Girl Scout Troop 9168 poses with Missouri Representative Nate Walker, center, and the Foster Family Appreciation Month resolution he sponsored to honor the troop's Bronze Award Project. The troop created Life Books for more than 90 foster children and sponsored a foster parent appreciation dinner.
Girl Scout Troop 9168 knew from the start that it wanted its Bronze Award Project to benefit children.
For its project, the troop sponsored an appreciation dinner for local foster parents and created “Life Books” for more than 90 children who are in foster care in Adair, Knox and Schuyler counties in northeastern Missouri. Foster children are supposed to keep Life Books, which contain photos, papers and other documentation. Imagine foster children without Life Books. They cannot remember all of the people they met, all of the places they have been or all of the things they have done. They have no documentation to show to any new foster parents, school officials or even friends.
“During the dinner, one foster mother recounted how her foster child returned as an adult,” Troop Co-leader Melinda Orskog said. “He brought the scrapbook she kept for him before Life Books were a requirement and it was one of his most treasured possessions.”
“The dinner certainly received recognition, but creating more than 90 packs (complete with stickers, pens, bookmarks, crayons, a blue ribbon pin, double-sided tape, extra paper and embellishments) was what our girls really got excited about,” Orskog said.
The Girl Scout Bronze Award is the highest national award a Girl Scout Junior, who are in fourth and fifth grades, may earn. It is a group-earned award and requires each girl to complete a minimum of 20 hours on a Bronze Award Take Action Project. Girls focus on something they care about that they would like to improve within their Girl Scout or local community.
Orskog said the girls helped prepare and serve the dinner and attended the recognition ceremony with the foster family training. The girls personally awarded them family-oriented door prizes. Orskog outlined events that ultimately led to the dinner and Life Books.
“The girls themselves narrowed down the focus of the project very early in the fall of 2012,” she recalled. “There were two groups that clearly were the focus of interest -- children and veterans. Initially, the troop wanted to help in either a children’s or veterans’ hospital, but because of our rural nature we were not able to work out logistical details.”
“Our troop has some personal ties to foster care, so I reached out to the children’s division in our county to see in what way we could help foster children,” continued Orskog.
Some of the troop’s ideas at that stage focused on providing blankets, toiletry packs or other items, but the troop soon realized that storage was a limiting factor.
After reviewing the Global Youth Service award applications, Orskog said the grant writing process offered the perfect structure to plan the project. The accompanying troop meeting also challenged the girls more than ever before.
“I certainly think the girls would rate it as the least fun meeting they’ve had in Girl Scouts, but my co-leader, Sandy Adams, and I walked away absolutely awestruck by their focus and motivation,” Orskog said. “I think Girl Scout Leaders are prone to being emotional when we see those ‘snapshots’ of personal growth in our girls and this was one of those moments.”
Next, they made a timeline and started planning. Throughout the process, the girls earned badges – Scrapbooking (perfectly covered during the Life Book Training), Flag (the girls opened the event with a flag ceremony) and Flower (a local florist and former Girl Scout donated flowers and instruction).
"The girls were fortunate to have assistance from the community as well as other troops who helped make their dream a reality. We are extremely appreciative of those businesses and individuals who supported both the Girl Scouts and Foster Family Appreciation," Orskog said.
Orskog submitted details regarding the girls’ project to their local representative, Nate Walker, hoping for a resolution proclaiming May as “Foster Family Appreciation Month.” Walker did that and he also issued a Resolution in the Missouri House of Representatives for the services the troop provided. He even attended one of the regular troop meetings to present the document to the troop.