By Judy Tacyn
Two Severna Park Middle School students and members of Girl Scout Troop 1848, Caroline Bresson and Emily Ranaghan, understand that it’s better to give than to receive. The compassionate teens enjoy exchanging gifts with their families during the winter holidays, and they are aware that some young people may have challenges that preclude them from sharing the same joy.
Working toward their Girl Scout Silver Awards, the girls hosted a holiday shop in December at Old Mill Middle North School to allow their peers in that school an opportunity to “shop” for gifts for their own families.
Caroline and Emily presented the idea to their troop leaders, Karen Calish and Laurie Edwards, and then to leaders at Old Mill Middle North (OMMN), including Principal Dennis Kelly.
“We loved the idea for the Old Mill North Middle School holiday shop,” exclaimed Kalish. “The opportunity to host a store arose suddenly and we were impressed at how quickly Caroline and Emily reacted and pulled it together.”
Caroline said, “I know I feel good when I can give presents to my family, but it felt really good to be able to give others a chance to have that feeling.”
Emily echoed that sentiment, saying, “I really liked seeing how genuinely happy the kids were, knowing that they would be able to give a gift to someone in their family. It felt really good to be a part of that.”
Finding inspiration from a holiday shop at Oak Hill Elementary School, Caroline and Emily asked for donations from their friends, family members and the Severna Park community. Donations could be of any value, but items had to be new and suitable for babies and children of all ages, parents, guardians, or other adults. OMMN students were invited to “shop” the donated items using their Patriot Passport dollars, which students earn through a PBIS (positive behavior intervention and support) program used at the Millersville middle school.
Kalish said the girls received a lot of support in donations from Severna Park friends. “[The tremendous support they received] shows the resourcefulness and respect Caroline and Emily’s families have in our community,” she added. “The store was very well received by the OMMN students who were able to ‘shop.’ Emily described the students as ‘grateful’ for the opportunity to pick out presents. She was obviously proud to provide that opportunity.”
The Girl Scouts estimated that 115 students came to the holiday shop, and they were touched to see their peers carefully inspecting each item and putting thought into each of their decisions. Emily noted that some students even made phone calls to family members asking for help in making the perfect present selections. After a “purchase” was made, Caroline and Emily also wrapped the treasured gifts for the OMMN kids.
“What we thought might be a holiday shop for about 20 kids ended up helping more than 100,” Kelly said. “The shop was very much appreciated by our students and their families.”
Caroline and Emily were among 25 Oak Hill Elementary School kindergarten students who made up the inaugural Girl Scout Troop 1848, which was formed in September 2010. Under the direction of Calish and Edwards, the friends have been active members ever since.
Girls Scouts are required to complete community service projects. Some examples of Troop 1848’s work includes baking at Ronald McDonald House, packing hygiene kits for Orphan Grain Train, hosting SPAN food drives, and participating in Giving Back, Linda’s Legacy toiletry drives and Christmas Eve homeless dinners, just to name a few.
In 2016, Caroline and Emily and Troop 1848 completed their Bronze Award, the highest award for community service at the Junior Girl Scout level, by donating a Kevlar K9 vest to the Maryland State Police (MSP). The vest was the first one in use with the MSP K9 officers. The troop also donated requested supplies for military working dogs overseas.
Edwards said that for their Silver Award, hosting the holiday shop was just the beginning for Caroline and Emily.
“The Silver Award community service project requires 50 hours of work and the project must be sustainable,” she said. “Caroline and Emily need to create a how-to manual and tee-up another group or organization to run the shop in the future. They are also considering holding another shop later this school year, perhaps Mother’s Day, and involve more student shoppers.”
In addition to community service, Girl Scouts participate in activities that develop skills and spark new interests, like camping, rope challenge courses and self-defense lessons.
“Now that the girls are Cadettes in eighth grade, they have more responsibility in deciding and planning what we will do,” said Edwards. “We see their leadership skills in action as they plan and execute activities.”
Kelly applauded the girls for recognizing the needs of others. “This is an experience that will become a way of life for these girls,” he said. “What could possibly go wrong when helping and providing for those in need is your focus?”
The young leaders are also quick to recognize their longtime troop leaders.
“Mrs. Kalish and Mrs. Edwards are very inspiring leaders. We really look up to them,” Emily said. “[Caroline and I] love being Girl Scouts. We feel it’s very important to do good works and try to make the world a better place.”