Around Easter time my Girl Scouts and I were looking for a community service project to cap off the year with. We needed something the girls could plan on their own as part of a badge they were working on. I decided to call the local women's shelter to see if there was anything they needed done.
At the time, the lady I talked to said their most immediate need was a few Easter baskets for the kids who would be with them Easter morning. Ok. We could do that. The girls were excited and we assembled 12 baskets for the shelter.
That wasn't enough for us, though. The girls didn't actually get to plan that project, and although they felt amazingly proud of what they did, they wanted to do more. (Girls after my own heart, for sure!) The lady from the shelter came to one of our meetings to pick up the baskets and talk to the girls about what the women's shelter does. As she was talking about how grateful they are for the Easter baskets, one of my Girl Scouts whispered, "I have a really good feeling in my heart right now." Me too. But for a whole different reason.
After our new friend from the shelter was finished talking a few of the girls asked her what else we could do for the shelter. She seemed a little surprised so we explained to her that the girls wanted to do a project all their own. Something where they did the planning and the deciding. She suggested a few things that she needed done around the shelter and the one that the girls got excited about was "Adopt a Room". Basically we would choose a room to paint and decorate.
The Saturday after Easter we went to tour the shelter. It needs a LOT of work. Last summer's hurricanes did some damage that hasn't been fixed yet, many of the rooms are drab looking, they've had some roof leakage that has caused a lot of water damage inside the building.... To break it down, they need more money, and more help. Pretty much *anything* we choose to do will be greatly appreciated.
The girls thought about which room they would like to adopt and, of course, chose the biggest. The shelter is in an old hotel, and the room they chose is a "suite" style with a door between two rooms that opens up for larger families. Each room has a bathroom, so not only do we have two rooms to paint and decorate, but also two bathrooms. I said, "All right, girls, if this is what you choose that's fine. BUT, we need to get on the phone and get donations!" And they did! Well, they got on the phone. Unfortunately we didn't get a lot of donations.
One local business really came through for us and we are so grateful to them. I can't thank them enough. Louisa was in charge of calling a local store called Stine's. They are like a small Home Depot. She talked to a very friendly assistant manager who said, "Sure, anything you need! Come on down and let's talk." Louisa and I went in one day after school and he was just as friendly and helpful as he was on the phone. He told Louisa he'd give her all the paint she needed for this project. Considering how much we have to paint, this is an incredible donation! He said he's been to the shelter before and he knew which room we were talking about. I hate to admit I was a bit skeptical. I wish I wasn't so on-guard all the time, but I am. I can rarely look at a gift as something pure with no strings attached. And although I do see the small strings attached to this gift, such as positive publicity for the store, I mostly see really good hearts who just cared enough about our project to help us. And I also see that out of all the major national chain stores we have around us (I won't name them), the people who really came through were the small town locals.
The assistant manager gave Louisa ALL the books of paint swatches that he had and that week at our meeting the girls picked out two colors. I wasn't sure if Stine's would indulge the girls or not, but they did! Again, my skepticism showed through. A few of the Girl Scouts and I took the paint swatches they had chosen in to Stine's one day and the assistant manager hooked us up with the paint specialist. Who was amazing. To say the very least. She gave the kids paint safety, and painting tips. She was just as excited as the girls were about their project. She told the girls they did a great job matching the two paint colors because they are somewhat odd colors. A sort of teal, and an apricot-ish. But they do look great together. The paint specialist also gave the girls hats to wear when they are painting (and gave hats to Drew and Hunter because they had to tag along), and she told them how proud she was that they chose such a worthy cause. She even thanked them for being volunteers!
We left Stine's that day with 8 gallons of paint (4 of each color), rollers, paint pans, paint brushes... and a renewed sense of just how beautiful humanity can be.
Since then, we've been in the newspaper (on the front page with a color picture, no less!), and been talked about on local radio. My girls are doing something good, but even better we're helping to raise awareness that the shelter needs so much help right now.
Tomorrow we'll suit up and step into our adopted room to begin the transformation. I don't know what to expect tomorrow, but I know each of my girls will learn what it's like to get their hands dirty and do a good deed. They'll learn that anything they do will make a difference. And I can only pray they take this experience with them and grow from it.