“Can we do this every year?”
“This is awesome!”
“I didn’t know what to expect, but this is way more fun than I thought it would be!”
How can you not like responses like that to a community service project?
On Saturday, October 13th, 11 K-5th graders from local Worthington Girl Scout troops got together to participate in the Centennial day of Service (CDOS), the largest environmental service project in River Valleys’ Girl Scouting history.
Though cookies may be the things which first come to the minds of many people when they think of Girl Scouts, really there is much, much more to the organization. For 100 years Girl Scouting as an organization has encouraged girls to be leaders and responsible citizens, given girls opportunities to grow and learn, and yes, sung a few campfire songs along the way. The CDOS made the point that Girl Scouts exist not just to give girls something to do: it exists to serve. CDOS honored the Girl Scouting 100 year legacy by creating this event as a way of supporting the community and servicing our local environment.
The focus for the CDOS was to remove leaves from streets and storm drains, thus keeping debris out of the waterways where it causes oxygen depletion in the water and ultimately leads to unhealthy fish and other aquatic organisms. According to the Girl Scouts statics, “five yard bags of this organic debris equals one pound of phosphorus.” I am happy to report that our girls were able to fill 31 yard bags here in Worthington in the 1.75 hours they worked. That means we saved potentially six pounds of phosphorus from entering the lake, which means that we prevented potentially 3,000 pounds of algae growth in Lake Okabena. (All numbers come from the River Valley Girl Scouts.)
Dan Livdahl, administrator for the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District, spoke to us at the beginning of the event, ensuring that each girl understood why she was there, and explaining how the fallen leaves, grass clippings, and even dirt can impact the water systems. Each troop involved also watched a video about water cleanliness as well as doing several experiments showing them the challenges of cleaning and filtering dirty water.
Our local troops had hoped to have 30 girls show up for this event, but due to other commitments, only 11 were able to attend. However, they joined up with an estimated 54,000 Girl Scouts and volunteer parents from across Minnesota and Wisconsin with the goal of removing 20,000 pounds of phosphorus, thus preventing 10 million pounds of algae growth in ponds and lakes across the region. The estimated savings to local River Valley communities was 6 million dollars.
In just shy of two hours – working with 8 3rd-5th graders – (the younger girls put up doorknob signs and swept just a short patch of street) we were able to clear just one side of our chosen block. We also painted (with environmentally safe and approved paint) fish stencils above four storm drains. More than once the girls were heard to say, “Wow, if everyone just cleared the space in front of their own houses, just think what an easy job we would have!” “Yeah,” one girl replied, “and think of how many fish they would save!” Eleven girls can’t make a huge impact, but a whole town working together to sweep up their leaves and grass clippings can.
I am a Girl Scout leader – albeit a somewhat inept one – and I must say that the time I spent with the girls raking, sweeping and painting was one of the most fun times I’ve had in my four years of involvement in scouting.
I also can say that I have never been as proud of our girls as I was today. They all worked hard for almost two hours straight and I never once heard one of them complain. They helped each other, problem-solved, and learned to work together to get the job done.
So the next time you see Girl Scouts out selling cookies – or nuts and candy as they are right now – give them an order, if you’re able, and support your local troops. Every Girl Scout across the nation promises through their pledge and Girl Scout Law, “to serve God and my country…to help people…to be responsible…and to use resources wisely [in order to] make the world a better place.” Saturday proved that our girls are ready and willing to fulfill their promises.