This Saturday evening, North Polk Girl Scout Troop 602 is asking for support from area residents.

In the troop’s efforts to make major improvements to the outdoor spaces at Central Elementary School in Alleman, a fundraiser is being held at Papa’s Pizzeria in Polk City, from 5-8 p.m. Papa’s will donate 10 percent of the proceeds of all sales this Saturday evening to the work that the Girl Scouts are doing.

If you cannot make it that evening, please consider making a donation to the troop for this important project.

Not only is the outdoor spaces project going to be a major improvement for the school and the children who attend it; it is also going to mark an important milestone for this troop of a dozen fifth-grade girls, led by Mary Luna-Duffy and Michelle Knoll, with help this year from Jean Krohn.

Troop 602 is motivated by earning the highest honors that the Girl Scout organization bestows, as it moves through each level of the Girl Scout program.

Said Luna-Duffy, who has been involved in Girl Scouts since her daughter was in kindergarten, “Troop 602 has earned the highest award as Daisy and Brownie Girl Scouts, the Summit Pin, by completing three take-action projects in their schools and communities at each level. We have planted a rain garden at Big Creek State Park; donated a book (on pet ownership) to both elementary schools, written and illustrated by the troop; organized a clothing drive and opened a one-day Brownie Free Shop for the community to shop.”

The troop has also given each of the North Polk elementary students a book at Christmas and been asked by the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa Council to host a breakfast with Girl Scout CEO Anna Maria Chavez, Girl Scouts staff and donors, and to be greeters at the Governor’s Luncheon for Scouting. “These Girl Scouts know how to aim high,” Luna-Duffy said.

Now this group is aiming to earn its Bronze Award in scouting with the “Outdoor Upgrades to Central Elementary” (official name) project.

If you visit the web page created for the project, you can see the troop’s goal, which is “to improve Central Elementary’s outside spaces to excite and inspire students for learning…” You can also view a map for the project and a list of elements that the project includes. Among those are improvements to the front entrance area, where they plan to install a Little Free Library, add new planters and plants, add rainbow rocks and create a stepping stone path; the butterfly garden, where they plan to put in identification signage and create a stepping stone path; and the playground, where they plan to build lockable outdoor storage units, repaint the blacktop USA map, add several shade trees, build or purchase a “gaga ball pit,” and purchase a Nine Square in the Air kit. The last two game items for the playground are considered “wish list” items and will only happen if enough funds are raised.

When it comes to funds, the troop’s goal is $2,500 in donations. “We have received nearly a $1,000 already,” said troop member Larissa Koth.

The outdoor spaces project, Knoll explained, was what the girls decided on after much discussion about a variety of projects they could possibly do. “They decided the best way to (help the community) was to do upgrades at their school where all North Polk students will go for at least one year,” she said.

They brainstormed ideas and then talked to school leaders to get permission to proceed. “We talked to the principal, and he said it was a good idea,” said Girl Scout Morgan Meiners, a member of Troop 602.

Some of the members commented about what they wanted most to accomplish with the project. “I want the kids to want to have recess all day, every day,” said Sophia Campbell. “I hope to make people happy,” said Kady Harmon-White. “I want to make the kids feel inspired and motivated for school,” said Larissa Koth. “One of my wishes to be accomplished it to make kids think they are so cool that they go to school, not ‘I’m too cool to go to school,’” said Sophia Luna-Duffy. Sophia added, “I think kids sometimes need encouragement to have a mood that is ready for school.”

As the project has unfolded, member Alyson Dority spoke of the many presentations to groups. “We’ve presented to Polk City Arts Council, Polk City Women, city of Alleman City Council, our principal, Central PTA and our parents.”

“All the groups we’ve presented to have been supportive by giving us money to pay for some of the supplies,” said member Ariana Krohn.

Now, they hope more members of the community will take an opportunity to eat out Saturday, so more funds can be raised by the generosity of those people and Papa’s Pizzeria.

Work on the project has started with things that can be done inside. “We’ve already painted some rocks, put together the metal plant signage, sorted book donations… We will be creating the stepping stones, building the storage shed and assembling and painting the Little Free Library (this month),” said leader Luna-Duffy. She said in March they’re hoping for warm and dry enough conditions to paint the blacktop, plant the trees and new plants, and build the gaga ball pit.

Luna-Duffy said the girl are also planning and organizing a ribbon cutting and Little Free Library unveiling event to occur in April. “We hope to attend the Girl Scout Circle of Excellence Ceremony in April to celebrate earning our Bronze Award,” she said.

Knoll, as a leader, said Girl Scouts and the opportunity to achieve has been a wonderful thing for the girls. “It is important for them to achieve the Bronze Award because I feel it prepares them to take on tasks, such as getting and staying organized, working in a group setting and presenting to organizations.”

Her co-leader Luna-Duffy agrees, and notes that there are important lessons for them to learn going through the process of earning an award. “That they get frustrated and bored with details, but don’t give up, and (that they) keep coming to meetings and activities. That they fear public speaking and forget what to say, but learn their voices can build awareness, and adults will stop, listen and support them. The Bronze Award is about making a difference in their communities and developing the skills necessary to see through projects at school or home in the future.”

And for most of the girls in Troop 602, it won’t stop once their earn the Bronze. A number of them state that earning the Silver will be their next goal. And for member Aubrey Selmecki, she’s already thinking about a future where she’ll be on the other end of scouting. “I would like to earn my Silver and Gold awards and also become a leader.”