By Todd Travis
Girl Scout Troop #1733 is setting a new standard for Girl Scouts by helping the homeless, collaborating with local community members and building an entrepreneurial spirit. Troop leader Shona (pronounced Shawn-Ah) Moreland is leading the charge as these girls do Girl Scouting differently. The troop has only been together since December 2021, but they wanted to start making an impact right away. “Being a newer troop, we wanted to start things off with a bang,” Moreland shared.
Homeless initiative program
In one of their first meetings in December, the troop discussed different ways to help people in need., including the homeless who face freezing temperatures while trying to keep warm. For a few of the girls this initiative was especially meaningful because they had also experienced homelessness at some point. As they shared their stories, they felt more connected to this need and decided they wanted to help.
After some research, they found that one of the greatest needs for homeless men was socks. “The men are the ones who are outside the most because they don’t have as many resources for shelter as women and children,” Moreland noted. “Even in a shelter like Wheeler Mission, they have to go back outside during the day and face the cold.” They dubbed their first project “Socks For Homeless” and created a goal for themselves to collect between 300-500 socks to distribute to men.
Entrepreneurship at work
Moreland encouraged the girls to put in a special effort to achieve this goal. “I didn’t want them to just ask for socks. I wanted them to be able to give back, be able to put some time, some sweat and some hard work so they can feel they made a contribution to the program. That way, when they distributed the socks, they could take a sense of pride that they actually did something to get the socks,” she explained. So the girls began to brainstorm what they could do to earn the socks (and some Girl Scout patches as well).
Two ideas quickly rose to the top as the troop discussed different options: a basketball game and a fashion show. They would hold these events at the Bethel Park Family Center, where they met weekly for troop meetings, and ask for socks in place of any admission price. They began planning immediately and assembling a team of people to help them create events that would promise to deliver an experience far greater than the price of admission.
Community standing together
The first order of business in planning the basketball tournament was for the girls to actually learn how to play. Coach Atwater (Rinda) donated her time to coach the girls prior to the game. Derek Miller, manager at the Bethel Park Family Center and a former basketball player, also helped train the girls to sharpen their skills. By the time the event was held, the girls had a coach, a trainer, a scoreboard keeper, and a referee to officiate the tournament. Archie Campbell, referee for IPS was the referee and David Butler, a volunteer, ran the scoreboard.
“The girls invited their family and friends, they played the game and had so much fun,” Moreland said. “With all the help from the community it was a legit basketball tournament,” she laughed. Between the game and the troop meeting, the girls were able to collect 259 pairs of socks, and they still had the upcoming fashion show to help them reach their goal. Moreland asked the girls to contribute socks for that meeting instead of their usual troop dues.
The troop wanted to build on the success of the basketball tournament and maybe even top it with the fashion show. Again, the community support did not disappoint. Priscilla Morton, former queen of American Elegance Pageant, served as master of ceremonies for the fashion show and helped the girls learn how to walk like a proper beauty queen. Live jazz music was played by a local musician known as “Saxy (Saxaphone) Steve” as the girls walked down the aisle.
Malynda Wims, owner of From the Heart to You, provided a backdrop for the girls to walk in front of and as a background for pictures. Christy Wadley, owner of Blessed Occasions, LLC decorated chairs for the audience.
A special connection
Moreland connected with Heather Brogden, owner and creative director at Porch Marketing, an internationally known video production company located in Fountain Square.
Brogden decided to do a full production for the event, including professional lighting and videography, free of charge for the troop.
“Hearing this story of the troop and their passion, and also seeing that they were doing something more entrepreneurial, I thought maybe I would change hats from my typical corporate work and do something to support these girls.” Brogden shared. “As a woman-owned business, it seemed fitting to make a contribution and encourage their efforts in this project.” To view the video she produced, go to vimeo.com/676614256?ref=em-share.
With this help, the fashion show was an event to remember. The girls dressed up, received a special introduction and walked like queens in a decorated room accompanied by live music. Thanks to Ogden, the event is documented with her professional video. “Everyone had an amazing time,” Moreland said. “Most importantly, the final count for socks collected was over 600 pairs!” The troop plans to distribute the socks to the Indianapolis Homeless Camp (also referred to as “tent city.” They plan to donate to Wheeler Mission as well.
This troop is just at the beginning of their journey. “Girls Scouts is based on building character and self-confidence and that’s what we’re really trying to do,” said Moreland.