MONMOUTH AND OCEAN COUNTIES –  The Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore (GSJS) serving over 10,000 girls in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, led the way with one of the first in-person fundraising celebrations since the pandemic began. Nearly 150 supporters gathered at the July 30th, Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore’s Women of Distinction & Community Partners Gala. The event was held on the beautiful outside grounds of the Eagle Oaks Golf and Country Club, in Farmingdale, NJ. It was a celebration to remember during an unprecedented time, a much needed non-virtual reunion for many. 

The Gala raised more than $130,000 and will fund innovative leadership activities, with a focus on enhancing connectivity during this time of social distancing for so many young girls.  

CEO of The Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, Eileen Higgins commented, "We are thankful for our community’s strong response. The generous support will enable us to provide high-quality programming that gives girls opportunities to build leadership skills and to work together in new ways that meet the needs of families during this unprecedented time.”

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GSJS Board Member Maria Tanzola commented, “As a member of the Girl Scout Board of Directors and gala committee, I am proud of the example that we set for the Girl Scouts. Many nonprofits cancelled fundraising events or turned them into virtual ones, but we didn’t give up. We persevered and worked together to plan a safe and successful gathering. Thanks to the community’s support, more girls in Monmouth and Ocean counties will have access to leadership programs that Girl Scouts provides.”

The focal point of the gala was celebrating the achievements of seven inspiring community leaders, who Higgins said reflect the “go-getter” spirit of Girl Scouts. Honorees were introduced via video by Girl Scouts who have earned the prestigious Gold Award and those on their way to achieving this top Girl Scout honor.

Presented with the Women of Distinction award were: Anne M. Davis, an attorney with offices in Brick; Christine Giordano Hanlon, Monmouth County clerk; Frances Keane, vice president of human resources, CentraState Healthcare System, and past chairwoman of the Girl Scouts Board of Directors; Dana Lancellotti, director of business development and tourism, Ocean County; Holmdel's Dr. Janice Warner, provost, Georgian Court University.

The Lakewood BlueClaws, an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, and long-time supporter of Girl Scouts received the Community Partner Award.

Wayne Boatwright, vice president of diversity and inclusion at Hackensack Meridian Health, was honored as this year’s Man Enough to be a Girl Scout. Boatwright was unable to attend because of a death in his family.

“We are truly honored to recognize exemplary leaders in our community who live the Girl Scout mission of making the world a better place by leading with courage, confidence and character,” Higgins said. 

Kristen Miller, chief development officer for Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, attributed the event’s success to the hard-working volunteer committee led by Co-Chairs Teri O’Connor, board chairperson and Monmouth County administrator, and Tom Hayes, director of consumer and community relations at New Jersey Natural Gas. 

The committee began planning the gala in the fall of 2019 for the original March 20 date. But due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns, Girl Scouts decided to postpone the gala and canceled all other in-person activities ahead of the Governor’s stay-at-home order, Miller explained.

“The committee persevered and reinvented the gala as a casual outdoor celebration that enabled our guests to physically distance for safety and shifted the auction and event raffles online,” Miller said. 

As guests departed, they received a gourmet meal packaged to-go complete with a bottle of wine, Girl Scout Cookie dessert, and a box of Girl Scout cookies to enjoy at home.