By Benjamin Cohn
North Asheville – Quality of life improved for those living in the neighborhoods surrounding Grace Episcopal Church recently when 13 girls from local Girl Scout Troop 42504 completed their most recent service project, a community food pantry.
An event posted to Facebook described the events that would unfold.
“Girl Scout Troop 42504 would like to invite family, friends and community to come and celebrate the opening of their little free food pantry. These girls have spent many hours in the planning, money raising, building and painting to be able to complete their goal of having a lasting effect in their community. We will have light refreshments in the parish hall after the ribbon cutting. Please check out the little free food pantry Facebook page for updates, list of needs and our monthly business sponsors. ‘Take what you need. Leave what you can.’”
Dawnn Sanders, one of the troop’s two leaders, described to The Tribune a bit about the group’s most recent project.
Said Sanders’s, “We were all here today to open up the North Asheville Little Free Food Pantry that will serve this community. It’s a new troop. We are going on our second year. “Miss Mandy” (Amanda Garcia) has been [the] leader from the get-go, from the start of it.”
Sanders’ co-leader Amanda Garcia agreed, noting that their positions as troop leaders were on an entirely voluntary basis. For work, Sanders said she did sales and marketing for Hipps Stone, a regional stone supplier. Garcia told The Tribune that she worked as an associate agent for Farm Bureau Insurance.
The women revealed some of their motivations to join the Girl Scouts organization in leadership positions. Sanders said, “It empowers girls like no other [organization].”
Garica explained that the Girl Scouts organization “builds leaders. It builds future women leaders. Everybody sees cookies and thinks ‘it’s cute.’ We’re cute, but we want to empower these girls and turn them into businesswomen.
“That’s what we’re giving them. We’re giving them a business at a young age. We help them with it, but once they get old enough, they run it themselves. They decide what they want to do with their profits. They do a fun thing and then they do a service project or many service projects. Our troop completed four service projects [so far] this year.”
Sanders explained some of the group’s most recent projects, telling The Tribune the troop crafted blankets for Project Linus, an organization whose mission is described on their website as “[providing] love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise need handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer ‘blanketeers’.”
Garcia mentioned another recent project done for Appalachian Wildlife Refuge in Skyland.
“We’ve done Wands for Wildlife here in Asheville. We collected mascara wands and … then they actually use those as actual tools for small pets or for small animals. They get the mites off of all the animals that come to [the refuge].
“These are…raccoons or squirrels; they get these tiny little mites. They clean them with these recycled makeup wands. They came here, we gave them a bunch of wands. We’ve done veterans gift bags at Christmastime. We assembled … 20 gift bags and dropped those off. They were stuffed full of toothpaste and toothbrushes and socks and notepads and things of that nature, a little Christmas gift and a thank you, like a card, for their service.”
Garcia reminds readers that the Girl Scouts aren’t only about service and work, but that there is plenty of time allowed for fun activities too. “We stay active and busy and then they do fun stuff! They’re girls, they want to do … kids’ [stuff]. They want to go to water parks and trampoline parks, and they get to spend their money that way.”
Girls are taught, among many other things, how to manage a small business during the several months the troop sells the famous Girl Scout Cookies. Said Garcia, the kids “…also have to learn how to budget and understand. That’s one thing we cover in [the] cookie business.
“[Business training] starts now so that when they, get to be 18 years old and they’re out on their own, they can start a business. They have all the tools that they need…They have the tools that we give them during those cookie sales.”
She described transformations she’s witnessed in young scouts during her two years running Troop 42504. “There’s some girls where it comes more naturally than others [leadership]. There’s some girls who just learn so much confidence and independence and how to ask for a sale and how to communicate with people. So much confidence.”
Other girls were described as shyer and more reluctant to participate in group activities. “We’ve seen such a change from the girls who have been with us the first year versus [now], to only our second year.
“We’ve had girls that’s been with the troop from the get-go like she [Sanders] said, and they were so quiet and so shy … and where they wouldn’t lead in the beginning. We do the Pledge of Allegiance and we lead the Girl Scout Promise. Where they wouldn’t, now when we call on them and say, ‘would you like to,’ they say, ‘yeah!’ and they do.
“It’s great, too, that these girls are all from all areas. We’ve got girls from Mars Hill, girls from Barnardsville, girls from Weaverville, Woodfin, the Big Creek area, Hendersonville. It connects these girls.”