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Girl Scouts’ Blessing Box Fights Hunger

Girl Scouts Troop 806, primarily comprised of Westchase residents, has developed a service project that it believes will help people in need while building a sense of charity throughout the community.

Troop 806 will install a “Blessing Box’’ cabinet near the entrance of the Northwest Hillsborough Family YMCA. It will hold donations of non-perishable food items—provided by organizations or individuals—that are available for anyone who needs them.

To place the Blessing Box, the troop received permission from Marilyn Gyselinck, the YMCA’s executive director. The project’s spirit might be best summed up by the slogan: If You Need A Blessing, Take One; If You Can Leave A Blessing, Leave One.

“The philosophy is discovering a need, connecting with your community and putting it into action,’’ Troop 806 Leader Susan Campbell said. “It’s teaching them about leadership and community service. We think it’s something that’s sustainable and can be passed down.’’

The project is part of the Girl Scout Silver Award—the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette (pre-high school) can earn. The organization said, “Earning the award puts you among an exceptional group of girls who have used their knowledge and leadership skills to make a difference in the world.’’

“We were thinking about problems in our community and we realized that sometimes at our own schools, some kids don’t have enough to eat,’’ said Kelly Westmoreland, a Fords resident and former Davidsen Middle School student and rising freshman at Alonso High School. “We hope this idea can help some people get the food that they need.’’

While doing research, the girls in Troop 806 learned that Florida is ranked fourth nationally for family hunger and 60 percent of the West Central Florida population is eligible for food stamps. According to Feeding Tampa Bay, many at-risk students won’t eat at all between lunch on Friday and breakfast on Monday during the school year.

“I have seen it at my school,’’ said Kenzie McMurray, a Fords resident who attended Stewart Magnet Middle School and is headed for Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School. “A lot of people can’t afford food and they live off the breakfast and lunch that’s provided (at school). This is something that affects me every school day, so it’s personal.’’

Silver Award projects are executed by four-girl teams. Westmoreland and McMurray are joined by Olivia Decossas (Berkeley Prep, Harbor Links resident) and Sadie Campbell (former St. Lawrence Catholic School student now headed to the Academy of the Holy Names).

“I like what our idea stands for,’’ Sadie Campbell said. “There are a group of kids who are dependent on the YMCA for food. If this Blessing Box is there, it’s going to make a difference in someone’s life. And it makes me feel good to know that a few years from now, the Blessing Box will still be there and still be helping.’’

“It’s really sad when you hear the stories about poverty,’’ Decossas said. “This is a way to make an impact. This is one of the great parts of being in the Girl Scouts.’’

Westmoreland, McMurray, Campbell and Decossas, who all attended Westchase Elementary School, have been in the same Girl Scout Troop since kindergarten, when they were Daisies. They plan on staying together through their senior year of high school and possibly becoming adult members.

Campbell, the troop leader, said Girl Scouting isn’t just a random activity. It’s a way of life.

“This has been such a great experience,’’ Westmoreland said. “Even though we’re all at different schools, we’re always there for each other. That means a lot.’’

“Keeping friendships going is a lot harder than when we were little,’’ McMurray said. “I don’t think any of us want to lose that. We have a lot of fun, but we’re also able to do a lot of good for people. That’s the great thing about the Girl Scouts.’’

The Blessing Box project is also supported by the other members of Troop 806—Libby Bauder, Ann Bordin, Yasmine Bouanani, Casey Ingram, Audrey Jones, Natalia Milanes, Emily Rieth, Jillian Stafford and Brooke Williams.

The project is using a slogan—“The Hungry Are Counting On You’’—in its flyers and marketing materials. Troop 806 will hold a fundraiser night at Chipotle Mexican Grill, 9466 W. Linebaugh Ave., on July 8 from 5-9 p.m.

To learn more, to offer donations or to financially support the project, send an e-mail to:

By Joey Johnston


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