GREENFIELD — While it might be hard for most 7- and 8-year-olds to truly understand what it means to be homeless and in need, girls in New Palestine Brownie Troop 874 had their eyes opened to such a plight during a recent field trip to Greenfield.
The girls, who are working to earn their philanthropy badges, took donations and visited Hancock Hope House where Executive Director Steve Vail explained to the youngsters what goes on at the homeless shelter.
“Sometimes that is something we might take for granted that we do have a home,” Vail said.
After dropping off several bags of donations, the troop was escorted by Vail and other Hope House workers around the facility to see the sleeping quarters, kitchen, work area, donation drop-off spot and thrift store.
“Some people find themselves for various reasons without a home,” Vail said. “We’re fortunate in our community that the Hope House is here for those individuals.”
Troop leader Brandee Bastin encouraged the girls to bring whatever they could spare to help those in need.
“They could bring in new things or gently used things for the thrift store,” Bastin said. “It was up to them and their families what they wanted to bring.”
She feels the girls, while young, were able to grasp the importance of a place like the Hope House.
“With working on our philanthropy badge, we’ve already done a food drive were we contributed food and white products like toilet paper and whatnot.”
As part of badge earning process, the troop also took part in creating birthday bags for the Hancock County Food Pantry for those who can’t afford have a birthday party.
“We’ve learned about folks who need food and where folks can get help,” Bastin said.
A 12-year Girl Scout herself, Bastin said part of the lesson at the Hope House was to teach the children the difference between a need and a want by showing the troop how some are without the simplest of things like food and shelter.
She and the girls say it is a lesson they have learned.
“We want to help somebody and make them feel like they have a home,” New Palestine Elementary School second-grader Julia Jessen.
Her mother, Jenny Jessen, knows her daughter is getting a sense of what it means to be a part of the community by visiting places like the Hope House.
“That is our goal to make sure they understand giving and helping,” Jenny Jessen said.
Troop mother Angie Boss also accompanied her daughter on the field trip and said the girls are never too young to learn about caring for others.
“I’m thrilled they can start learning about this at an early age,” Boss said.
“They’re learning about how blessed we are and that we have a responsibility to others.”
Vail explained to the girls how the shelter offers a place for residents to stay during the night, but encourages them to look for work or get rehabilitation during the day.
“We serve men, women and children,” he said.
The residents are responsible for cooking their own meals and carrying for themselves, he told the girls. He said the shelter not only serves Hancock County, but also nearby Rush and Shelby counties and therefore needs all the support it can get.
“We are very dependent on the community and that is what I love about you guys coming because it helps us create awareness,” Vail said.