The Beaver Creek service unit, made up of approximately 54 troops with 500 girls and 200 volunteers, has always been passionate about service and giving back. They decided to take it to a new level and “adopt” an organization for a whole Girl Scout year. For their inaugural year, they selected the Wesley House with a specific focus on their senior citizen program. The Girl Scouts’ goal was to serve but, ultimately, they gained more than they gave.
The service unit wanted to pick an underserved non-profit. They decided on the Wesley WISE (Wellness In Senior Education) Program, which provides food and fellowship for inner-city senior citizens in Knoxville.
In addition to dropping off snacks throughout the year, the Girl Scouts hosted several holiday parties for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Mother’s Day that the seniors would not have been able to celebrate together had the girls not planned the events. For a Granny and Me Tea Party, each troop adopted a senior citizen, or also affectionately known as a granny, for the day and gifted them a handmade blanket and teacups. Throughout the year, hundreds of boxes of food and cleaning supplies were donated, as well as plenty of Girl Scout Cookies! As the year went on, several seniors battled kidney failure, heart disease, cancer, and the Girl Scouts visited and delivered supplies to the hospital.
“Service is a big part of what we are,” said Jennifer Contreras, troop volunteer. “To be a leader, you have to be willing to help and know what the needs are.”
It turns out that several of the senior citizens were Girl Scouts; some had even achieved the prestigious Girl Scout Gold Award! Both generations of Girl Scouts shared stories and knowledge. The girls listened and learned about the importance that Girl Scouting was throughout the elders’ lives. As the year went on, they learned they had more in common than they ever imagined.
The donations the girls gave throughout the year meant so much, as it often allowed the senior citizens to have extra money for medicine they may have had to miss out on. The recipients often cried tears of joy and their reactions brought tears to many of the Girl Scouts. Even still, what touched the girls most was knowing the difference the conversations and connection meant, as many of the grannies often lived alone, and the Wesley House would be the only time that week they would leave the house.
By living out the Girl Scout Promise, “To serve God and my country, to help people at all times…”, the Girl Scouts gained more than they could have imagined. Through rich stories and laughter, they formed friendships and the girls gained wisdom that only one who has experienced a full life can give.
What’s next for the Beaver Creek service unit? For the upcoming Girl Scout year, they plan on meeting the needs of local foster care centers, as selected by the service unit’s girl advisory board. They are already planning several donation drives for books, school supplies, and stuffed animals.
“What they’re gaining now is going to last them lifetime,” said Jennifer.
To volunteer with the Wesley House, call 865-524-5494.