AMERICAN FORK -- What has been termed the best kept secret in Utah County doesn't want to stay that way.
It's the Girl Scouts of Utah with an office in American Fork.
There are 55,000 girls who are potential members in Utah County, with only about 2,000 enrolled.
"We have a lot of room to grow and find more girls," said Ashley Picard, the member recruitment coordinator at the office. The American Fork office covers the area from the Point of the Mountain to the Arizona border.
"I think people don't realize that Girl Scouts is a really great option for their girls," Picard said. "They don't realize they can add Girl Scouting to their lives, whether individually, as a family, or in a troop setting."
Similar flexibility is available to those who are interested in volunteering for the organization.
"You can do something on a one-time basis, for a series or a one-year commitment," she said.
That flexibility helps people who are unable to make an initial long-term commitment.
"Once you volunteer and you see the joy in these girls' eyes, the programs you deliver for them, you are hooked. You want to keep making that difference," she said.
Leaders can be men or women and must be at least 18 years old. "There is a volunteer application, including a background check, then you register as an adult member," Picard said.
The main requirement, though, is a willingness.
"It is a lot for the girls and helping them grow and reach their full potential," she said.
"Our mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place," she said.
American Fork Mayor J.H. Hadfield joined other mayors in the area in proclaiming a recent Girl Scout Week. He also commended the group at a ribbon-cutting event for the office.
"I was very impressed with what they have displayed on the walls," he said in a subsequent interview. "They have many items from through the years and different badges from different periods of times.
"I think the fact that we have the district office in our community improves the community. It is one more opportunity for employment, for people to visit the community. The facility is nice and provides an opportunity for the girls to come there and conduct their training to be better leaders."
He said many of today's leaders have been Girl Scouts, including nearly 70 percent of congresswomen and senators, and virtually every female astronaut who has flown in space.
"This office will bring them to light and more people can be involved," he said. "It's a very positive thing."
In a video produced by the Girl Scouts of Utah, several participants told their stories. Alexis Carlson of Layton was one. She talked about when her mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor and her sisters had moved away to college.
"I felt myself struggling to find a place to turn to and a place for support," she said. "That is when my best friend's mom called me on the phone, and that phone call changed my life, asking me if I wanted to be in Girl Scouts.
"This organization has given me comfort, a place to turn to in time of need, something I can always count on. I don't know where I would be without it. In a way it was what built me up to be the girl I am."
Those who would like to watch the presentation may access it at http://www.youtube.com/user/GirlScoutsUtah.
Janelle Noall, the volunteer services coordinator, told why the group chose American Fork for its office.
"We chose this location because American Fork, as we looked at its demographics, they had the largest number of girls who are potential Girl Scouts," she said. The program has been bigger in the Salt Lake area. "We have a lot of girls down here as well, but not as many. Our goal is to make Girl Scouts available to the girls so they can have the same experiences and gain skills."
Girls from kindergarten to 12th grade are welcome. Programs can be customized to meet their needs and interests.
"You can do traditional badges or something new, like traveling," Picard said. "There are a lot of really fun things."
The office has set several parent meetings for any adults who want information, to get involved or who want to get their girls involved. They will be from 7 to 8 p.m. on June 19, July 17 and Aug. 21. Anyone who would like to host a parent information meeting in their area may contact Picard to set one up.
Anyone who is interested in having the girls help with a project or perform a flag ceremony or other event may contact her at (801) 716-5117. Utah Girl Scouts performed more than 500,000 service hours last year.
She praised the girls already involved in the area.
"We have some incredible girls around here," she said.
Girl Scout office
215 N. Center St.
Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed for lunch 1-2 p.m.)
First Saturday of the month 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Other hours by appointment