Four high school girls are raising money for a project that will not only earn them a coveted Girl Scout award, it will also help underprivileged children overcome difficult family experiences.
Woodson High School students Genny Rhein, Emily Cahill and Sarah Gaspard and Kristin Whetstone, a student at Robinson Secondary School, of are working toward their Girl Scout Gold Awards, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn.
When Vicky Neeley, executive director of the Northern Virginia Coalition of Churches (NOVACO), contacted the Lord of Life Lutheran Church a few years ago looking for volunteers, she came across Genny Rhein’s mother, Lisa Rhein.
“Women need to be empowered,” said Lisa Rhein. “There are so many regards where they’re disempowered.”
NOVACO, a transitional housing program for domestic abuse victims, provides women with basic skills they may have missed out on learning while in abusive relationships, in addition to temporary housing. Girl Scout Troop 2070 decided to model Lisa Rhein’s passion for helping these women, by focusing their service and leadership hours on helping the NOVACO children.
“When I was little, I was really enthusiastic about people telling me I could make a difference,” said Genny Rhein. “I want to encourage them [NOVACO children] to make a difference in the world.”
“I realized not everyone lives like we do,” said Cahill. “So it’s important to help people.”
Lisa Rhein said the girls quickly realized the project would cost more money than their normal volunteering nights. NOVACO provides a lot of supplies, but the girls wanted to help out as best they could. They played host to a concert Friday, June 2, in the cafeteria at Laurel Ridge Elementary in Burke. The girls charged $5 for presale tickets to Rock N Roll Gold, and $6 for door tickets, eventually raising $600 to help alleviate the costs involved with their project. Four high school bands played the concert, including Shire, the band fronted by Genny Rhein’s brother, Robby.
“We all like music,” said Emily Cahill, a 10th-grade student at Robinson. “We thought it would be fun because it’s something people our age would want to go to.”
Cahill’s father, Frank, said the girls had more fun than they’ve had at past fund raisers, and they made more money too.
NOVACO’s MAIN GOAL, said Neeley, is to give former domestic abuse victims job training to help them become independent. Mothers attend full or part-time school or job training while NOVACO provides daycare for their children.
“There are stresses for the kids too,” said Neely.
On Mondays, NOVACO teaches life skills classes to members, such as driving a car or balancing a checkbook, while their children participate in reading, games and crafts with volunteers. Troop 2070 has already been volunteering on Mondays for more than three years, and now they are getting ready to teach more specialized skills to the children to satisfy their Gold Award requirements.
“[The Girl Scouts] are great, they’ve helped with so many things,” said Neeley. “These families get the attention they need.”
The girls said they want to teach more specialized skills, with each girl focusing on a separate subject area. Genny Rhein said she really cares about the environment, so she wants to teach children about recycling and Earth’s natural resources.
“She wants to teach the kids to be environmentally aware,” said Neeley. “I thought that was awesome. Nobody does that at her age.”
Cahill, a band member of The Pinks, who also played at the concert fund-raiser, said she wants to teach the NOVACO children about world music, instruments and time periods. Sarah Gaspard is into food and nutrition, said Cahill, so she plans to teach cooking and nutrition. Kristin Whetstone likes crafts, so she will incorporate that creativity into her lessons with the children.
“The kids always look forward to them coming,” said Neeley. “[The Girl Scouts] make them feel special.”