seeing their favorite Girl Scouts in uniform as the spring kicks off, however, the troops have mostly been working on their badges.

Rizzo also has another daughter who’s 6, and she said both girls are getting used to staying at home more, but having the Girl Scouts as an activity for Isabella is useful. Also a substitute teacher, she said she understands the academic side of it as well.

“Even though we’re confined to hours in the house, we’re still busy,” she said.

Further north in Spanish Springs, Jennifer Obritsch, leader and service unit manager for Troop 358, and her Girl Scouts have made about 150 masks with some going to seniors in need at Instead Senior Care facilities and will be providing another batch of 100 masks to NNMC and the VA hospital next week. They’ll have about another 200 masks next week ready to deliver.

Obritsch said they also are taking on creating headbands for nurses and doctors by adding buttons so the medical personnel’s faces and ears won’t be as irritated by their headgear after wearing their masks all day long.

“People get these big red, raw marks under the goggles,” she said.

Obritsch said the activities have kept the girls busy while they are kept indoors, and it’s been a healthy way for them to stay connected. They also conduct their meetings online like anyone else for now, even if they prefer to meet in person.

“They’re not happy about it, but they do like the fact they get to do it virtually rather than not meeting at all,” she said. “They just started the distance learning. … At least they can actually see each other. This is rough on them … but it’s better than not seeing each other at all.”

She said they are learning their leadership skills and developing their independence appropriately.

Obritsch said she encourages everyone to mind the directive to stay at home for now.

“Everyone stay home and stay safe,” she said.