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Service project helps flood victims

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Several weeks ago, Pensacola FL had a freak rain storm that dumped a foot and a half of water in just a few hours. Streets turned into rivers, eroding the sand from under the pavement, coursing downhill until it slammed into the back of the houses at the bottom of the slope. Other low lying areas became lakes. Some people lost everything they own.

This week the piles of personal possessions are starting to line the curb. That means that the insurance companies have settled and the contractors have been hired. In another month or so, those people will be ready to move back into their homes.

But the people who lost everything didn’t just lose carpet, drywall and the things insurance covers. They also lost their favorite book, their CD collection, a stuffed animal, radio and alarm clock. They have more needs than a government program can offer.

One of my friends works for an outreach ministry through our church. She was commenting on how many applications she is receiving, and is wondering how this charity will be able to meet such a big need. So, I told her my great idea.

Girl Scouts need to do service projects to earn their awards, but they don’t do the same type of service projects that the boys do. Boys like to sweat, swing hammers and get dirty. The girls just don’t get into that, but they still want to help out anyway. This idea would be something that Girl Scout troops or American Heritage Girl troops could put together as a diocese or cluster event.

The troops would collect and organize items for a rummage sale for the victims. In about a month, people will be needing and ready for possessions like books, vases and alarm clocks. If the troop uses that time to get a sale organized, the activity could be used to meet requirements for a business merit badge. A rummage sale is sort of like a store. The rummage is a product that has to be priced and displayed. Customers will have to be dealt with politely. Recruiting enough volunteers is almost the same thing as hiring an employee. All of those aspects are requirements for a merit badge in commerce.

One of the things the sale will need is a list of victims who need the help. A charity that is already assisting victims would need to be involved in this part of the project. A ministry or charity already has an application process that will sort people out by need. That charity can provide the names of victims who lost everything and need the help this sale can offer. They can also weed out the people who are just trying to get something for nothing when they don’t really need the help.

The first day of the sale is by invitation only. The charity gives each victim a coupon worth $25 per person. A single person gets $25, a married couple gets $50, and so on. Only people who have these coupons are allowed to shop on the first day of the sale. If they want to buy more than the amount on the coupons, they pay the price marked on the object.

The second day, Saturday, the sale is open to the public. The coupons are no longer valid. All items are bought for cash. All proceeds go to the charity that provided the victim’s names.

And then the sale makes arrangements with another charity, such as Saint Vincent DePaul, or Good Will, to pick up what is left, and that helps other people in other situations. In some areas, the troops will need to recruit dads that own pickup trucks and trailers that are willing to take the leftover goods to a thrift store.

I don’t know if my friend will get this idea rolling or not, but I’d like to offer the idea for consideration. It could also be used after a tornado, wildfire or other disaster. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. The girls get a merit badge, the victims get some replacement items, the charity gets some money to help other victims, and the thrift stores get more merchandise.

Maybe it won’t give these people everything they lost, but if a child can find another teddy bear that looks just like his favorite toy, or a mother can find that music CD that always makes her feel better, it might give these people enough comfort and hope that they will be able to deal with the rest of their losses.

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