GREENFIELD — They worked on it their whole school year.

Four young women looked at their local soup kitchen and saw needs that went beyond hunger. They saw children not unlike themselves without a comforting space of their own. So they decided to build one. Now, an alcove especially for children awaits the kitchen’s youngest visitors, with games and toys to entertain and cheer them while their parents eat and chat.

The teens asked for donations from local businesses and organizations.

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They asked their parents to buy toys for the project instead of Christmas presents for themselves.

They budgeted, shopped, set everything up.

The 8-by-3-kids corner, located along the west wall of the shelter, features shelves stocked with books, toys and art supplies meant to bring comfort to the young people who visit the soup kitchen, which served some 32,000 meals last year.

The yearlong endeavor by Ellei Coleman, Zoe Starks, Isabella Marshall and Bailey Kendall, all age 13, earned them the Silver Award for their Girl Scout troop, the highest award a Cadette troop can attain.

The Silver Award requires Scouts to identify a community need and learn the skills necessary to fulfill that need. The group of girls did just that, kitchen officials said.

The four seventh-graders decided to create a youth-centered area at the local soup kitchen after some of the girls who volunteered there noticed there wasn’t much for kids their age to do, said Susie Coleman, mother of Ellei Coleman.

“We knew the soup kitchen wants to portray a welcoming, friendly atmosphere, and this will hopefully help the kids feel welcome here,” she said.

To satisfy the requirements of the Silver Award, the girls had to take the lead, beginning to end. They could ask leaders and family for advice, but the actual work, from writing letters seeking donations to finding shelves for the toys, had to be done by the girls, said troop leader Amy Marshall, Isabella Marshall’s aunt.

They volunteered their time at the soup kitchen, sorting canned food for the kitchen’s storage area and creating sack lunches for hungry visitors, Bailey said. They quizzed officials at the kitchen to find out what kind of toys would best serve the youngsters who visit, then shopped around to find the best dolls, puzzles, cars and blocks for their money.

It was a challenge. They had to stretch $350 donated by several local organizations and businesses, Isabella said.

The girls took care to make sure the items they purchased would be easy for soup kitchen staff and volunteers to clean, not wanting to add to their workload.

For example, the girls sought smaller squares of carpet that would be easier to move around and clean than a larger area rug, Susie Coleman said.

And just because the project is done doesn’t mean the Cadettes won’t be coming back. They’ve pledged to visit once a month to clean and restock the kids’ area as needed, Amy Marshall said.

Soup kitchen officials praised the Cadette troop for choosing to help the organization, which has served meals to the community since 2009.

“They are learning to always be thinking of ways to help people,” said soup kitchen assistant Judy Crist. “I think they’re wonderful, and their efforts are appreciated greatly.”

If you go

The Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen, 202 E. Main St., Greenfield, served some 32,000 meals to hungry individuals last year. The kitchen is always seeking donations.

The local Elks Lodge is planning a trivia night to support the nonprofit.

What: Trivia Night

When: 6 p.m. June 14

Where: Greenfield Elks Lodge, 820 S. State St.

Cost: $30 per team

How to sign up: Call the soup kitchen at 462-9900 or visit kbmsk.org to RSVP using the contact form.

Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.