"There are 8,000 girls in the shelter system in New York City, and we wanted to extend this program to reach as many girls as we could,” said Meredith Maskara. “We are in all five boroughs now in twelve shelters and have a commitment to reach 500 girls this year.
“Girl Scout Troop 6000 was meant to create stability,” she added. “Everything else in the girls lives might change, but the Girl Scout experience would stay the same."
Girl Scout leader Giselle Burgess was homeless and in a shelter herself when she saw the need for a troop for girls in shelters.
Burgess and Maskara have both been honored by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who helped provide funding for the group. Maskara recently received a Queens Impact Award from the Queens Chamber of Commerce and Sunnyside Artists.
“Since I started with Troop 6000 my life has improved a lot,” said Genesis. “I've learned that I can be anything I want to be in the world, I just have to be myself. I learned how to be kind and confident, how important it is to be part of a team, and how important it is to do something that you love."
"Being homeless does not define these girls,” said Maskara. “They are using their shame and embarrassment as a tool to help teach and educate others. Many people you know could be close to homelessness or in a shelter, and they need community support.
"This city is so diverse socioeconomically,” she added. “[But] the girls walk in with their uniforms, and that's what matters."