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Gold Award Girl Scout, Caitlyn

Gold Award Girl Scout, Caitlyn

The Giving Garden

Caitlyn is known as a kind, caring, and compassionate person at her high school. She knew she wanted to use these skills and character qualities in developing a Gold Award project. She discovered that the mission of her local homeless shelter, the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, is to house people and care for them while they are guests. The shelter believes the people it serves have inherent strength, building relationships of mutual trust and respect are important, and that housing is a right for all people. Caitlyn felt that mission of the shelter paired with her values and passions and decided that this organization was who she wanted to partner with for her Gold Award project.  

To do this, she connected with the shelter’s director and volunteer coordinator and discovered that the shelter feeds 25 to 50 households a day and runs a community food pantry that is open to the public. She also discovered that the shelter would need their own small farm to make a dent in their food needs. So, she decided to develop a raised-bed vegetable garden at the shelter where she could not only help feed guests fresh and nutritious food, but also teach them how to plant, tend, and harvest it themselves—skills that would benefit them long into the future.  

Upon further research, Caitlyn discovered that a large percentage of homeless persons are homeless due to trauma and that gardening can provide much more than edible produce; gardening can be a form of therapy, allowing people to forget their traumas, even for just a little while, and remind people of what they’re capable of doing. Studies have shown that gardening allows people to practice mindfulness and can be a form of meditation that allows for healing.

Even though Caitlyn’s project was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, her contribution to the homeless shelter came at a time when the shelter had to change the way it operated to help serve its' guests. To ensure the sustainability of her project, Caitlyn worked with guests of the shelter to teach them how to garden, choose healthy food to eat, and educated the youth at the shelter about fresh, healthy produce. Additionally, she provided the shelter with a manual on how to start plants from seeds indoors and transplant them outside and provided seeds, plant starting materials, and tools to the shelter to start gardening with again next spring. According to the shelter’s director “Caitlyn’s project really does supplement the shelter’s mission. Projects like this are perfect because it gives our guests something to do, it provides food, which is what we need for our guests, and that is never going to change. I appreciate people thinking outside the box.”

Caitlyn said the biggest obstacle and challenge in her project was the pandemic, but attributes her success to her troop leader, who met with her weekly and helped keep her motivated and inspired, despite the pandemic, which reminded Caitlyn of one of her guiding principles: “The way I see it is that there is always someone worse off than I am so I want to help as often as I can.”