SYKESVILLE — "To help people at all times" is the center of the Girl Scouts' creed repeated at the start of every troop meeting.
The 500 Girl Scouts in Community 65, the Sykesville and Eldersburg areas, have answeredthe call to community service.
At a community Halloween party, 310 Girl Scouts brought food and household items to be donated to ESCAPE (Enabling Social Advocacy forPeople Enrichment) for its emergency closet.
ESCAPE is a Sykesville-based community action group that helps residents in need, especially in emergency situations.
"Whenever we do a community event, werequire the girls to bring something for a service project," said Donna Pittman, service team chairwoman for Community 65. "We'll do at least six community events during the Girl Scout year."
In addition, the 32 troops of girls ages 5 to 13 can do their own community service projects, such as caroling at the Springfield Hospital Center, baking cookies for nursing home residents, collecting food and clothes for the needy or adopting a family for the holiday.
Helping othersand having fun are part of being a Girl Scout, as any of the troop leaders and their girls will tell you.
"We took in first-aid supplies for ESCAPE at Halloween," said Kris Tarr, Eldersburg Brownie Troop1498 leader. "Now, we're collecting food, clothes and household goods for the Unity group for battered women for Thanksgiving."
Although Tarr's daughter, Jennifer, 7, said she likes being a Girl Scout toplay games and do crafts, she remembered a project for Harvest for the Hungry last year. She also went to the Halloween party to benefit ESCAPE.
Brooke Belcher, 7, has been in Troop 1498 two years and enjoys the crafts and projects.
"If I had something I didn't want, Iwould give it to somebody who was poor," said the daughter of Karen and Mitch Belcher of Eldersburg. "We have a lot of toys at home we'regetting rid of, and we're taking them to the poor people for Christmas."
Knowing she was helping someone in need would make her "feel proud and happy and feel good because I'm helping someone who's poor," she said.
As the girls get older, the service projects take on adeeper meaning and become more important.
"I joined Girl Scouts because I wanted to make people feel good, and I like working with people," said Julie Peters, 10, a member of Junior Troop 1020.
Her troop is making finger foods for the Christ Lutheran Soup Kitchen in Baltimore, she said. They're also making tray favors for the patients at the Springfield Hospital Center for Thanksgiving.
"Also, I like delivering cookies to people and getting to know them a little betterbecause you always end up talking to them for a little while," said Julie, the daughter of Leonard and Margaret Peters of Sykesville.
Fellow Troop member Paige Bankert, 11, shares a similar philosophy. AGirl Scout for five years, she joined because so many of her friendswere in Scouts.
"It's really fun how we help the community," she said. "I like helping a lot of people in different ways and every year we do something different as a project."
She recalled the look on the faces of Fairhaven residents last year when the troop went Christmas caroling.
"I liked going caroling at Fairhaven," said Paige,the daughter of Georgiann and Richard Bankert of Sykesville. "A lot of the people were looking out their windows and seemed tickled that we were there and that made me feel good."
Debbie Geiger, one of four group coordinators under Pittman, said the girls really enjoy working on their service projects.
"One of the Brownie troops did theCROP Walk for Hunger last month -- they had a refreshment stand -- and I understand that was very successful," Geiger said.
Pittman has been working with Girl Scouts for 28 years, 17 as a Junior Troop leader. Friday night, her 24-member troop played a game and worked on acraft project at St. Joseph's Catholic Church.
In her sixth year as a Girl Scout, Brenda Hovanec, 11, started out because she thought scouting would be fun. Now, she says, helping others is probably the best part of being in a troop.
"Last year, we helped a family at Thanksgiving," Brenda said. "The mother had a roof over her head, but four children and no husband.
"We gave them a meal and we met themwhen we delivered the food."
Being able to see her good deeds made Brenda, daughter of Linda and Andrew Hovanec of Eldersburg, happy. She said she particularly enjoys making presents for nursing home residents at Christmas.
Sometimes the girls are on the receiving end while doing for others, as Megan Barrow, 11, daughter of Trish and John Barrow of Sykesville, found out last year.
"We went to Fairhaven and went around singing carols," she said. "It was a lot of fun, wetook them cookies, and every time we went around singing they clapped for us, and that was nice."
Katie Werner, 9, is still more into fun and camping and crafts, but says it makes her feel good to help others. Last year, the daughter of Nancy and David Werner of Sykesville participated in doing a harvest basket for the needy.
Marla Parkhill, 11, daughter of Pam and Wayne Parkhill of Sykesville, has been in Girl Scouts six years and equates helping others with having fun.
"The stuff you're doing is fun and is for a good cause," she said."When we sang for the patients at Springfield, they were happy.
"Some of them tried to sing with us, even if they couldn't. We took them cookies, and they were happy.
She said it "made me feel good because I made someone else happy and that's what counts."
"It's important to help others when they need it because if I were in need, I would hope someone would come help me."