Shelli Craig thought helping her Girl Scout troop collect 100 pounds of food would be a fitting way to honor the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting, which is being celebrated nationwide this month.
Craig's group, Troup 559, meets at St. Gabriel Catholic Church's school, and wanted to involve the church's congregation in their project. Craig's expectations were exceeded - 30 times over. For three meetings, each member of Troop 559 - there are 16 fifth-grade girls in the group - brought in a can of food. Their collection weighed 51 pounds. After talking with a Boy Scout leader about similar food collections, Troop 559 stapled notes to 600 paper bags and handed them out to the St. Gabriel congregation one Sunday.
The note, it turns out, made a big difference. St. Gabriel collects food once a month on its "Share Sunday," and the Girl Scout collection piggybacked on that event.
The note reminded parishioners of the date of the food collection. On Ash Wednesday, which was several days before the Sunday collection, bags of food already were coming in.
On Feb. 25, parishioner after parishioner dropped off paper bags on their way into church.
"...I walked in and saw almost a fourth of the church lobby full of brown paper bags, which where full canned corn, fruit and vegetables and peanut butter," said Caroline Craig, 11, Shelli Craig's daughter and a member of Troop 559.
The church and school host several Girl Scout troops, which together have about 70 members. Many helped Troop 559, wearing their Girl Scout vests to church and thanking parishioners as they dropped off food. The donations totaled 2,500 pounds of food, about 40 percent more than St. Gabriel collects on a typical Share Sunday.
"Collaborative efforts bless everyone all around," said Father Frank O'Rourke, pastor of St. Gabriel Catholic Church.
"This effort of our Girl Scouts with Catholic Social Services extends the love and care of St. Gabriel to the needy of our community."
The girls loaded the food into vans, which took the donations to Catholic Social Services Pantry. Scouts helped sort the food and stock the pantry, and Shelli Craig said many of the girls didn't want to leave. The donations filled the shelves, including the empty shelf for peanut butter.
"I think they really enjoyed it," Craig said. "They saw what they did made a huge difference."