A once vacant lot near Christ First United Methodist Church has been transformed into a usable space by several Girl Scouts.
Led by volunteers Tanya Anderson, Terry Smith and Karen Cotten, and in conjunction with several members of Christ First United Methodist Church in Jamestown, local Girl Scouts completed the renovations this summer.
Upon completing the project, Emily Mager, Xiane Smith, Hannah Anderson, Emily Anderson and Kaitlin Healy received the Silver Award, the highest award a cadette can earn. Chiara Raimondo helped with the project, but was unable to earn the award due to illness.
After renovating a vacant lot near Christ First United Methodist Church on Lakeview Avenue in Jamestown, several Girl Scouts received the Silver Award, the highest award a cadette can earn. Pictured from left are: Emily Mager, Xiane Smith, Hannah Anderson, Emily Anderson and Kaitlin Healy. Not pictured is Chiara Raimondo.
According to Cotten, in order to earn the Silver Award, the Girl Scouts had to complete a cadette "journey" in addition to the vacant lot renovations. The journey focused on the influence of the media and how it affected them. The journey included the completion of an activity book, which had three badges that formed a cube. It touched on television, social media, broadcasting and stereotypes. It also gave the girls the opportunity to record a commercial. The service project focused on making a lasting impact on the local community, and that's why they chose to renovate the vacant lot.
"They chose this project because that lot was basically bare, and Hannah, Emily and Kaitlin attend church there," said Cotten. "The neighbors were most appreciative because the lot was formerly a house that burnt down. We turned it into a garden area that the church can use. The girls did all the work, and they communicated with the church to understand what they wanted the lot to be. They put in a patio, did some gardening, built a trellis, planted a tree and more. It's not only that they did the project, but also that they developed leadership, organizational and communication skills. And, it's an ongoing project that the girls will continue next year to make sure that everything is still growing and replace anything that needs it."
Charlie Hodges, coordinator of mission and outreach for Christ First United Methodist Church, worked with the Girl Scouts to help them complete the project.
"The church was able to pick up the vacant lot at auction, and as we try to reach outside the walls of the church, it was a logical move to connect with our neighborhood," said Hodges. "When the Girls Scouts came along looking for a project and made a suggestion of turning it into a garden area, we were very receptive to that. Since some of the girls are members of the church, it was a logical connection for us to work in the neighborhood with them to make it a better place to be."
After completing the project, Hannah and Emily Anderson decided it would be their last project as members of the Girl Scouts because now that they are getting older their schedules are becoming much busier.
"It means a lot that we received the Silver Award to put on our vest, because it looks good and it was a lot of work to earn it," said Emily. "It's something to be proud of, and it shows that you care about your community. The vacant lot was just sitting there unused, and now people can go there to enjoy the space."
"There's not a lot of open spaces in the city anymore, and I thought it was important that we have something like that," said Hannah. "We had to design the space first, talk to the elders of the church to see what they wanted, find different local businesses and organizations to contribute to the project, and then track all the stuff that we did. I'd definitely recommend being a Girl Scout to anyone interested because you get community service out of it, you learn lessons and how to be a better person."
According to their mother, Tanya Anderson, the Girl Scout program isn't just great for kids; it's also a great opportunity for parents to volunteer and spend time with their children.
"There are tons of volunteerism opportunities; they encourage program trips and camping," said Anderson. "My girls' vests are full of badges and patches from participating in a lot of events and completing tasks."
In March, Girl Scouts across the nation celebrated the 100th anniversary of the scouting tradition. The Girl Scout program began in March of 1912 when founding member Juliette Gordon Low officially signed on the first 18 Girl Scouts of the United States. According to Low's official biography on girlscouts.org, she believed that the program should give its members the opportunity to develop self-reliance and resourcefulness. She encouraged girls to prepare not only for traditional homemaking, but also for future roles as professional women.
"Nationally a high percentage of women who are in leadership roles were at one time in the Girl Scout program," said Cotten. "It used to be, 'Sell cookies and go camping,' which is sometimes a lost art, but it has become a program that develops leaders. It offers them a whole variety of experiences that they might not get anywhere else."
The Christ First United Methodist Church is located at 663 Lakeview Ave. in Jamestown. For more information on the national Girls Scouts program, visit www.girlscouts.org. For information on the Girl Scouts of Western New York, call 837-6400 or visit www.gswny.org.