The GIRL SCOUTS, organized in Cleveland in 1914, was founded nationally by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912, and modeled after Robert Baden-Powell's British Boy Scouts (see BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA). The program attempted "to help girls realize the ideals of womanhood," teaching useful skills, encouraging civic responsibility, and instilling upstanding values. The first local Girl Scout troop was the Pansy Troop, led by Rhoda Piggott. Its activities included hikes, cookouts, camping at Euclid Beach, marching in parades, and visiting shut-ins, orphanages, and patients in the City Hospital. By 1916, twenty area troops had organized, and in 1921, Julia (Mrs. BENEDICT) CROWELL, Elizabeth (Mrs. NEWTON D.) BAKER, and twenty-two other women established the Cleveland Girl Scout Council to direct area scouting.
In the early 1930s, Cleveland Girl Scouts, like those nationally, began selling cookies to support their activities (cookie sales remained a key source of revenue; in 2007, local troops sold 993,686 boxes). In 1937, Cuyahoga County Girl Scouts numbered 3,626, with 1,400 in Cleveland. That year the Cleveland council bought its first campground site; by 1976 the council owned five campsites. In 2007, the council operated Camp Julia Crowell/Hilaka and Camp Lejnar, and also sent campers to Intergrove Lodge and Wintergreen Cabin, operated by the CLEVELAND METROPARKS.
In 1950, after a series of temporary offices, the Cleveland council moved into the Community Service Building at 1001 Huron Road. The local council served 19,000 members in 1957 with an annual budget of $196,905. The Cleveland council expanded in 1962 to include Geauga County and the next year, Lake County, creating the Lake Erie Girl Scout Council. The new council had 36,834 Scouts and 9,809 adult leaders by January 1964. Local Girl Scouts next undertook to become more inclusive, establishing a demonstration project in HOUGH in 1964, and developing the Senior Citizen Scouting Program in 1968. Membership fell from 45,000 in 1971 to 41,000 in 1976, the year the Lake Erie Council established its Plus Four clubs for boys and girls in COLLINWOOD and Euclid Park schools. By 1982 men were active as co-leaders in local troops.
During the 1990s and 2000s, Cleveland-area Girl Scouts built a home for Habitat for Humanity, and worked with community organizations including TallShips, the NASA LEWIS RESEARCH CENTER, the CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA, PLAYHOUSE SQUARE, the CUYAHOGA COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY, and the Great Lakes Science Center to develop new programs and audiences.
In 2006, the Lake Erie Council served 12,000 girls and 5,000 adult volunteers, and its headquarters was located at 19201 Villaview Road in Cleveland. The President and Chair of the Board of Directors was Elizabeth Nosse. That same year, the national Girl Scouts organization announced a reorganization plan, which realigned 312 councils into 109. In 2007, the Lake Erie Council was slated to join with four other Ohio councils (Erie Shores in Lorain, Great Trail in Canton, Lake to River in Niles, and Western Reserve in Akron) to form a new council serving 45,000 girls and 15,000 adults in eighteen counties.