Being a Girl Scout can mean many different things. Girl Scouts have a Promise, a Law, a Motto and a Slogan. All four can be summed up in part as being friendly and helpful.


For Girl Scout Troop 479, which is led by Amy Haines and Yvette Hansen, the five Scouts working on their Bronze Award were able to put the requirement of being helpful to good work.


The Bronze Award (which is the highest award) is a team effort for those girls who are part of the Junior level. They take on a project that will benefit the local community. Each girl is expected to contribute 20 hours to the chosen project, which is to be girl-led, with the assistance of their leaders.


The Ballard girls, all five of them, raised $1,053 to use towards earning their Bronze Awards.


Leader Amy Haines said that they were able to raise the money for their project by assembling jars of hot cocoa mix and then selling them at the Fareway Grocery Store in Huxley.


“The community was so generous during this fundraiser and supported our troop by making monetary donations to be put towards our project,” explained Haines. “We also held a fundraiser at Pizza Ranch in Ankeny. We hung flyers up around town and told all of our friends and family to come to Pizza Ranch the night we were hosting our fundraiser. The girls worked hard bussing tables and clearing dishes in the kitchen all evening and were able to earn even more money to put towards their project.”


The money raised was used to purchase duffle bags, and essential items and comfort items to fill each bag, to be given to children who are in or going into foster care. Hines explained that the girls were able to fill 50 bags (50 duffle and 50 cinch sacks) that they filled with over 400 comfort items. She added that each bag had a personalized handwritten letter to let each child know that someone that they didn’t even know believes in them.


Haines added that each bag contained a blanket, a stuffed animal, an art pad, markers, two fidget toys and a luggage tag.


“Every year, over 400,000 children enter or remain within the United States foster care system,” explained Haines. “Ten thousand of these children live right here in Iowa. Children are placed in foster care for many reasons — such as abuse, neglect, death of parents, but none of these reasons are the child’s fault. The transition out of their birth home is often without notice and the vast majority of these children are transitioned from one home to the next with their belongings stuffed in a trash bag. ‘Bags of Blessings’ was developed to communicate that there is an entire community out there who care about the child’s well-being and want to help them take the first step towards achieving the stability that they deserve in their life.”


Alison Campbell, one of the Scouts, said, “We tried our best to assemble the bags and we hope that everyone who receives one really appreciates them.”


Nora Frick said that she feels that it is necessary to help the children who are in foster care because they really need a place to live.


Elyssa Hansen admitted that she had fun putting things together to go into the bags and it was fun for her to help out at the Pizza Ranch.


Nia Weiss simply said that she was glad that she was able to help out the kids.


And Madison Haines commented: “Helping people is really kind and we should always help people no matter what. I enjoyed helping kids in foster care feel special because every kid should feel special.”


Amy Haines said that she didn’t think that the girls were fully aware of how many kids are placed and remain in foster care every year in Iowa.


“It was really an eye-opening experience for the girls to learn about how foster care works,” she said. “We encouraged them to work even harder to raise money to help as many children as possible. The girls did a great job of working together on all aspects of this project. They did an amazing job of bussing the tables at the Pizza Ranch and didn’t even complain about having to help clean up the dishes in the kitchen. I am really proud of the way the girls handled working together on this project and all the money that they were able to raise. This is an experience that the girls can feel proud of and remember for the rest of their lives.


According to Haines, Troop 479 plans to continue doing a fundraiser, either on their own or with the service unit, every year to help raise money to support “Bag of Blessings.”


“This is a project we feel helps bring awareness to our community about foster care and is a project we want to help support every year,” Haines said.