This is a guest blog by Girl Scout Maia of troop 1832
“In our visit last fall to OBI, we had no idea that our simple trip to deliver cookies and learn about the facility- would end up being the home of our Silver Award project.”
Opportunity Builders Inc., in Millersville is a sheltered work place for the physically and intellectually challenged. Our leaders (Danielle Margolis Brown and Kammy Curry) planned a nice day trip for us to go there and to give our Girl Scout Care Cookies to the clients. Everyone at OBI was friendly and welcomed our troop with open arms. In the midst of conversation, the clients mentioned that they would like a nice place to relax during their work day that included a reading room. That sparked an idea–we would create a library.
Our troop got together and devised a plan. We made a meeting with the staff, and they showed us a space we could use in a classroom. Next we came up with a list of questions for OBI to see what they wanted in their ideal library. We held a phone conference with the staff who would be managing the library to verify what they wanted and needed for the space. Some of the items requested were an array of books ranging from children’s to adult genres, a couple bookshelves, and any items for safety precautions, comfy seats, a lamp or two, and some nice décor to spruce up the space. They allowed us a budget of $500, but our leaders challenged us to complete the project with only donations.
We split into three different groups; Furniture, Books, and Art.
Furniture was in charge of collecting the furniture donations, preparing the furniture so they didn’t get stained, and setting it all up in the space that OBI gave us. The book group picked a date for a book drive, devised a cataloging system that the clients could use easily, and shelved all the books. The art group was in charge of the artwork for the space and the color scheme, as well as signs for the walls, doors and book shelves. We each had a specific job but also helped each group to complete the entire project over the past 9 months.
The troop composed a donation letter to the public with a list of requested items. Each girl chose a store in the surrounding community to visit and request needed items. Most stores were very generous, while others had a very rigorous request system in place that made it difficult to get items we needed. We learned that you had to be persistent, as well as polite, to get the items needed. We made sure to follow up each donation with a thank you note and a box of Girl Scout cookies. We also had a Facebook page where our leaders would post what we needed and updates while we were working on the project so the community could see what we were accomplishing.
Our biggest donor was Bruce Michalec, supervisor of the Anne Arundel Food Bank. He was able to provide our troop with 5 tall book shelves, two different types of chairs and an antique television cabinet. The troop thanked Mr. Michalec by volunteering one Saturday for four hours putting away food donations. We really had a great time doing this community service. We also got a generous donation of Braille books from the Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled. We are hoping to take a tour in the fall.
Over the course of three six-hour work days, we learned how to use a drill from some of our dads and put up safety straps on the bookcases. We sprayed furniture with a protective, stain and liquid resistant covering. We took pictures of subjects that we felt represent Annapolis, painted frames and then hung them using a level and adhesive strips. We cataloged over 1,000 books from both our book drive, and donations dropped at our homes. We figured out an easy way for the client’s to find books they would want to read and a check out/in system that one of their clients could easily do.
On Tuesday, June 17, we unveiled our finished project to OBI’s Board of Directors with an official ribbon cutting ceremony. Some of the people on the board had us give them a tour, and explain our project. A few even told us that they had either been in Girl Scouts or had a daughter who was working on their Silver or Gold Award, too.
On Wednesday, June 18, we got together at one of our homes and baked 300 mini cupcakes to share with the client’s the next day. The troop thought we should do something special for the client’s since they were why we choose to do this in the first place for our Silver Award.
On Thursday, June 19, we went to OBI with the cupcakes and showed the clients who were present that day what we did. We all had the feeling of satisfaction when we saw how excited the clients were as they began to check out books.
We learned to work together, but also honed our leadership skills. We learned how to communicate with one another, as well as with people in our community. We learned to be persistent in order to obtain items we needed , even if it took multiple phone calls or visits. We learned a smile and being polite went a long way. A hand written thank you note holds a lot of weight in a time of computer communication. And most of all, we learned that our project really made a group of people very happy.