The path of altruism for one O’Fallon teen began with one wish two years ago, and grew into something much bigger than herself.
Caitlin Lloyd, 16, a junior at O’Fallon Township High School, recently won the GSSI Gold Award for Troop 915. She has been in the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois for 12 years.
Earning her GSSI Gold Award wasn’t an easy feat, but she was driven by her abounding benevolence. Work on the award began Feb. 8, and was buttoned up by Sept. 2. She is expected to be presented with her Gold Award certificate and honorary pin during the “All That Glitters” ceremony next spring.
Caitlin, daughter of Matt and Kristen Lloyd, said the idea for her recently completed Gold Award project stemmed from one branch of her ninth grade GSSI Silver Award project, which was titled “Crafts for Kids.”
“I came up with the idea of reaching out to facilities where young kids faced significant challenges to (give them the chance of) having the kind of worry-free lives most of (my) peers take for granted,” she said.
(I) saw clearly how the efforts befitted the mothers at the Safe House. Having their children occupied with worthwhile activities while they attend life counseling and support group meetings alleviated any worries about child care.
She collaborated closely with three hospitals and a Women’s Safe House in St. Louis to create individualized craft packets for the children.
“(It) was for the children, staying at those respective institutions providing an entertaining activity and bringing cheer into their lives,” she said.
“The staff and kids raved about how much they loved all the crafts,” Caitlin said. So much so that they wanted more, and Caitlin happily fulfilled their request with the bonus of working with the kids who were on the receiving end.
While she wasn’t old enough at the time to be a hospital volunteer, she was invited back to the Women’s Safe House to interact and play with the children while their mothers were busy.
“(I) saw clearly how the efforts befitted the mothers at the Safe House. Having their children occupied with worthwhile activities while they attend life counseling and support group meetings alleviated any worries about child care,” she said.
After witnessing just how “directly rewarding,” it was to her and those she was helping, Caitlin said she wanted to take the spirit of public service and philanthropy a step further with her Gold Award project.
So that’s just what she did.
‘All That Glitters is Gold’
Caitlin’s project this time around “focused primarily on positively affecting the lives of the women and children living in fear, sadness and poverty every day.”
Caitlin said, “I thought there was an opportunity to improve the living environment for those children and hopefully make a stressful situation a little more bearable for them.”
She gave presentations appealing to civic organizations and the O’Fallon Woman’s Club, P.E.O. and the Service Unit 201 Girl Scout Leaders. She also disseminated many fliers soliciting for assistance with donations for rugs, bedding, curtains, materials for blankets and books to help with her refurbishment efforts of two rooms, many bookshelves and six beds.
“My project (physically) began when I went to the WSH in February to measure the peeling, dirty and drab rooms I would be painting,” she said.
Splashing two rooms at the WSH with fresh coats of bright colors would transform the space where the women and their children spend a lot of free and family time, she said.
I thought there was an opportunity to improve the living environment for those children and hopefully make a stressful situation a little more bearable for them.
“In June, I was able to work with families that had already lived in the WSH and were still going to meetings to help get back on their feet. I led different games, such as “Simon Says” and colored drawings with the kids, and again, later in the month I returned with two girls from my troop to help make crafts with the children. I had premade coloring book packets for the kids. And I also read them stories,” Caitlin recalled.
Painting took place from June through July with the assistance of her mother.
“I finished painting the rooms and then hung curtains for the rooms we painted. The shelter had requested that we put in new curtains because it would create more privacy for the families staying in the suite,” she said.
The two rooms had had makeovers, literally. With fresh paint, new curtains, bedding and rugs, plus the addition of 14 colorful fleece blankets at the foot of each bed
The Safe House staff and volunteers were “extremely pleased and grateful for the work we had done.
It takes a village
Caitlin’s work didn’t end there, though.
At the end of July, she began planning the last phase of her project, which would require the help of others.
Some of her fellow Girl Scouts to come over to her home to help label the 500 books that had been donated. Six girls assisted with the deluge of books that were going to be given to the Safe House.
“After we finished labeling the books, they helped precut the blankets that the swim team would be tying later that day. With their help we were able to have a more organized approach when we went to the swim party, where 18 swimmers from my team worked on the blankets for the WSH. We tied (more) fleece blankets,” she said.
I built up my courage by speaking in front of several groups to explain my project. I definitely learned the importance of persistence and dedication. There were times when I felt the project was overwhelming and that I might not finish; however, I took each part one step at a time and tried to stay on schedule.
Caitlin’s mother, fellow scouts, local community and civic organizations, and swimming team and coach helped make her wish come true with her project’s completion, but there was one more integral part and key role her father played. The duo built an additional book shelf for the WSH.
“Once he taught me how to use the power screwdriver, we put together the bookshelf and I painted it white. I organized a drop off of the donations, and on Sept. 2, I donated 500 books, a new bookshelf and 16 fleece blankets to the WSH,” she said.
Having to develop her leadership skills with the girls in her troop and on her swim team was just one of the benefits Caitlin gained.
“I built up my courage by speaking in front of several groups to explain my project. I definitely learned the importance of persistence and dedication. There were times when I felt the project was overwhelming and that I might not finish; however, I took each part one step at a time and tried to stay on schedule,” she shared.
Completing this project showed Caitlin the impact one person with an idea can have.
“I learned that acting on even a small idea, with the help of your friends and teammates, can make the world a better place,” she said.