As cadettes with the Girl Scouts, Mira Shah, Trisha Gongalore and Julia Knopf not only organized a library for a good cause – they also built one with their own hands as part of their Silver Award project.
The three local girls spent a year building a “little library,” a mini-library they installed in August at LifeMoves, an organization that assists the homeless in Palo Alto.
They also organized Life-Moves’ children’s library.
The now former members of Cadette Troop 60784 will receive a Silver Award for their project at a ceremony scheduled in April. The Silver Award, given to those who complete a project that addresses a community need, is the Girl Scout Cadettes’ highest honor.
Now freshmen at Mountain View High School, Shah, Gongalore and Knopf began their pursuit of the award in August 2016 as they entered eighth grade at Blach Intermediate School. However, they were introduced to the concept years before when their troop went through two leadership journeys to meet the prerequisites of the Silver Award.
They devoted more than 150 hours collectively to complete the project.
Many of those hours were spent building the little library, which resembles an oversized birdhouse with room for two shelves of books and magazines.
“We wanted to provide lower-income families and children with better access to books,” Shah said. “This problem was important to us to solve because we all love reading and understand that books teach valuable lessons. They also provide the gateway into fantasy worlds or into the past, which helps children develop empathy and other emotions key to good development.”
Learning by doing
To set their plan in motion, the girls hosted a book drive, sorted books and contacted schools and organizations to see if they wanted a little library.
The project didn’t go as smoothly as they hoped, but troop leader Erica Lundmark encouraged the girls to learn from their mistakes. She interacted with them directly – not through their parents – to ensure that they completed the project on their own and were entirely responsible for its success.
“The most challenging part of advising these girls was to allow them to set their own schedule and go down a path that had a good chance of failure,” Lundmark said.
As a result, the trio experienced some bumps in the road. The main challenge was finding a location for their little library.
“We had started to work on building the structure without having a concrete place to put it, so when it was close to completion, we began to look for places willing to house our library,” Gongalore said.
LifeMoves proved willing, so that’s where the girls installed the library last summer.
Despite the challenges along the way – including having to rebuild the little library after it collapsed during construction – the girls agreed that the project was worth it.
Not only did they support a good cause, they also gained life skills.
“I got to work closely with a lot of the administrators and staff at my school, which I found to be an invaluable experience that has prepared me to work with adults well,” Gongalore said.
Knopf added, “I enjoyed talking to people that I would have never talked to. This project allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and talk to different organizations.”
As for main builder Shah, she said she enjoyed “building the library the most, because I learned how to use many tools.”
The girls weren’t the only ones who benefited from the project; the families served by LifeMoves have, too.
“(The little library) currently sits in our courtyard, and is very well-used,” said Stefanie Bruggeman, program manager at Life- Moves. “I wasn’t sure how our clients would react to the piece, but they do love it.”