Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois Nominate Four Projects
 for Illinois Governor’s Hometown Service Awards

     The bipartisan Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service presents the Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards. These awards recognize individual volunteers through a statewide award program to highlight the importance of volunteerism and community service in the State of Illinois.
     Of note during this uncertain time, The Serve Illinois Commission is the state’s lead agency under the Illinois Emergency Operations Plan (IEOP) for volunteers and donations in times of disaster.  There are hundreds of members responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic as we speak supporting communities all around Illinois. Serve Illinois Commission’s mission is to improve Illinois communities by enhancing volunteerism and instilling an ethic of service throughout the State. The Commission is accomplishing this mission through the support of local community-based efforts to enhance volunteer opportunities and the administration of Illinois’ AmeriCorps program.
     Although Serve Illinois is not certain when the final selections will be made due to their constant engagement in the community to lift up the efforts of all Illinois volunteers during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois has nominate four amazing Girl Scout award winning projects for the Illinois Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards this year.

Project: Caseyville Historical Museum Display: Madison County, Illinois
     Girl Scout Dani Cary from Troop # 726 fell in love with her hometown of Caseyville’s interesting history after reading books that were written by a local historian. She realized that not many people knew about its fascinating history. Unlike other towns, Caseyville did not have a museum or a place that preserved and displayed historical items. Dani couldn’t believe that there wasn’t anything, and it left her wondering where the history had gone.

     She felt it was important for both current residents of Caseyville, as well as those who have lived there in the past, to be celebrated by embracing their town’s great past with efforts of rediscovering and restoring some of the history before more of it slips away unrecognized or unknown to those of the younger generations. Dani made it her mission to bring just that to her community. After pitching her project idea “Caseyville Historical Museum Display” and receiving approval from Mayor G.W. Scott Sr., Superintendent Brian Rader, and the Village Board, her vision took off. She created three lighted glass display cabinets full of historical memorabilia, photos, and narratives that proudly stands in the lobby of the Caseyville Village Hall. Above the display cabinets there is a quote that reads, “We honor our past and welcome our future.” By going above and beyond, Dani earned her Girl Scout Silver Award after completing this honorable project.

     Dani’s project brought the community of Caseyville together. Dani showed great leadership while working with other leaders in the community and her project advisor, who is a local historian. They truly wanted to see her succeed. She put in long hours for this project. The biggest aspect of her project was to collect all of the memorabilia for the displays. In order for her plan to succeed, she needed help from the Caseyville community. She got the word out about her project through fliers and a Facebook group called Caseyville’s Historical Museum Project that reached more than 250 members who were eager to help out and see this project succeed. An article in the newspaper was also published asking for historical items for the display cabinets. After the word got out in Caseyville, nearly every day someone in the community would reach out to her and either have a story or a “treasure” (as she calls the historical memorabilia) to give to her.

     At just 12 years old, Dani had the courage and confidence to really connect with the people in her community to achieve a goal that would positively impact her whole community, all of Caseyville. This project will live on because residents and visitors of Caseyville will be able to stop by the Village Hall to see the permanent historical display for years to come. Dani’s goal for the display is to have it expand as years go by and more historical items surface for people to donate instead of tossing them in the trash or selling them in estate auctions. Five months later, Dani is still receiving phone calls from people wanting to donate.  Dani accomplished so much in this project, and her work was celebrated at a ribbon cutting in September 2019, where approximately 75-100 guests attended to admire her hard work.

Project: Fitness Fairs; St. Clair County, Illinois
     Girl Scout Sydney McAuliffe is very passionate about fitness. She spends a lot of her free time working out at 5 Elements Fitness studio in her hometown of O’Fallon. With attending weekly kick-boxing classes, Sydney can’t imagine not exercising because she knows that when she works out, her body releases endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain and also trigger a positive feeling in the body. After learning that information and having that feeling herself, she wondered why there weren’t more kids her age exercising regularly.

     Feeling strongly about this issue, she wanted to do something in her community that would educate the younger generation on childhood obesity and how important it is to move your body and fuel it with nutritious foods. Sydney brought her idea to Nick Alsup who is the owner of 5 Elements Fitness, and he decided that he would help Sydney with her goal. They met every week to discuss her ideas and plans for this project. In the end, with the help from her team, she set up two large events in her community to improve the general public’s knowledge of fitness, health, and wellness.

