Scarborough troop provides a helping hand

This week 10 first- and second-grade students from Girl Scout Troop 1119 in Scarborough have cooked up a way to provide services to two Portland-based social service facilities, the Preble Street Resource Center Soup Kitchen and Florence House.

"The girls are working on two badges. One being cooking skills. The other being community service. This helps with both," said Amy Boucher, a troop leader.

On Feb. 13, the girls took a field trip to Kitchen and Cork in the Gateway Shoppes on Payne Road to create homemade vegetable soup for the soup kitchen and decorate Valentine’s Day cards and cookies for residents of the Florence House, a center for homeless women in Portland.

Matt Brown, a resource assistant at Preble Street Resource Center, said the donations will help the Preble Street Resource Center in its mission to provide services to people who are struggling with homelessness, hunger or poverty.

"The overall picture for us is, the need is overwhelming and that need is unfortunately continuously growing," said Brown, who is in charge of in-kind donations at Preble Street Resource Center. "We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without a whole community of supporters, like Amy and the Girl Scouts. We are very thankful for their kindness."

The 10 girls took turns peeling and slicing vegetables for the soup, which Boucher said included parsnips, carrots, kale, parsley, garlic, chicken broth, and "a whole lot of love," as well as decorating cards and cookies.

The reason for coming together to create the soup was not lost on Madeline Leonard, a first grade student at Pleasant Hill Elementary School.

"It’s to help people that don’t have food," she said.

When asked what people will say when they eat it, she added, "They’ll say, ‘Yum, that’s good."’

Boucher said originally she was thinking about having the girls organize a winter hat and mitten drive for Florence House as a way to earn their community service badge, but was told the Florence House had received a large donation of hats and mittens over the winter.

Instead, Boucher said she decided to have the Girl Scouts decorate cookies and Valentine’s cards for residents of the Florence House.

Boucher said she hopes this community service is the first of many from the Girl Scouts to Florence House.

"The hope is to work with the Florence House and keep them as a yearlong, ongoing community service project," Boucher said. "I think it is good for the girls to see that so many of the things that we might take for granted, many people don’t have them."

That message of giving to those less fortunate was not lost on members of the troop.

"I feel happy to give," said Grace Boucher, 7, a second grade student at Blue Point Elementary School.

Her fellow Girl Scout, Natalie Hoffese, who is in the first grade at Blue Point Elementary School, agreed.

"It makes me feel happy to help these people so they are not so sad," she said, while decorating a Valentine’s Day card

This was the second time the Girl Scouts worked on a community service project at Kitchen and Cork. In December, the Scouts made a trip to the kitchen store to decorate Christmas cookies for residents of the Maine Veteran’s Home on Route 1 in Scarborough.

"The girls had a blast making the cookies. It was so much fun." Boucher said. "You should have seen all the frosting they put on them. The veterans must have had a sugar high."

Jane St. Pierre, owner of Kitchen and Cork, said she was so impressed with the job the girls did with the cookie project

"I thought they did such a good job," she said. "They were all nicely decorated and individually wrapped," St. Pierre said.

Boucher said she would like to continue that relationship between Kitchen and Cork and Girl Scout Troop 1119.

"We will continue to incorporate Jane into what we do," Boucher said. "She’s got a good local business and loves to have the girls come in."

Inviting groups such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts to use her kitchen is something St. Pierre has done since opening Kitchen and Cork in 2008.

"This is something we have done since we opened," St. Pierre said. "We’ve let Girl Scout or Boy Scout groups, whether they are working on a badge or a community service project, use our kitchen for free. We have a nice big kitchen. It’s so much easier than trying to have it in a leader’s home kitchen."

In fact the day after the Girl Scouts were at her store, St. Pierre hosted a group of Scarborough Cub Scouts in her commercial kitchen. Tracy Rayner, who co-leads the group with Tammy Thatcher, said members of Den 8 were at the kitchen to work on their food preparation badge. The group made homemade pizza and salad, and learned how to set the table before a meal and clean up after a meal.

Young Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, St. Pierre said, are the perfect age to introduce cooking skills to.

"It’s a great age. They get so excited in the kitchen," St. Pierre said. "The Food Network has exploded so that even young children 5 and 6 like to be in the kitchen with their parents cooking. Anytime you can do something to bring kids into the kitchen, it’s a good thing."

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.