If it is better to give than to receive, then Girl Scout Troop #611 is doing very well.
As part of a community service project, a handful of 8th-grade girls from this troop based out of Chandler School has partnered with the afterschool program at Door of Hope, an organization that helps families transition out of homelessness.
The Girl Scouts stop by Door of Hope — located on North Los Robles Avenue in Pasadena — and teach the young kids how to make healthy, delicious meals, much to the delight of Gloria Kim, the program coordinator for Door of Hope.
Kim said the project is beneficial for both the Girl Scouts and the Door of Hope children.
“They know our kids so well,” Kim said of the Girl Scouts. “They’ll wrap up little pizza sticks and they’ll stuff them with cheese. Today, they’re making apple pies.”
Kim said she was approached by the Girl Scouts, who were trying to fulfill their community service requirement when this brilliant — yet rather simple — idea occurred.
“When I first met them, they were wondering what some of the needs were of our afterschool program,” said Kim, who added the Door of Hope afterschool program consists of kids ranging in age from kindergartners to middle school students. “They came to me with this idea of teaching our kids how to cook and other life skills. It’s so simple, but it’s so enlightening for our kids to learn how to prep things from scratch.”
Karin Stellar, a Girl Scout troop mother, said her girls have found it rewarding helping the Door of Hope children.
“The four girls who are working on this project — cooking with kindergarten through fourth-graders — they’ve been doing this for 50 hours total,” she said. “They actually cooked one of [Door of Hope’s] meals last time. It was for the entire house. They served 28 people by making lasagna, salad, garlic bread and dessert for the whole house. And the kids who are in the house worked along with the girls in the Girl Scout troop.”
Stellar added the Girl Scouts will be giving the other children a keepsake from this experience.
“At the end of this whole project, the [Door of Hope] kids will receive a cookbook that the girls from the troop will be making for a fond memory,” she said.
One of the Girl Scouts, 14-year-old Emma Stellar, said there was thoughtful consideration in selecting what meal the troop was going to prepare.
“We definitely researched what we were going to cook for them and we practiced it and we got all the ingredients,” she said. “Are we chefs? Not even close. But we’re having so much fun.”
She added she has thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of getting to know the children from Door of Hope.
“We have a relationship with the kids now that we’ve grown throughout the experience that we’ve had,” she said. “It’s been so great. We won’t forget our time here. And hopefully they won’t forget.”
Madison Bradford, a 13-year-old Girl Scout, said she would like to remain friends with these children after the project is finished.
“I hope so,” she said. “We might come back next year.”
Kiersten Oliver, a 9-year-old who attends the afterschool program at Door of Hope, said she has enjoyed having the Girl Scout troop teach the students about cooking, adding she has learned a lot.
“It’s actually a lot of fun and it’s very exciting,” she said. “It’s helping me on the right path with my dream of cooking.”
Debra Williams, Door of Hope’s director of community engagement, said the simple presence of the Girl Scouts is a benefit to the kids at Door of Hope.
“The more people who say you’re valuable, who say you’re valuable just because you’re you — the Girl Scouts being here helps convey that message,” she said.
Although the Door of Hope kids are definitely benefitting from the project, Kim said she is sure the Girl Scouts are getting something more out of it, as well.
“I think the Girl Scouts are learning that these are great kids,” Kim said. “They have so much potential. They have so much to give. And they do grow a lot here. It’s very inspiring.
“It’s nice that the Girl Scout troops can come here and hang out with our kids, make them feel like real people,” Kim said. “They’re inspiring them, teaching our kids. And our kids are inspiring them and teaching them.”
Karin Stellar said the Girl Scouts are learning more than they ever imagined by working with the formerly homeless kids from Door of Hope.
“There’s such joy from the first moment they met the kids,” Stellar said. “It was instant bonding that they had. For our girls to participate in something that brings other people joy, to bring joy to the kids’ lives. I think that’s an amazing thing.”
Added Williams: “They’re teaching them we have more in common than differences. They’re teaching them what it looks like to be resilient, what it looks like to just play and to be a kid.”
For more information on Door of Hope or to donate to the organization, call (626) 304-9130, ext. 113, or visit doorofhope.us.