Cadette Girl Scouts, 6th and 7th graders from the Ritenour and Pattonville school districts, recently made plans to go camping at one of the wonderful camps for Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri. Little did the girls know that when they arrived at camp, they were going to get a “hands-on” idea of what it could feel like to be homeless.

The girls are all working on their Silver award this year. Their focus is on poverty and homelessness. In the weeks before camp, they got together to watch movies about homelessness while crocheting mats made with Girl Scout April Shower plastic bags. At one of those meetings, the girls brought all of their camp gear (sleeping bag, clothes and toiletries). They thought the leader would transport those items to camp…..but she didn’t.

When the girls arrived at camp, they were welcomed to the “Juliette Gordon Low Homeless Shelter” by their social workers (a.k.a. Girl Scout leaders). They only had the clothes on their backs. Each girl was given “a story” about how they ended up at the shelter. They shared their stories with other campers over the weekend.

They were given a tent, mattresses, several completed crocheted mats and trash bags as their sleeping gear. They played bingo for toiletries like toothpaste and soap. The girls worked together as a team to decide what items were really necessities and agreed to share it all.

Meals were provided over the weekend – when the soup kitchen was open – but on Saturday night the kitchen was closed due to a lack of volunteers. The girls had to walk to the local food pantry (at the Supervisor’s house) to choose their dinner from the canned items they had donated to a food drive several weeks prior. They had to figure out how to cook their items without a pot or pan.

A small basket of clothing was also available to them from the clothes they had donated to a clothes drive. They also experienced, to a very small degree of course, a lack of security and the importance of working with a buddy when their clothes got stolen (okay, just moved) as they all were taking showers at the same time.

They survived with a little better idea of what it might feel like to do without the things we take for granted on a day to day basis. They said they missed having a toothbrush and want to make sure each of the ziploc bags of necessities they’ve put together to donate has a toothbrush in it.

It was a great learning experience about surviving with practically nothing, appreciating every item given to you and working together as a team. And another lesson learned, anyone including you might need the services of a shelter so give the best food, toiletries and clothing you are able to give to your local shelter! Love your neighbor as yourself.

Thank you to Cyndi Woollard, one of the troop leaders for sharing this story!

Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri – Troops 3089 & 4314

The Girl Scouts recently cleaned and sanitized toys in the children’s activity room and nursery at Room at the Inn as a service project.