     The first event was geared towards Girl Scout troops and the second event was open to the public. Both events had great turnouts. The Girl Scout event had more than 80 girls plus their parents and leaders show up. Sydney showed great leadership while she thoroughly planned and executed these events. In addition, she earned her Girl Scout Gold Award through implementing this project. The Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable, earned by a high school Girl Scout who works to address an issue she’s passionate about in a way that produces meaningful and lasting change. Whether it’s on a local, national, or global level, Gold Award Girl Scouts provide innovative solutions to significant challenges.

     The two “Fitness Fair” events that Sydney held truly brought the community together. During the planning stages, Sydney presented her idea at the O’Fallon local Rotary Club. Her goal for that presentation was to share her idea and inspire others to partner with her. She also got the word out about her events through two articles in her local newspaper and presenting her project to other Girl Scout leaders in the area. Sydney showed great leadership and confidence which helped her secure several different local businesses’ participation. Her vendors included: USA Karate, 5 Elements Fitness, Parks Yong in Martial Arts, Rocksteady Boxing, Bike Surgeon, Mere’s Massage & Yoga, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Heirloom & Artisan, and Severn’s Chiropractic. The events included several demonstrations from these vendors including a karate demonstration that got the participants involved as they learned how to break a board. There was a Zumba and yoga demonstration. 5 Elements Fitness also put on a kick-boxing demonstration in which Sydney participated.  St. Elizabeth’s Hospital nurses gave short speeches about health and wellness, and a local Girl Scout did a presentation on the dangers of JUUL. Sydney did a lot of research on nutrition throughout her project and created a recipe book to give out at the events. There were 50 recipes including: smoothie recipes, pre-workout recipes, post-workout recipes, everyday snacks and high protein snack recipes.

     The two events were similar, but Sydney put an extra component in the Girl Scout event. At their event, troops had the opportunity to work on different badges that focused on healthy eating and lifestyles. These events inspired and taught participants about the need of living a healthy lifestyle. Participants can continue to learn, and they will also have their recipe book whenever they are in need of a healthy recipe.

Project: Flowers for Thought; St. Clair County, Illinois
     Mia Torres is a Girl Scout Gold Award and Girl Scout Trifecta Award recipient. The Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable, earned by a high school Girl Scout who works to address an issue she’s passionate about in a way that produces meaningful and lasting change. The Trifecta Award is accomplished by earning all three of the Girl Scout Awards: Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Whether it’s on a local, national, or global level, Gold Award Girl Scouts provide innovative solutions to significant challenges. Mia earned her Gold Award by serving the Southern Illinois Community Support Services’ Belleville House. This house holds a special place in Mia’s heart because her Aunt, who has Downs Syndrome, lives there. After visiting frequently, she knew she wanted to bring something joyful to the house. She had the great idea of building a beautiful garden at the house. Her goal was to get the residents of Belleville House to be more engaged in healthy eating. The garden would bring joy and purpose to the residents that would inspire them to work on the garden and eat the nutritious vegetables that they were gardening. Mia met with Jim Lopresto, the Executive Director at the time, and Tonya Williams, the social worker, to share her idea. They were thrilled with the idea and gave her the go ahead to start her project. Not only did Mia bring a beautiful garden to the house, she also wanted to spread awareness about mental health and illness to another population of the community. For this, she targeted fellow Girl Scouts. She held two, three-hour long workshops for younger Girl Scouts. While at the workshops 60 girls earned their mental health badge.

     Mia showed great leadership while earning her Girl Scout Gold Award. There was a lot of organization and commitment that went into creating a garden for the residents at the Belleville House. She first held a taste testing for the residents. This gave her an idea of what kind of vegetables they would like to have in their garden. She then reached out to local businesses to get donations for the project. She spent a lot of time researching wheel chair accessible garden beds and chose to make a four by eight foot long bed that is four feet tall. With the help of a family friend, she built two garden beds for the house. She used innovative methods to fill the beds including: cinder blocks, old untreated wood, bales of hay and soil. She then planted all of the vegetables the residents wanted and also got them involved with the process. During the harvesting season, Mia recruited and trained twelve volunteers to help water, weed, and harvest the garden. She also taught residents how to pick the plants and pull weeds. After Mia accomplished the garden part of her project, she then planned her workshops for the Girl Scouts. She had sixty girls come and earn their mental health badge. She taught the girls through different activities about the brain and how it relates to mental health.

