Elizabeth Hinkle’s Scout Troop 901 is always looking for new members.

Scout Leader Elizabeth Hinkle’s Troop 901 kids love to camp, tie knots and spend time outdoors. They enjoy all of the activities and experiences offered in their Scout troop.

They’re also all girls, which was made possible in 2017 when the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) made a historic announcement to welcome girls into its iconic Scouting program.

Troop 901, which has 12 girls on its roster, meets at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church, which hosts two troops, one for boys (Troop 109) and one for girls. Before COVID-19 necessitated online Scouting, the troops would have a combined flag ceremony and announcements and then separate for patrol time. Before the meeting was over they’d get back together for the flag retirement ceremony and parting remarks.

“We also have our courts of honor together,” said Hinkle, whose troop has been working on several merit badges over Zoom, including cycling and cooking. They even held a campout over Zoom.

After all, character and leadership development, which are at the foundation of the BSA, aren’t gender-specific.

“The decision to accept girls in Scouting has given us the opportunity to impact the lives of more young people,” said Greater Tampa Bay Area Council CEO Jim Rees.

Scouting is a year-round program for youth 11-17 years old that allows them to experience the benefits of camaraderie, confidence, resilience, trustworthiness, courage and kindness through a time-tested program. The BSA was established in 1910.

All Scouts, regardless of gender, earn the same merit badges and achieve the same advancements that boys have earned for nearly 110 years.

Hinkle’s own daughter is a Life Scout and is working towards the Eagle Scout rank, the highest rank attainable in the program, which requires the Scout to earn 21 merit badges, serve in a leadership position in their troop and plan, develop and give leadership to others in a service project to benefit the community.

With more than 137 different merit badges that can be earned, there is something for everyone in scouting. Hinkle said her troop is always looking for new Scouts.

“We welcome all new members to our troop,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll be meeting together again soon and will be able to enjoy the full Scouting program with all its benefits.”

Hinkle’s troop is just one of many local troops in the Brandon area. For more information about Scouting or to find a troop, visit www.tampabayscouting.org.