Girl Scouts from a troop in Jessup want to make a difference in the community and earn the highest honor in junior scouting.
Junior Troop 50002, based in Jessup, thought hard about how best to make an impact during the COVID-19 pandemic and earn their Bronze Award. Back in February, the girls began work to establish a nurse’s pantry at Valley View Intermediate School.
The troop consists of Amber Drozdis, Victoria McCoy, Carmindy Daniels, Aubrie Mackrell, and Heather Wisneski and is led by Lori Drozdis and Assistant Troop Leader Sabrina McCoy.
The girls took the idea for a pantry stocked with personal hygiene items, available for free and confidentially to any student who needs them to school nurse Kimberly Dougherty, RN, CSN.
“I wanted to help people in need because they needed hygiene supplies and couldn’t go into the stores because it wouldn’t be safe for them because they can catch the virus and get sick,” said Amber. “They might not have enough money because people are losing their jobs because of the virus so the nurse’s pantry can help them get stuff they need.”
Dougherty said the troop “thought of the nurse’s office as a safe space where students can come and confidentially get these items for themselves or their families.”
After the group received permission from the principal and superintendent, Dougherty and the scouts got to work.
They began by raising money. In addition to donations from family members and neighbors, the girls used their allowances to purchase items. Next, they went shopping for supplies to stock the pantry, purchasing shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, body wash, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sunscreen, cotton swabs, feminine hygiene products, ponytail holders, lip balm and more.
“Pretty much any hygiene product you can think of is there,” said Lori Drozdis.
The troop also reached out to those in the community for contributions. Queen of Angels Parish, Jessup, and Christ the King, Archbald, collected donations from parishioners.
The girls took the purchased and donated items to school and sorted them with the nurse. The team worked to stock the shelves of the pantry during recess or when they had free time.
“My favorite thing was being able to stock the shelves and having the nurse be excited that people are visiting the pantry,” said Carmindy.
Once the pantry was set up, the girls started to spread the word at the school.
“We were getting the word out about it and did a presentation,” said Heather. “We’ve been passing out flyers and made a bulletin board in the school.”
With the help of Dougherty, the girls went from classroom to classroom to talk about the pantry, explaining that it’s a place that anyone can go to that needs it, including teachers and staff. The girls also made tickets for a “trip to the pantry” for teachers to give out as prizes.
Aubrie, who plans to hold a lemonade stand this summer to raise money to replenish items in the pantry, recognizes the importance of what they’ve built.
“It’s helping people that don’t have things at home or if their parents lost their jobs and need supplies,” she said.
Students are able to confidentiality visit the pantry and take what they or their families may need. Brown paper bags are available to keep what they choose private. If multiple items are taken, the student is given a backpack to hold the items.
The scouts were recognized for their contribution at Valley View’s school board meeting where Dougherty presented the project and each Scout spoke about why the troop created the pantry and what was involved.
“These girls have really worked hard and provided a selfless service and really rose to the challenge of helping people out during their time of need .. I’m proud of them and happy to have this addition to the school,” said Dougherty.
The Nurse’s Pantry has now expanded to Victoria’s school, Agora Cyber Charter School. Victoria pitched the idea to the school, which collects coats and blankets for those that are homeless. Through her efforts, they now also provide those in need with shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, deodorant, body lotion and soap.
“Sometimes we see people on the streets and it makes me heartbroken sometimes… they’re barely getting enough money to pay for food for their kids and themselves,” said Victoria, who also used her allowance to buy hygiene items. “So I thought it would be really helpful to take out $20 out of my allowance and buy some hygiene products.”
The troop was also invited to speak at Service Unit, a meeting of troop leaders and adult scouts, where they presented the project and said they hope other Girl Scouts will take it to their schools.
“They have grown so much as individuals and as a troop,” said Lori. “Their resilience to continue to meet as a troop, despite all the obstacles around them and their mature knowledge of the reality of a pandemic did not stop their desire to help others.”