Courage, Confidence, Character ... And Community Service
By Maribeth Dono, Junior Leader of Troop 2700 in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn
During Hurricane Sandy and in the days we were stuck at home immediately following, I was communicating with a bunch of friends on Facebook to keep from going stir-crazy. We wanted to do something to help, but every volunteering opportunity was for adults only.
My troop normally meets on Fridays, so I decided to do something the girls could participate in, something that would give them the feeling they were doing something to help. On NYC Council Member Brad Lander’s blog I found an entry about a small soup kitchen in the Borough Park area of Brooklyn that was supplying meals to elderly residents at the shelter in the Park Slope Armory. Masbia Soup Kitchen had been asked to provide 2,500 meals accommodating the special diets for these older residents, and they had really stepped up and provided fresh, low-sodium meals without batting an eye. Brad Lander was asking for donations to help the kitchen cover the cost of these additional meals. I suggested we do a bake sale with the girls and with members of the community, with all proceeds going to Masbia. - We posted the bake sale on Facebook and asked for donations of baked goods and for people to stop by and buy a treat to support the soup kitchen. Our success inspired three other groups of parents and children looking for something they could do to help to also hold bake sales. The girls also participated in a tour of their facility and put together meals that were going to be brought to the people at the armory.
Then we heard about the animals that had been displaced because of the hurricane – either because the temporary housing people were moved into did not allow pets, or because the pets had been separated from their owners in the chaos during the storm. Our site is near an animal rescue and the girls decided to host a benefit for the Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Windsor Terrace. The people at the center were so happy to receive the donation – and the girls felt great when they went to deliver it. Of course, they just had to stay and pet kittens, puppies, guinea pigs, and hamsters!
The following project also began with a post on Facebook – this one was about a “Tree of Hope” in the Rockaways that was going to be put up on the beach to give residents hope and raise their spirits. The girls made Christmas ornaments during our Friday meeting, and at our “Breakfast with Santa” the kids made even more ornaments. All together we sent about 75 ornaments to the Rockaways to put on their Tree of Hope.
Our latest project got started when I heard about the Veterans Hospital on 23rd Street in Manhattan that had closed down because of the Hurricane; it is still closed as of today, and all residents have been moved to the Veterans Hospital in Brooklyn. We got together with P.S. 10 and collected items for the veterans: lip balm, soap, playing cards, pencils and puzzle books, Halloween candy, lotion and body washes, and much more. The Girl Scouts took the items and assembled over sixty Christmas stockings and holiday bags; Girl Scouts and P.S. 10 students made cards to put in each stocking and bag. The girls then went to the hospital and sang Christmas carols and handed out the Christmas stockings and holiday bags to every resident in the hospital; there was even enough to give the nurses some of the body wash and lotion kits that had been donated by one company, Carol's Daughter.
All of these more recent projects were Sandy-related, but I always look for projects the girls can do to help people in their community, to learn that they can make a difference, and to keep up-to-date on what is going on in the world. I get a lot of ideas from Facebook and from the GSGNY blog.
I was a Girl Scout from first through twelfth grade and earned my Gold Award; we participated in many service projects and I remember them as both fun and empowering. I hope to provide the same experience and to instill the same spirit of leadership and community engagement in the girls in my troop. Getting them active with service projects, both within the community and in the world around them, helps them realize that they can make a difference in the world.