Mina Fairall and Charlotte LoCicero have seen their Girl Scout Troop 1511 dwindle from 21 members to two.
And when they graduate next spring, there will be no one left in the troop.
The two friends, however, will be finishing their scouting careers with a flourish — receiving the Gold Award, Girl Scouts’ highest honor.
Mina said about 6% of all Girl Scouts earn the award each year.
When you reach the top rank of Girl Scouts, you are called an ambassador. The Gold Award is even more prestigious. It requires spending at least 80 hours planning and putting on a project that has a lasting impact on the participants.
Eight Girl Scouts from South Pasadena recently received that honor, and Mina and Charlotte will join them either next spring or summer.
I made it through Cub Scouts and I am in awe of Mina’s accomplishment and her encyclopedic knowledge of scouting. She let me know that badges and patches have specific meanings, as do pins, which can tell a fellow scout everything from how long Mina has been in scouting to participation cookie sales.
Younger scouts are in awe of what she has achieved. She wears a vest that has 80 patches, badges and pins.
“They say, ‘I want my vest to look like that,’” she said.
The brown-haired young woman has been in scouting since she became a Brownie at age 8. She transferred into Troop 1511 because she felt so comfortable there.
The troop had 21 members then, but troop leaders decided not to take any more since they wanted to retire. The older girls went off to college. Other girls dropped out. The troop, which used to meet at a church, now meets in Mina’s basement.
But if there are only two scouts left, they share a lot of lessons learned and a lot of memories.
“Scouting has presented me with a whole different environment,” she said. “There have been different girls that I have known — all working together, going on adventures.
“And there have been all types of opportunities to help others.”
The troop brought soap and hand sanitizers to homeless shelters, and blankets for shelter dogs. The girls even went to the USS Iowa and learned the proper way to clean the ship’s iron. Then the scouts helped clean and polish.
Mina chuckled as she told me that woodworking was perhaps the hardest-earned patch on her vest.
“It was harder than I thought,” she said, remembering the two months she spent making boxes and lawn ornaments. “I never thought I’d be saying, ‘I want to make a box.’”
She is finishing her final project — putting on a virtual art class for tweens that is sponsored by the South Pasadena Public Library.
Children’s librarian Judy Neeb praised Mina for creating a program that will help youngsters use their imagination by learning drawing techniques.
“It’s a new way of presenting programming to our patrons, and we’re pleased with the results,” Neeb said.
Her friends all know about Mina’s love for scouting, but now that she is going to be a senior at South Pasadena High School, some people hear that she’s still participating and they say: ”Scouting? Isn’t that for 5th-graders?’”
Her friend Charlotte was out of town, and I was unable to interview her while I was writing this column, but Mina gave me a glimpse of her friend, who loves photography.
“Overall, she is a fun person to be around,” she said. “Her well-timed sarcasm always brings on a laugh during meetings. We have never been the type of close friend that share all our secrets with, we don’t spend every waking minute texting. Yet we have this connection through scouting that allows two very different people to be comfortable friends. For as long as I can remember, we have always worked well together.”
That’s the essence of scouting for Mina — working well with people, meeting challenges and learning how to lead, while gaining friendships and knowledge.
Mina’s mother, Michelle Fairwell, said she has been involved in a lot of her daughter’s activities and is proud of her achievements,
“It’s been exciting to go along and see her projects and watch her get her patches,” she said.
She said the Girl Scouts have sharpened and highlighted her daughter’s personality traits.
“Mina is very self-motivated,” Michelle said. “She has drive —when she sets a goal, she wants to achieve that goal.”
Meanwhile, Mina is “indifferent” about opportunities for girls to join the Boy Scouts. “They offer different things,” she said.
She has been in scouting long enough to see some of her original troop graduate from high school and college. She said she has been inspired by the fact that they come back and serve as role models.
That’s what she wants to do, too.
“After we graduate, I — like many of the girls before me — will come back home to visit with my leaders,” Mina said.
“I started out as a Brownie and after I graduate, I’ll always be connected to the scouts,” she said. “There are things that connect us. There are people who have gone on to college and they still keep in touch.
“[Troop 1511] is a beautiful troop and I have been blessed to be a part of it.”
Editor’s note: The eight Gold Award winners from South Pasadena in recent months are Anna Riffle, Troop 12521; Hannah Staudenmaier, Troop 16751; Lindsey Kuwahara, Troop 12521; Olivia Hunt, Troop 12521; Louisa Petrillo, Troop 15441; Anya Baranets, Troop 15441; Juliana Fong, Troop 16751; and Ashlyn Kawakami, Troop 12521.