     Mia celebrated her success by hosting a barbecue for the Belleville House. The food at the barbecue came directly from the garden. She also made a recipe book to leave at the house. Her project will live on because two employees and the maintenance man happily agreed to continue the upkeep of the garden. Mia loved getting to see the residents getting involved and the enjoyment they got from it.

Project: “Full STEAM Ahead”
     Two things that Girl Scout Rowan Dothager loves is art and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). So, she never understood why there was such a gap between the two. It was also disappointing that her high school, in Staunton, Illinois, didn’t have an art program. The Macoupin County Art Collective (the Mac) fills that void. She made it her mission to bridge the gap between science and art and creativity and technology while bringing a new program to her community.

     Rowan teamed up with Brandy Cloud, the founder of The Mac, other employees, and members of her community to make this mission become a reality. After lots of research and consultation with local art and science teachers, Rowan created a four week after-school program for middle school students that teaches the science behind art, called “Full STEAM Ahead”. Her goal of this program was to use art to inspire students to gain an interest in science as well as to use science experiments to inspire students to gain an interest in art.  Not only did she run this free program at The Mac, she taught the curriculum to other audiences, including Girl Scout troops of all ages and FIRST Lego League teams. Rowan brought an amazing program to her community and she also earned her Girl Scout Gold Award with this project. The Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable, earned by a high school Girl Scout who works to address an issue she’s passionate about in a way that produces meaningful and lasting change. Whether it’s on a local, national, or global level, Gold Award Girl Scouts provide innovative solutions to significant challenges.
     Rowan’s project really broadened the horizon for opportunities to integrate STEM and art in her community. Not only did she get the youth involved in her project by providing them the free four-week after school program, she got leaders and adults in the community involved with the curriculum. She recruited experts in different fields to help build and teach her curriculum. There were four different parts to it. Physics and mobiles: a FIRST Robotics team taught information on simple machines, and the participants built mobiles to practice balancing. Photography and Chemistry: an expert spoke to participants about dark rooms, photography tools, and the chemicals used in photography. Ceramic Engineering and pottery: founder of The Mac helped teach how to make a pinch pot while participants did a science experiment on chemical erosion. Metallurgical Engineering and Pottery:  participants were taught about metal forging and metal working techniques.

     Rowan received such a positive response form the program, each session she had multiple students ask her how they could learn more or how they could do the project at home. Since the program had such an impact on the middle school students, she trained a local Girl Scout troop to teach the photography and chemistry portion at the Staunton Art Fair. More than 200 children made solar prints that day. Rowan’s project will not stop at the programs she ran. She worked with a graphic designer to create PDF versions of the curriculum to share with others. Every time she taught her class, she offered a PDF version or a printed copy to the teachers, leaders, and other adult volunteers that were present in hopes that even more kids of all ages can learn about “STEAM”.

     Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois (GSofSI) is a high-capacity Girl Scout council serving approximately 9,338 girls and engaging 3,587 adult volunteers while providing financial assistance to 2,722 members in 40 and ½ counties in Southern Illinois.  GSofSI Mission: Girl Scouts builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.   The Girl Scouts organization is the world’s largest leadership development organization for girls.  In partnership with committed adults, girls develop qualities that will serve them all their lives – such as strong values, social conscience, and conviction about their own potential and self-worth. Today’s Girl Scouts not only enjoy camping and crafts; they also explore math and science and learn about diversity, good citizenship, leadership and teamwork. Girl Scouting is the place where girls experience the fun, friendship and power of girls together.   Join Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois today! Adult Volunteers and Girls K-12 welcome. Call 800-345-6858 or email GSofSI is a not-for-profit organization supported by various United Ways throughout the region.  Girl Scouts is a Proud Partner of United Way.
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