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North Hills Monthly

Girl Scout Troop Warms Hearts and Soles at Light of Life Rescue Mission

Mar 02, 2015 04:13PM ● By Vanessa Orr

Troop 51337: Anna Marie Arlet, Eva Betz, Madyson Cieszynski, Chloe Cummings, Sidney Fedell, Hannah Hammond, Julia Kirsch, Morgan Lynch, Natalie Marquiss, Riley Meyers, Gillian Myers, Megan Quinlan, Alexandra Romanchik, Kiera West

For many people, Valentine’s Day is marked with candy hearts and bouquets of flowers. But this February, the people who are served by the Light of Life Rescue Mission received something that meant even more: words of encouragement and love from a group of girls who cared.

Warm Their Hearts and Soles, a project put together by Girl Scout Troop 51337, started as a way for the girls to earn their bronze award, the highest award that junior Girl Scouts can earn. Instead, it became a lesson on homelessness, and more important, an exercise in compassion.

“The girls were interested in making a video about homelessness, so we called the Light of Life Rescue Mission, and they were invited to take a tour,” explained Suzanne Meyers, who co-leads the troop with Erin Quinlan and Michele Cieszynski. Troop 51337 is made up of students from Ingomar and McKnight Elementary schools. “The girls asked what some of their needs were, and were told that they needed Valentine’s cards for their Women’s and Children’s Group, and the girls loved the idea.”

“The Troop also learned that one of the mission’s greatest needs was socks, so in addition to making a video about how people could help the homeless, we decided to add a service component, and the result was Warm Their Hearts and Soles,” said Quinlan.

The fifth-grade girls went to work writing letters to the principals and teachers of both schools asking that their students make Valentine’s cards, and also held a sock drive. Students in numerous grades participated, as did the greater North Allegheny community. “The girls also wrote letters to the retailers at Ross Park Mall soliciting donations and followed up with a visit,” said Quinlan. “They ended up collecting 586 pairs of socks and 257 homemade Valentine’s cards.”

On February 11, the girls went to the mission to deliver everything that they had collected in person. “They got an unbelievably positive response,” said Quinlan. “The people who worked there took the time to tell the girls about what a difference they were making, and how important it was to those who were receiving the Valentine’s to know that there were people out there who really cared about them. Suzanne and I were blown away.”

The staff at Light of Life was extremely impressed with the actions of the girls as well. “From the very start, the girls were really serious about making a difference; on the tour, they had their pencils and notebooks ready, and they were really curious about how they could help,” said Kate Wadsworth, the mission’s public relations manager. “And they collected so many Valentine’s that in addition to giving them out during  the women and children’s program, we were able to put them on the tables during Friday’s meal and leave them on the beds for shelter guests on Saturday.

“The cards themselves were so sweet—the words were really encouraging,” she added. “They said, ‘Someone cares about you,’ and ‘You are loved.’ And it’s really important that our people hear this message over and over. The fact that people who didn’t even know them took the time to create these thoughtful cards meant so much.”

Staff members Lloyd Massie and Jarrel Gilliam made a point of greeting the girls and thanking them for everything they’d done, but the biggest impact may have been made on those who, while never meeting their girls in person, were deeply touched by their kindness.

“It was so heartwarming; one gentleman came for dinner, and got a glittery Valentine that said ‘You are loved.” I saw him leaving the mission later with a clear bag containing his belongings over his shoulder, and you could see the Valentine inside; he kept it with him,” said Wadsworth.

“I read one out loud to another gentleman and he smiled so big; you could tell that it just touched his heart that someone had made time for him,” she added.

If Troop 51337 was hoping to live up to the Girl Scout motto, to build girls of courage, confidence and character, it seems that they excelled at this task. “All of us have a calling to give back to the community, and it doesn’t always have to be something financial,” said Quinlan. “We hope to establish that sense of giving back at a young age, so that it continues throughout the girls’ lives.”