Girl Scout Dakota Gregory on a factory tour with Mark Beveridge, Vice President of A.L. Schuzman
Murrieta, Calif. - For 12-year-old Dakota Gregory, Girl Scouts is not just about earning badges and attending troop meetings. It's about getting to know interesting new people and experiencing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that wouldn't be open to her any other way.
Last year Dakota was the top fall product seller for Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council, selling $1,700 in nut and candy items. In recognition of her amazing accomplishment, the Council flew Dakota and her mom Dani to Waukesha, Wisconsin in August to visit the actual factory where the nuts and candies are made.
Because of her uniform, Dakota Gregory is invited to join the captain in the cockpit on her flight to Wisconsin
Because she was wearing her Girl Scout vest on the plane, Dakota immediately caught the attention of the pilot, who invited her to join him in the cockpit. The captain put his hat on her head, and invited her to take his seat. He talked with her about flying and explained what different buttons and gauges were for. She was impressed to learn that pilots had to retrain and re-qualify all the time in order to meet airline safety standards. The captain also talked about the fact that there are more men than women in his profession and how hard it is to be away from your family so much of the time. It was a wonderful experience that came about all because her Girl Scout uniform.
Dakota Gregory and Vice President Mark Beveridge outside of the A.L. Schuzman nut factory
Finally they arrived at the first of the two factories owned and operated by A.L. Schuzman. They were met by the Vice President, Mark Beveridge, who took Dakota and her mom on a tour to show them from start to finish, all that goes into getting a simple can of nuts. Dakota was invited to push the big red button that set the assembly line in motion.
She was able to observe the nuts making their way down the line and see the machinery that roasts the nuts in peanut oil. Mark described the men who monitored this process as "artists" and explained how they are able to tell what needs to be adjusted just by the color of the nuts coming out.
Dakota Gregory learns how a can of peanut clusters is made on the assembly line at the A.L. Schuzman factory
Next was the packing line, which was dominated by a gigantic tower of silver cans with no labels or bottoms. Instead, the safety seal top of the can acted as the bottom during the filling process. After each can was filled, the plastic top and can bottom were then added and the labels were glued on. The cans of nuts were then packed into flats to be stacked onto pallets for shipping. At the end, Mark presented Dakota with one of the finished cans of nuts as it came off the line.
Last, they visited the chocolate factory. The aroma--even outside the factory--was simply delicious. Dakota and Dani were able to watch pecan clusters being made, and the long tubes carrying chocolate from giant vats made them feel like they were in Willie Wonka's chocolate factory. They were fascinated by the careful, multi-level process that very slowly cooled the chocolate to the correct temperature.
Throughout the trip, Dakota and Dani learned more about the history of the family-owned company that has been in business since 1921. They were surprised to learn from Mark that many of the employees had been working there for 20-30 years. He explained that it was a small community and that the employees were proud of their jobs and thought of each other as family. There was very little turnover.
He noted that Ashdon Farms, the fundraising sales division of the company, has the newest employees. The division is actually growing and creating new jobs both here and abroad thanks in part to the sales generated by Girl Scouts! It was a fantastic example of how Girl Scouts affect change not only in their local communities but on a national and global scale as well.
Dakota loved every minute of her time at the factories and felt immensely proud that Girl Scouts plays such an important role in generating jobs as well as making a difference in her own community.
Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio builds girls of courage, confidence and character who help make the world a better place. To find out how you can get involved with Girl Scouts, call 1-800-400-GIRL (4475) or visit us online at http://gssgc.org.
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Juno Kughler Carlson