In photo: Saratoga Senior Girl Scouts Katrina Larsen, left, and Avery Welch stand in front of one of their Silver Award projects, a food Blessing Box, at the St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church on Route 9N in Greenfield Center.
As Girl Scout Cadettes, Avery Welch and Katrina Larsen teamed up to address a need last year, and the project is one that keeps on giving.
The then-eighth-graders built four different “Blessing Boxes,” currently in place at four different locations in Saratoga County to help people in need with basic food items. That’s a need to help that is always there, and one that’s been heightened as the nation deals with the varied effects of a health crisis.
Each box is painted with their motto for the giving locations: “Take what you need, leave what you can.”
It was part of their Silver Award project, the highest award that a Girl Scout Cadette — members in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades — can earn.
“We realized that there was a big issue with food insecurity, and we decided to team up to fix that problem,” Larsen, a freshman at Saratoga Springs High School, said during recent a phone interview.
“Our original plan was only to make one box, but we got the materials and enough to make four boxes and just thought, ‘Why not just help more?’”
The four boxes are located at St. Paul’s Church on Route 29 in Rock City Falls, Middle Grove Church on Middle Grove Road in Middle Grove, St. Joseph’s Church on Route 9N in Greenfield and the First United Methodist Church of Corinth on Main Street in Corinth.
One of the requirements for the Girl Scout Silver Award and next-up Gold Award for the current Senior Girls Scouts is that each project must be self-sustaining.
Both Girl Scouts had to fund-raise for the materials, request permission for placement and get the buy-in from the churches to help maintain the boxes if they were not available.
“It was a little bit scary talking in front of a congregation, but when we got through it, we got permission to place them,” Larsen said.
Once obtaining the materials, Mike Biss of Olde School Woodworking lent a hand with the project’s physical start.
“He helped sketch out a design and recommended materials for us,” Avery Welch said. “Materials were a lot more expensive than we thought, especially stuff that is meant to last through the winter and the hot summer. He cut out the wood to the pattern that he made, and then showed us how to assemble it and painted it with weather resistant paint.
“We made our mistakes — a couple of times the wood was drilled through — but we learned how to fix it. We used a lot of wood glue and a lot of different tools.”
From there, the two girls exceeded the Silver Award requirement of 50 hours on the project, spending almost 200 hours on the Blessing Box creation and placement. Welch has firsthand knowledge of the impact it has made.
“I was doing extra construction on one of the boxes one time, straightening a door and someone came by, took something out of the box and told me how this box was pretty great,” Welch said.
“I told them how me and my partner made it together. He thanked us and told us what a great job we were doing. It was a really great feeling knowing that me and my partner were able to help somebody.”
That was a springboard for the two Saratoga freshmen as they work toward their respective Gold Awards.
“I don’t want to leave it behind when I go on to my Gold Award. I still am trying to tackle food insecurity,” Welch said. “I’m not going to solve it in one day or with one project, but I’m thinking about — with the help of some of the technology teachers in my school once we get back to school — building an app that can help find the nearest place where you can get food and have support when you are food insecure.”
The idea was driven by the research in locating food pantries, learning what times they were open and what was available.
Larsen is hoping to launch the Blessing Box program on a larger scale.
“I’m currently making a website that will tell others about our Silver Award project and make a video,” she said. “I want to make another one to videotape myself and explain how to build a box so that others can come onto the website and do it in their own communities. Building the Blessing Boxes is helping me learn about problems around me and how to help others.”
Larsen’s newly launched website can be viewed at https://adoptaboxprogram.wixsite.com/mysite.
Reach Stan Hudy at [email protected] and on Twitter @StanHudy