By Dedra Cordle
Being a Girl Scout, said Roxie Dion, is awesome.
“I like that we always get to experience new things and then we get to meet new people and make new friends while doing it,” said the 9-year-old and member of the Grove City based Troop #1944.
But if there is one thing she loves most of all about being a Girl Scout, it is the number of service projects they are involved in to try to make a positive impact on the world.
“It’s great knowing that we are able to help our communities,” she said.
For the majority of these service projects, explained her mother and troop leader Katherine Dion, the girls do not get to see first-hand who they are helping. That changed, however, when they participated in an event at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank on Jan. 2.
It was shortly after the regular business hours as the organization closed for the day when several of the scouts and their families rolled out a cart of boxes that were filled to the top with handwoven hats, scarves and mittens and began looking for the perfect spot to hang them up. The trees located throughout the parking lot were the favored destination for these winter goods, but the girls soon realized placing them there was trickier than anticipated.
“I can’t reach,” said Aubree Meyerin, 10, as she jumped into the air to grab onto a branch.
“Me neither,” said Kirsten Wilson, 9.
After a few more minutes of tree placement failure, the scouts soon turned their attention to the waist-high bushes but found them to be too short and prickly.
“This is not working out at all how we planned,” said Dion.
After conferring with Cassie Lewis, the event organizer, and Gloria McCoy, the community relations coordinator at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, they decided the gazebo near the entry to the pantry might just be the best place for these goods.
“At least people won’t struggle to reach them,” said Lewis.
As they gathered up the winter gear and once again began rolling that cart of boxes to a new location, they passed a line of people waiting for the Kroger Community Pantry to open its doors.
Amongst the growing crowd was a woman named Gwynne, a resident of the eastside of Columbus, who was standing outside that rapidly cooling evening sans scarf, gloves or a hat.
“I didn’t have time to grab any, but they’re not in the best of shape anyway,” she said.
Like the rest of the crowd, she was wondering what these young girls were doing pushing a cart filled with boxes around the premises, so she came over to investigate and report back to the crowd.
When she saw what they were taking out of the boxes and hanging up throughout the gazebo, she smiled.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.
Scattered across the benches, the planters, and tied to posts were those new hats, scarves and mittens that were colorful, stylish and held the promise of warmth. But the one thing that really caught Gwynne’s eye were the tags that said “Take Me, I’m Yours.”
“Is this for real?” she asked. “Are these really free to take?”
“They sure are,” said Lewis.
“This is such a treat,” Gwynne said as she looked at the winter necessities and held an attractive multicolored hat and purple scarf in her hands. “And it does go well with my coat if I do say so myself.”
With a big grin and a heartfelt thanks to the scouts and the organizers, a new winter accessory-adorned Gwynne went back to the crowd to tell them all about what was going on over at the gazebo. Some quickly left the line to browse for themselves and families members.
Roxie Dion said seeing their reactions and hearing how these goods would help them meant the world to her.
“It was great to see them so happy,” she said. “I’m so glad I was able to be a part of this.”
The event was organized by Lewis, a former leader of troop #1944. For the past four years, Lewis has been volunteering with a Dallas-based charity called Warm Up America! whose mission is to provide warmth to people in need. With an influx of hats, gloves and scarves, the non-profit asked its volunteers across the country to find local organizations that would be able to distribute these goods to those who need it most. Lewis reached out to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resource Center to see if they would be interested. McCoy said they didn’t have to give it any thought.
“Our clients need more than just food,” she said. “They need new clothing, toiletries, food for their dogs and food for their cats. There is a need for so many things and that is why it is was important we be a part of this event.”
With the host site established, Lewis reached out to the local Girl Scouts to see if they would be willing to place more than 500 hats, gloves, scarves and blankets around these locations for anyone who wanted or needed cold weather protection. Katherine Dion also said they didn’t have to give it any thought.
“We’re always looking for a good service project,” she said. “And it just so happened that our girls got to see first-hand the real human element of these projects.”
Though this was the first year the Mid-Ohio Foodbank has received winter necessities from Warm Up America!, McCoy said she would love for it to become an annual event.
“There’s always a need for it,” she said.
To learn more about volunteering for Warm Up America, visit its website at www.warmupamerica.org. To inquire about donating new clothing, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, pet food and/or non-perishable goods to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, contact McCoy at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.midohiofoodbank.org.