One of the Rohnert Park Foundation grant recipients this year was the local Girl Scout Service Unit 106, which applied for and received a $5,000 grant to clean up, paint and upgrade the Girl Scout Hut located in Alicia Park in Rohnert Park.
The service unit is comprised of all 15 Girl Scout troops located within Rohnert Park, Cotati, and Penngrove–a total of approximately 150 girls ranging from kindergarteners through high school students. Many of the troops use the hut in Alicia Park for their regular meetings, recruitment events and to complete projects. However, the building is over four decades old and has not had any remodeling or upgrades done since it was built.
“It’s super old and hasn’t been renovated,” says Jennifer Caldwell, Girl Scout Troop Leader of troop 11359 and board member of service unit 106. “It gets repaired when it has been vandalized or graffitied–they’ll fix that–but as far as making it nicer, more fun, or more welcoming or inviting, none of that has happened. We don’t get money from the Girl Scout Council to update a place – it would all be money from fundraisers or cookie sales.”
One of the first things Caldwell thought about when she heard about the grant was to redo the flooring since the girls sit on it during circle time and even with regular cleaning was grimy and soiled. To stretch the $5,000 as far as possible, however, she is looking to strip and reseal the tile flooring which is a fraction of the cost of installing brand new flooring. This allowed for more funds for other improvements like upgrading the kitchenette including adding an oven and refrigerator.
“The original kitchenette had a sink and a four-burner range but no oven, so no baking could occur,” says Caldwell. “The range itself, if you had two of the burners on, it would short out the whole side of the building. So feeding 150 kids hot cocoa, for example, was impossible.”
The new range with oven, which was installed just in time before Christmas so the girls could bake Christmas cookies, was paramount for projects that involved teaching the children baking and cooking skills. The kitchenette also received a new countertop. A refrigerator was added as well so the troops could keep supplies for cooking or activities like ice cream socials.
Because the hut has had a lot of vandalism over the years, the Girl Scouts also installed motion sensor solar lights to deter future theft and damage. Fabric was purchased to recover damaged chairs, and the service unit hopes to have enough left in the budget to add some planter boxes and redo the irrigation along the outside of the building. Lastly, the city gave permission for the Girl Scouts to add a mural on a large wall facing the park on the outside of the building, which will be completed in the spring once the weather improves.
“The mural was designed so that every height of a girl, from the high schoolers down to the kindergarteners, will be able to contribute something,” says Caldwell. “The kindergarteners will be able to make the handprint petals on the flowers that are going to be on the ground and the bigger girls will get to do some writing of words that are up high and are part of our mission and our vision of Girl Scouts. So it will be a prettier outside look of the building when we’re done.”
One of the troop leaders designed the mural with contributions from the rest of the troops. It will be representative of every level of girl scouting and will have different elements to symbolize the various activities Girl Scouts is engaged in, such as a robot to represent their STEM education and nature images to represent all the outdoor activities they engage in.
The whole process of working with the City of Rohnert Park was informative and educational for Caldwell and her Girl Scouts.
“All of service unit 106 has been focused on government and we partnered with the city multiple times this year which has been amazing,” says Caldwell. “We’ve gone to City Hall meetings, we’ve toured City Hall and we had a public speaker come from a government office who was a woman and also was a girl scout. We want the girls to become more involved in civics.”
To that end, Caldwell urges community members to reach out to the Girl Scouts if they have any career, passion, or interest that they can share with the girls. In addition, if any group or organization has service projects they need help with, Girl Scout troops are always looking to be involved in community projects. Any interested community members can contact service unit 106 through their Facebook page, “Girl Scouts - SU 106 Rohnert Park, Cotati & Penngrove.”