PORT ORANGE—The members of Girl Scout Troop 450 might be kids, but their compassion packs an adult-sized punch.
A year after the girls organized and built an outdoor food pantry at First United Methodist Church of Port Orange, the service project continues to meet the needs of the surrounding neighborhood.
“It’s being heavily used this summer,” said Heather Hohenstein, one of the troop’s leaders and a member of FUMC Port Orange. “It empties out just about as fast as we can fill it.”
For the 10- to 12-year-old junior Girl Scouts who meet regularly at the church, keeping the pantry filled is a top priority.
“We try to stock a shelf of protein, and we try to stock a shelf of pastas,” said Hohenstein, whose two daughters are troop members. “And we keep a shelf of fruits and vegetables.”
The idea for the food pantry came up last summer after the troop completed a unit on community, and the girls wanted to give back locally.
|Girl Scout Troop 450 in front of their newly replenished outdoor pantry.|
“The whole idea was that even if they’re kids, they can still make a huge impact,” Hohenstein said. “The neighborhood the church is in is very much a working-class neighborhood. Lots of people are working a couple of jobs. They’re struggling to make it.”
As a troop, the girls talked about hunger and how some kids their age don’t always have enough food to eat, especially when they’re not at school to get a free lunch or breakfast. They decided on a free, outdoor food pantry—along the lines of the popular Little Free Libraries that have popped up across the country—on the church campus.
“They thought about it and reflected on it, and that was their choice,” Hohenstein said. “The church has a food pantry, but it’s open only during church hours, and the girls were thinking wouldn’t it be great if people had a pantry they could use whenever they need it.”
For some, the project fulfilled their Girl Scout Bronze Award, which meant they had to seek permission from church officials, articulate their purpose and demonstrate a clear plan of action to make the pantry a reality.
“Our church is very supportive of the scouts,” Hohenstein added. “It’s a really great relationship. Pastor Tom (Nelson) is quick to give his blessing to anything scouts want to do.”
Under Hohenstein’s guidance, the girls acquired a metal cabinet—discounted by a supportive Lowe’s manager—and assembled it themselves, agreeing with the church’s condition that they stock only canned goods to avoid rodents. An Eagle Scout at FUMC Port Orange also chipped in to anchor the cabinet to a column at the church so it wouldn’t blow around in stormy weather.
Hohenstein said the pantry project taught the girls that while hunger is a big issue, they have the power to fight it.
“We’re very big on giving back,” she said. “It was so good to see them caring about other people and doing something simply because it was the right thing to do.”
—Kari Barlow is a freelance writer based in Pensacola.