Jacqui Dixon, county commissioner for Girlguiding Hampshire East, talks about what the guides are doing in the lead-up to Christmas
This year, 25 guiding groups are taking part from all parts of Hampshire East Guide County including Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham and Petersfield.
Guides, older brownies, and the senior section, which is made up of 14 to 26s, can apply to be elves.
The guides dress up as elves and welcome children to the grotto.
They also entertain children while they are waiting to see Santa, and help him to choose a present.
Only four girls from each group can take part so there is great competition for places.
I am always amazed at the effort the girls put into their costumes.
We provide the outfit, but the girls come with all kinds of accessories from brightly-coloured tights to pixie-boots with bells on.
They have great fun deciding how to make themselves look the part.
The project has been going for seven years. It’s a partnership between girl guiding and Fareham Shopping Centre. The centre management provide the grotto, and the guides run it.
It’s a real team effort with some leaders taking on the responsibility for managing the grotto, some organising the elves, and others buying and then wrapping the presents. They have excellent support from the members of the Trefoil Guild (non-uniform members of guiding) and from several gentlemen supporters who are happy to take on the ‘star role’ for a day or three. All profits go the guide groups which take part.
The girls then help decide how to spend the money they have earned, on everything from subsidising camps to trips to activity centres.
Clare Reed, guide leader of 3rd Stubbington Guides, thinks they learn a lot from the experience: ‘Guides are very good at working as a team, it’s one of our key guiding values – but they also have to give good customer service, and be polite and cheerful at all times.
‘Guiding is about fun, friendship, adventure and challenge, and the grotto gives the girls the chance for all these’.
n Opening times for the grotto can be found at farehamshopping.com/santas-grotto.
For more information about girl guiding and how to get involved, go to girlguiding.org.uk.