Taking Action in Washington D.C.

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Ever wondered how Girl Scout troops figure out how to combine a trip with a service project? Last summer Troop #52148 from Everett traveled to Washington D.C. to learn more about our nation’s capital and to volunteer at the National Congressional Cemetery, as well as making and handing out “Homeless Helpers” (kits that contain instant noodle soup and oatmeal, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, granola bars and a pair of socks).

Read on to learn more about the trip from Emma Kate and Casady, two Val Manuel Take Action Travelship scholarship recipients, who tell us about the trip in their words!

Emma Kate Describes Volunteering at the National Congressional Cemetery

Before going to Washington D.C., it was decided that I would lead our troop in a service project while we were on the other side of the country. After diligently searching for a service project within our abilities, I stumbled upon the website for the Congressional Cemetery. The website said that they allowed Eagle Projects, and that they needed help righting sinking footstones and tombstones.

At first I began correspondence with Patrick Crowley of the cemetery, however, soon after he stopped replying to my e-mails about the project. Weeks later I found out he had left the cemetery without having told anyone about me or my troop’s project we had been planning. With only days before we left, I began planning the project again from the beginning, with the help of Paul Williams. He had informed me that they planned on having us up righting footstones.

After several days in D.C., and some last minute e-mail planning, came the morning of the project. We filled our water bottles, grabbed our work gloves, and hiked over to the cemetery only to find that plans had been changed once again. We were now going to be clearing a neglected area of brush, and it taken long enough to get there that we would be working during the near hundred-degree heat of the day. Under the supervision of Barry Hayman, we cleared everything in our path, from small trees, to litter, to ivy and other various weeds gone out of hand.

Having cleared a heapingly humongous pile of brush, we called it a day and settled down to listen to Barry educate us on some of the famous women who are, and were, buried there, such as Dolley Madison, and Louisa Adams. We then began to walk back, stopping along the way by the hose to wash up a bit, and to visit the grave of John Philip Sousa, and continued the long walk back home for some well-deserved rest. A few days later, after returning home to Washington state, we received the following, and very grateful, e-mail from Barry:

Emma Kate -

Please extend my thanks to all your hard workers at Congressional Cemetery.

I have to tell you two things.

First, when we collected all the foliage, it hit me like a ton of bricks: your group cleared an impressively large volume. I was impressed (again) with the work and the spirit in which it was accomplished.

Secondly, the sight of that cleared corner inspired a proposal to terrace that neglected corner, once & for all, with a sustainable (say ‘low maintenance’) garden. One hundred years of weeds and we are just getting to it.

I’ve gotten’ ooohs’ & ‘ahhhhs’ from all sorts of people in just a day. The credit belongs to you and your team.

Please make sure that everyone knows how much we appreciate your efforts.

Regards,

Barry

Historic Congressional Cemetery

Casady Explains Making and Distributing Homeless Helpers

My troop and I were brainstorming ideas on service projects that we could do when we traveled. DC first, then Europe. The service project was for the Val Manuel Take Action Travel Scholarship to help traveling girl scouts. “How about Homeless Helpers?” I said. I knew we did Homeless Helpers already in Everett so it would be easy to do it somewhere foreign. I didn’t know that my idea was going to be the one we decided on!

Our plan was to visit a girl scout troop from wherever we were going and teach them how to make homeless helpers, a package of various things, like socks, tea, soup mixes and hot chocolate, that we would hand out to homeless people to help them. We thought it would be good to also include the Online group called Zero Apathy, started by the brother of a fellow girl scout, to help people see that helping the homeless is better than ignoring them.

I contacted the Girl Scout office in Washington DC to see if I could organize a meeting with one of the groups there. A long time later, they emailed back to say that we would have to try a website that we already tried earlier to use and didn’t work. Since it was already too close to the DC trip to figure everything out, we decided to go with plan two. I would take a video of us making homeless helpers in DC and take pictures of spreading the word of Zero Apathy so that we could come back home and show the other Troops what we did so they could do it too.

During the trip in DC, we bought the ingredients to make the Homeless Helpers and set it all out on the table. Each girl was able to make two. The next day, we kept an eye out for anyone who might need one. Each time I sat at a bench, or was waiting for the metro, I would sneak out one of my Zero Apathy cards and tape it to where I was sitting. I hoped that then, people would see it and look it up on face book just for curiosity’s sake. Everyone should help, in any way they can, even if it’s not a lot at the time. Even the smallest things can make a difference.

While walking in downtown DC, we saw a group of people sitting on a bench, with plastic bags at their feet. We gathered up our courage to go up to them and offer up our homeless helpers. We handed them our packages and one man said he didn’t want it, well, except for the socks. Socks were the items that people appreciated the most, but we were still surprised. He gave the rest of the Homeless Helper to the others, who were more than glad to get it.

I walked away with a spring in my step, hoping that I made a difference in their lives, and that they were glad of it. We met another man who gratefully accepted our Homeless Helper. He said that he chose to be homeless to help spread the love of god. His name was Start Loving, which was tattooed on his forehead, and he said that he had a blog online. He let us take a picture of him, which would be good for our presentation back home.

I now am planning my presentation to the girl scouts, to tell them that they can make a difference with the little things, like Homeless Helpers. Wherever they go, they can show some love, and zero apathy.

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