For the past year, members of Girl Scout Troop 3131 of Catonsville have been painting, cleaning, sorting, stocking and shelving used items inside St. John's United Church of Christ.
The eight seventh-graders, who all live in the area, were transforming an unused workshop in the church on South Rolling Road into a thrift shop.
Last week, those efforts conceptualizing and building a thrift store inside the church were recognized during an award ceremony at Overhills Mansion, next to the church. The girls were presented with Silver Awards, the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn, according to Troop Leader Alyssa Stokes-Reinhardt.
Girl Scouts' highest achievement, the Gold Award, can only be earned by Scouts in high school.
Approximately $8,400 has been raised since the store opened in February. The money is being used for church youth programs and donated to nearby nonprofits such as CEFM Network, the Westside Emergency Men's Shelter, Earl's Place and Southwest Emergency Services (SWES), said Stokes-Reinhardt.
"We are tremendously proud of them and the project, and glad that we can help members of the community in need," said Jennifer Sowell Glover, pastor of St. John's United.
Sowell Glover, who has been pastor of the church for five years, tried to get members of the church to buy into the idea of adding a thrift store to the church for years.
She was glad when Stokes-Reinhardt and Assistant Troop Leader Becky Jankowski, offered to help bring the idea to life.
"It's something that we'd like to continue and grow," Sowell Glover said.
The church is accepting donations of clothing and household items that are sold in the thrift store, Stokes-Reinhardt said.
The formerly unused space is now painted bright blue and green, and filled with racks of used clothing, old books, shoes and household items, complete with a cash register, where items that have been donated to the church are sold.
Rayner Reinhardt, 13, of Catonsville Middle, was grateful to earn the award but noted that wasn't her main motivation.
"You should try to do everything you can to make a difference," Rayner said. "It felt good, but I didn't do it for the award."
Award requirements are a minimum of 50 service hours spent on a project that addresses a community issue.
"Several of them had an interest in homelessness, poverty and joblessness, so they decided that they wanted to do this project," Stokes-Reinhardt said.
Troop member Astrid Jensen, 12, of Catonsville, said, "I wanted to make a difference, and I wanted to help the less fortunate."
In preparation for the project, the group did market research by traveling to other thrift stores to understand how they function and learn how they run, Stokes-Reinhardt said.
"I think they learned a lot about teamwork and they learned about building a business, especially the retail side and marketing," Stokes-Reinhardt said.
The girls also learned communication skills throughout the project, by talking to adults, which is a skill emphasized in the organization, she said. It begins at the Daisy level, when girls begin selling Girl Scout cookies door-to-door, Stokes-Reinhardt said.
The project wasn't without its challenges — the girls learned a few lessons about teamwork and patience.
Emma Doherty, 14, of Arbutus, said of the project, "It was nice but sometimes it was a pain in the butt. ... If you spend enough time with a group of girls, doing things together week after week, people get on your nerves."
Emma said she learned that "if you work as a team and put your mind to something, you can do it, as long as you have patience.
"My favorite part was towards the end, where we got to see the fruits of our efforts. I felt a sense of pride because we turned it from a disgusting workshop into a cute little thrift shop," she said.
"I've been a member of this church my whole life, so being able to do something to help the church was nice," the Arbutus Middle School student said.
Ashleigh Jankowski, 13, a student at Arbutus Middle School, shared some advice for those contemplating working on a big project:
"Never give up. You're going to run into a lot of things that get in your way, but never give up."