Gold Award valuable tool for girls

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Emily Richards

What’s a Gold Award? In the past year, I have encountered this question countless times. As a Girl Scout, the Gold Award is the gold standard. But very few people know what it is or if brought up in passing conversation, the organization with which it is associated.

However, if you mention its equivalent, the Eagle Scout Award, the Boy Scouts of America immediately springs to mind.

The lack of knowledge about the Gold Award is discouraging in the worst kind of way. The Gold Award is the greatest project a Girl Scout will ever undertake and it teaches the girl the skills she needs to tackle the world head-on, armed with the knowledge she needs to be successful in whatever endeavor is set in front of her. It is about time management, project management, leadership and dealing with and overcoming real world problems that can arise over the course of the project. It goes beyond community service. It is a take-action project. At the heart of it is an issue in the community, one that isn’t just my church needs a handicap ramp or the hospital needs donations of toys for the children. It has to go deeper, be more comprehensive, and do more than serve one need for one entity one single time. Following the guidelines set before me, I embarked on my Gold Journey with these qualifications in mind.

Select a project

The first step is choosing a problem. In Lancaster and Chester counties, obesity is a problem. It is a problem across the state, across the nation, but it has shown itself in our community. I wanted to address it, as best I could. So I researched, found studies, read articles, compared facts and figures, until I could find an underlying “root” cause. The one I chose to address is the one related to the low socio-economic status of many residents of these two counties.

Since the beginning of the Great Recession of 2009, more families have fallen on hard times and had to turn to external sources to feed their families, namely food banks. Most of the donations to food banks are highly processed or canned foods that are high in the things the human body needs least – fat, sodium, cholesterol, etc. So, even though a family is being fed, they aren’t necessarily getting the proper nutrition that their bodies need. Nor do they have access to gym equipment or memberships that would allow them to work off the excesses in the food. So, I decided to start there.

The idea I conceived seems simple, but it took more time, effort and people than anyone, myself included, expected. I wanted to create a recipe book, one that took the food given out by pantries and put it into recipes that had more servings and were healthier as a whole than the individual ingredients eaten alone, complete with nutritional information. It included basic exercises that anyone, regardless of weight or health, can do. It took the staff of two food pantries, a chef, a registered nurse, a fitness program coordinator, a woman familiar with desktop publishing, three friends and me to pull off what I envisioned.

Conquering adversity

I started with gathering information in the pantries – HOPE in Lancaster and Heavenly Food Pantry in Rock Hill, cataloguing the different foods donated and creating a master list of the donated foods. Then the list went to the chef, Dominic DiFrancesco, who created 23 recipes.

Then I went through five nutritionists trying to get the recipes evaluated, until I came to a registered nurse, Amy Bailey. She couldn’t help me the way I thought, but she showed me something that would – a free app called “Lose It!”

You put the recipes in – you get the nutritional information out. So, I hoodwinked three unsuspecting friends into using the app to evaluate the recipes. Then, they had to cook a few of the recipes and eat them for taste-testing purposes.

During the mad hunt for a nutritionist, I had my fitness program coordinator, Kent Deese, find me diagrams of the exercises I wanted and make simple instructions for people to follow. With all my goals accomplished, I sent everything to Linda Reynolds, who agreed to type it up. When she sent it back to me, everything was finalized, and I gave a CD copy of the recipe book, as well as some printed copies, to both food pantries. It took almost a year to accomplish my project, from conception to completion.

Over the course of my journey, I learned skills I could never have gained doing a simple community service project. I learned to conquer adversity when it was set in front of me, to find new and creative solutions when my plans fell through, and I was given my first true glimpse of the everyday working world.

The Gold Award is a valuable tool available to girls if they have the gumption to reach out and attempt it. Its anonymity is something that should not persist, but be trumpeted for the opportunities given to girls.

It enriched me as a person and a citizen through my experiences working with people from different professions and walks of life, and it is an opportunity for girls that should not be passed up.

Lancaster resident Emily Richards is a freshman at Clemson University