Submitted by Dana Ruby
Confident, ready to tackle the day, and special – all of these are feelings that I get when I have a nice outfit on, but not everyone has the opportunity to experience this. When I decided I wanted to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, I wanted to work to solve this challenge. I worked to develop a plan for children, whose families may not have the resources to help themselves, receive clothing.
When some Girl Scouts pick out the issue they want to focus on for their Gold Award, it’s an easy decision. I, however, couldn’t think of an issue right off the top of my head. The process of picking an issue really made me think about what I have a passion for; what did I love so much that I could focus an 80 hour project addressing a community issue on? 80 hours is a long time. I didn’t want to lose steam and become less motivated to complete my project, and I didn’t want to lose the passion I had for my issue I picked. These were all factors that I had to consider when deciding what my project would be about.
After spending a long time thinking- and after discussing it several times with my Girl Scout troop- I finally picked what my issue would be about: clothing. Why something seemingly materialistic like clothes, you might ask? It turns out not to be as materialistic as you might think.
Although I have always had a passion for clothes, the interest really became evident when I started high school. That was when I realized that I have always felt way more comfortable tackling the day in a nice, put-together outfit that I felt confident in. It didn’t matter what the items of clothing were: just as long as I enjoyed wearing them. So, that was what I wanted my Gold Award project to be: an opportunity for people to feel the same way, but who might not have all the resources to help themselves.
Keeping this in mind, I narrowed down who I was going to help to primarily kids. This was for a multitude of reasons, but I really wanted the parents of these children to get the feeling that they were providing their kids this clothing, which is a need that can often take a back-seat in their lives. I also hoped that the kids would get the happiness from picking out their own clothing, just like in a store- that’s about half of the fun! As mentioned before, I wanted my event to help provide an easy access to a need that hasn’t necessarily taken priority: why would they be worried about what clothes they were wearing when they didn’t know where their next meal would be coming from? My goal was to make this need easier to access so it could become more of a priority.
After contacting several organizations, such as women’s shelters, transitional housing, and food banks, I received interest in return from Warren Village, a transitional housing organization in Denver, near Cheesman Park. That was an extremely exciting moment for me- one more step to making my Gold Award idea a reality! Through Warren Village I got a fantastic project adviser, access to contacts that helped further my project, and an opportunity to complete it, which I will be forever grateful for.
After I first met with the volunteer coordinator there, I had learned a lot more about Warren Village. This, I felt, was very important: how was I going to partner with them without knowing all there is to know? For one, I learned that on average, there are more than 80 families living at Warren Village, and the majority of those families only earn an annual income of $11,999 of less. With that income, a very minimal amount is probably spent on clothing. This was a very integral piece, for it helped me better understand the residents and Warren Village as a whole, and how much a need for clothing there actually was.
Through this meeting, I also received several contacts that could help provide clothes for my event. One of the contacts I received was someone who had provided clothing for events at Warren Village before. She is affiliated with Plato’s Closet, a popular second-hand clothing store primarily for teens. Plato’s Closet would give her clothing they no longer needed for these specific events. I immediately contacted her and we set up a time for me to come to her house and pick up some clothing. When my mom and I got to her house, we got more then just “some”; I was pleasantly surprised when I saw there were bags and bags- and more bags! Although most of the clothes were for teenage girls, I received the clothing for little kids and older boys afterwards, through a clothing drive I organized at my church’s Vacation Bible School this past summer, as well as donations from family and friends.
An integral part in making a Gold Award successful is having people who can help and support you. As it got closer to my Warren Village shopping event, I built a team to help me with the special day. Some were able to help hang and pack clothes the day before, while others were able to help with the actual event, whether it be setting up or breaking down the event space, giving out tickets or “cashiering”, or helping the residents pick out clothes. At the beginning of the day, I delegated everyone to complete tasks in order for everything to be set up before the event was supposed to start, and we were able to accomplish that without a hitch (well, mostly). On September 20th, with the help of my team, the event ended up going very smoothly! We provided clothing to the majority of the families that live at Warren Village. The leftover items (which had definitely decreased since the beginning of the day) were donated to ARC, and Warren Village was able to receive resident vouchers for all of the donations.
Along with the event, which was the primary aspect of my project, I did educational presentations to several groups at my church. I created a presentation to teach others more about Warren Village, the Gold Award, and overall homelessness in the United States. I am scheduled to do a presentation in January about my Gold Award journey to the troop leaders in my service unit, Centennial Star, in order to spread awareness, but also to give them an idea on a community service project to do with their own troops. At these meetings, I will then give the troop leaders an informational packet I created on how to put on my event. I am also planning on giving this packet to Warren Village and several high schools in my area (for their honor societies and other community service programs).
So far, working towards my Gold Award has been a huge learning experience for me! I have learned how to cold call (or email) people I have never met before, along with taking on the role of “project manager” for a large event. I have also expanded my ability to present in front of people who are older than me, developed my time management skills, and learned how to efficiently delegate people towards completing a common goal. These are only a few of the examples of how I have stretched myself these past 11 months, and I know I will continue to grow during the last chapter of my project. Before beginning this journey and now as I near completion, I absolutely had no idea the amount of learning and growing experiences I would gain from working to earn my Gold Award.
*** Earn your Gold Award by Feb. 28, 2015 and you could win the $1,000 Stephanie A. Foote Leadership Prize! It will be awarded to a Girl Scout who has received her Gold Award in the current year and whose project is selected by an independent panel as an exceptional example of sustainable impact through leadership. To learn more click here.