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Girl Scouts and seniors form lasting friendships at The Orchards

Girl Scouts and seniors form lasting friendships at The Orchards

 It has been eight decades since Joyce Martino was active in Girl Scouts. However, this resident of The Orchards at Southington has no problem remembering some of the activities they did when she was eight years old. “We did a lot of sewing. We met after school in a church in Bristol,” she recalled. She never expected to be involved with Scouting again until Girl Scout Cadette Troop 66130 began hosting Senior Nights once a month.

Since September, the Cadettes have met twice each month at The Orchards, the independent and assisted living community located at 34 Hobart St. The girls, sixth-graders, have been on their Scouting journey together since they were Daisies in first grade at Plantsville Elementary School.

Parents Debby Popkin and Ann Parente have led Troop 66130 for the past three years. The time spent with the residents is helping the girls work toward their Cadette Community Service Bar, an award which is earned by completing at least 20 hours of service to a local organization, explained Popkin.

Some of the special activities that the girls have organized and hosted for residents included a Halloween party, Game Night and Craft Night. In February, they decorated valentine cookies using two icings and five toppings. “I made four cookies to take to my great-granddaughter’s fifth birthday party,” said Mary Zdanowski, a resident of The Orchards. She, too, was a Girl Scout as was her daughter. “I liked the activities, the camaraderie and the trips we took,” she recalled, thinking about her childhood.

The Senior Nights have given her the chance to reconnect with Scouting. “The girls are joyful and helpful. It is uplifting. I love participating,” she said as she packaged her cookie plate.

The Scouts, who are nearly seven decades younger than their new, older friends, said the intergenerational get-togethers have been fun. “I like to give back to all the people. They have so much fun. I like to see their reactions,” said Julia O’Neill, 11, who attends John F. Kennedy Middle School.

Cara Stahl, 11, said she likes hearing the residents’ stories including when they were Girl Scouts. On Game Night, she enjoyed playing the Game of Life even though they didn’t get to finish. Being a Girl Scout gives her the opportunity to do for the community including making toys for animals at the Newington Humane Society, assembling toiletry kits for a homeless shelter, and cleaning up a beach.

Kylie Baden, 11, like the other girls, is busy with other activities including Drama Club, Swing Choir and gymnastics. But she always looks forward to “spending time with the elderly,” she said after eating three of the five cookies she decorated.

Other members of the Cadette Troop 66130 are: Sophia Gonzalez, Gaby Jandreau, Lily Jandreau, Claire Parente, Maggie Stack and Hazel Wilensky.

The Orchards at Southington offers independent and assisted living, and is a not for profit member of Hartford HealthCare Senior Services. For more information about The Orchards at Southington, visit