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No, this isn’t a story about an athlete vying to compete in the Olympics. Caroline Stoerger, a New Rochelle High School senior who just completed her Girl Scout Gold Award, the equivalent to the Boy Scout’s Eagle Scout and the highest honor and achievement in Girl Scouting. Unlike other Girl Scout milestones, the Gold Award must be completely planned by oneself, has to be new, must benefit the community, and has to be sustainable.
Caroline chose to team up with Deborah Blatt also of New Rochelle and the director of The Sharing Shelf of Family Services of Westchester. They collect, sort, and distribute new and gently-used clothing to underprivileged children - from infant through teen. Social workers contact The Sharing Shelf with a child’s name and size and when ready, pick up a bag with a week’s worth of clothing. Despite the immense success of The Sharing Shelf, because of the various body types, shapes, tastes and styles, they have difficult time getting clothing into the hands of teenage girls.
To solve this problem, Caroline along with the help of Deborah created Girl Topia; a one-day clothing boutique that has changed the way The Sharing Shelf will provide services to teenage girls. This Donald Trump “Apprentice-like” project involved the creation of a brand including logos, decorations, signs, Girl Topia money, invitations, and marketing graphics.
Along with fellow members of Troop 1856, Caroline sorted through thousands of items from The Sharing Shelf making certain they had enough jeans, sweatshirts, dresses, tops, shoes and accessories for the 75 specially invited girls. She also teamed up with Anthropology to get clothing, accessories, and the all-important clothing racks and hangers that would convert the Port Chester Girl Scout house from rustic cabin to chic boutique. She even brought in DJ lighting and music for atmosphere.
With just 3 hours to setup the store and 4 hours to make it disappear, at 11am on November 10th, Girl Topia was open for business. “It really felt like a store with various departments and sections including a waiting room with snacks and entertainment for family members, a changing room, an alterations room and a checkout area where we folded and bagged the clothing just like in a department store.” notes Caroline.
“At first I was cautiously nervous. Would they like Girl Topia and get into the shopping spirit? That feeling quickly faded as the girls arrived at the registration table.” continues Stoerger. “They were so excited and their smiles were simply contagious.” Many girls spent several hours taking their time to shop. By the time they hit the check out counter each of them was carrying a completely full super-sized shopping bag. By closing time, Caroline and her volunteers had distributed over 1700 items and made 75 girls feel special.
Adds Stoerger, “Girl Topia changed the way I look at life and simple pleasures such as shopping. Yes, I learned new organizational skills but more important to value what I have and to recognize how fortunate I am.”