A local Girl Scout troop needs an assist from the community to help at-risk teens.
Five 13-year-olds — who are in Cadet Troop 1400 in Ottawa — are assembling Fresh Start Bags for teens, who attempt to flee unsafe environments.
Laura Haas, Cadet Troop 1400 leader, said organizations such as the LifeCare Center and Willow Tree Domestic Violence Center, were in need of a group to spearhead this project.
“Over time, the different agencies have been talking about doing a ‘Fresh Start Bag program,’” Haas said. “It is a list of items that are donated and put together for women who are in domestic abuse situations or teenagers that are at-risk and they need to leave...even runaways.”
Haas said the teens began talking about completing a service project at the first of the year.
“They said they wanted to work with families,” Haas said. “I contacted the LifeCare Center and Willow Tree [Domestic Violence Center]. What could we do in Ottawa that would assist the community? What they wanted to was get a group that would be willing to take on this project. Fresh Start bags contain toiletries, clothing and gift cards. Everything you can think of you would need for overnight. Even a journal and a pen for them to write down their thoughts.”
Haas said the bags would be given to LifeCare Center, which would be the point organization in the Franklin County area.
“If somebody needs to leave their home immediately, they wanted to have these bags available at different community service places,” Haas said. “They would have at least a 24-hour fresh start. That is how it came about.”
The community can help by visiting the troops’ booth outside of Ottawa Wal-Mart 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 6. The girls will be taking donations for the bags during that time. Haas said the girls came up with a slogan for the project: Have a Heart, Donate to a Fresh Start.
Haas said the girls researched prices for the items and found each bag would cost about $100.
“The agencies are asking for seven bags,” Haas said. “We want to do 10. If we can do more, that would be great. It is about a $1,000 project.”
Haas said the girls understand the need for these bags.
“Nobody’s life is picture perfect,” she said. “None of my girls have any contact with that type of home life. I asked them ‘do you know someone that may be have these type of issues where they don’t feel safe at home for whatever reason.’ Three out of my five did. They have taken this program on and they have been responsible on their assignments. They are excited about it.”
Haas said the Girl Scouts have awards for community service projects. She said the highest award is the Gold Award, which is similar to the Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts. For middle school-age Girl Scouts, there is a Silver Award, Haas said.
“It is supposed to take 50 hours to complete,” Haas said. “It needs to be a community-based project and it has to be girl-led. The leader is more of the facilitator. They have been making the contact calls and doing the research. When we get the money and items, we will all go shopping. They will put them together and deliver them.”
The girls’ first fundraiser earlier this year was donation of ‘soft goods,’ which netted $250.
“The girls voted to use all of that money towards this project,” Haas said. “They are enjoying the experience.”