Caribou Scouts work toward Silver Award, help feed Aroostook County

12 years ago

By Natalie Bazinet
Staff Writer

CARIBOU — Three Caribou Girl Scouts are undertaking a project that officials caution is a very hard, very time consuming and an endeavor not for the faint of heart — the fact that the girls are still in middle school hasn’t fazed them a bit.

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Aroostook Republican photo/Natalie Bazinet
Caribou Girl Scouts of Troop 1092 recently delivered a clothing receptacle to the Caribou Recreation Center as part of their efforts toward earning their Silver Award with the Girl Scouts. Scouts undertaking the massive endeavor to collect a truckload of fabric include, from left, Conner Spencer, Samantha Tourk and Sarah Draper. At left center is Kathy Mazzuchelli, superintendent of the Caribou Parks and Recreation Department.

Working toward their Silver Award (the highest award Girl Scouts can earn as Cadets), Sarah Draper, Conner Spencer and Samantha Tourk of Caribou Troop 1092 have teamed up with Catholic Charities to help make sure that there’s plenty of food ready for Aroostook County residents in need.

The girls said that they found inspiration for their Silver Award project at church, after hearing that the food pantry was low on supplies.

“We wanted to see if we could help,” Spencer said.

An informal slogan of Catholic Charities is that they turn clothes into food, and the three Scouts are doing more than their part to ensure the non-profit fulfills its mission — they’ve set up receptacles around the greater Caribou area to collect fabrics Catholic Charities can recycle; compensation from large-scale recycling of the clothing goes toward purchasing food.

“I explained to the girls what we do, and they’ve pitched right in and are making giant strides toward accomplishing their goal,” said Catholic Charities Director Dixie Shaw. “We’re very excited that they chose to partner with us.”

Though the girls themselves are small, their ambition is huge.

“We’re trying to fill up a tractor-trailer truck [with fabrics],” said Tourk, and Shaw whole-heartedly believes they can do it.

For every 40,000 pounds of fabric Catholic Charities recycles, the organization earns enough money to feed the county for a month.

To get the recyclable fabric to its Monticello warehouse destination, Catholic Charities has to first pack everything into giant watermelon totes — boxes approximately 4-foot by 4-foot by 4-foot; Shaw says it takes 66 of those watermelon totes to fill the Catholic Charity’s trailer and 200 of those watermelon totes to amass the 40,000 pounds of clothes needed to fill the shipping container. Essentially, one 40,000-pound shipping container means a month’s worth of food for Catholic Charities clients.

The Scouts are hoping that the community will help fill 66 of those watermelon totes to help Catholic Charities with its mission.

Chipping away at the project, the girls have created multiple receptacles and distributed them throughout the community for fabric disposal ease — at the Caribou and Limestone schools, the Red Cross, the County Courthouse, Caribou Rec. Center — even law enforcement agencies have agreed to house the fabric-collecting bins.

The middle-schoolers have no shortage of focus or drive — even before they met to create the receptacles, they’d already tackled their own closets (and in Spencer’s case, her sister’s closet, too).

With the project well under way, the girls are enthusiastically working to help others easily dispose of closet-cluttering recyclables.

They’ll even be passing out flyers in conjunction with the annual Caribou City Wide Yard Sale event on Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20 to inform the public that the Scouts and Catholic Charities are ready and willing to pick up any leftover fabric or clothing. (While Catholic Charities does take knick-knacks, furniture and other non-fabric items, fabric is the focus of this particular project).

For those who get a head start on spring cleaning, donations for the Scouts Silver Award Project can be dropped off directly at Catholic Charities — just make certain to mention it’s in conjunction with the Girl Scout project.

“We’re asking the community to stop by these places around town and drop off any old pieces of clothing — shoes, shirts, fabric — even stuffed animals …,” Draper said,

“But no toys,” Tourk finished.

“We want to help provide food to all those people in need,” Draper explained. Through this project, the girls will help people without the financial resources to feed themselves, both here and abroad. As the Scouts and Shaw explained, tracing the recycled clothing’s path will often lead to developing counties, where it’s sold to women who repair, launder and improve the clothing before selling it as a means of income.

Needless to say, the project’s significance embodies the spirit of Scouting.

“This takes a lot of work and [the girls] are doing a great job,” Shaw said. “They’re not only helping to feed Aroostook County through recycling, they’re helping alleviate inflow to our local landfills and they’re helping to save the planet,” she added. “There are just so many ways to feel good about this project.”

While Catholic Charities has been contacted by area Boy Scouts before in conjunction with their Eagle Scout awards, Shaw says that Draper, Spencer and Tourk’s project is the first time the non-profit has worked with the Girl Scouts.