Girl Scouts from Troop 1976 will unveil the garden they have planted and dedicated to fallen Lutherville Volunteer Fire Co. Firefighter Mark Falkenhan at the Lutherville firehouse June 21.
The teardrop-shaped garden on the firehouse's front lawn is an expression of the scouts' gratitude to the volunteer firefighters who allowed the fifth-graders to meet at the firehouse in 2012 and 2013. Bordered with spiky liriope and with a dogwood tree as its centerpiece, the garden will have native plants, along with an eagle and stepping stones to remind visitors of Falkenhan.
Falkenhan was the first Baltimore County firefighter to die in the line of duty in more than 25 years. On Jan. 19, 2011, Falkenhan, 43, was trapped in a third-story apartment in Hillendale as he searched for residents in a fire. Falkenhan left behind a wife and two young sons.
The 12 Girl Scouts decided to build a garden on an overgrown plot on firehouse grounds on Bellona Avenue. After obtaining permission from the fire company, they raised $2,600 to fund the project.
"We started, of course, with the cookies" to raise money, Scout troop co-leader Annie Smith said.
Profits from the cookie sales, as well as other fundraisers, including a percentage of sales one night at Applebee's went toward the project. Also, neighbors, friends and family made donations, as did members of Hunts Memorial United Methodist Church, where the troop meets.
"The congregation was incredibly supportive," Smith said. Local merchants, including Watson's Garden Center and Hollins Organic Products, donated plants and mulch, she said.
They planned a low maintenance garden, according to Scout co-leader Elizabeth Beilman. That was the firefighters' one request.
"It's been a real community involvement," Smith said.
The girls prepared the plot — a job that took the Girl Scouts three three-hour sessions — and planted the annuals, perennials and tree over a period of several months.
The leaders made sure every girl played a part in the process — from making a presentation to the firefighters for permission to plant the garden, to choosing plants, pulling weeds and creating stepping stones.
"It's going to be very eye-catching," Mike Huber, president of the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company, said just before the final touches were added.
"They did a great job," he said. "Those girls worked hard. Their parents, too."
Sabina Smith, 11, said she's proud of their accomplishment. "We're helping other people," she said. "It's a memorial for the person who died so people will treat it respectfully."
Giving the presentation at the firehouse was tough, said Sophie Smith, 11: "I was a little nervous. But I felt confident about it."
Gladys Falkenhan has been touched by the interest the girls have shown in her late husband.
"They have stolen my heart," she said.
She first met the Girl Scouts at the Applebee's fundraiser. "I was so impressed with how caring they were with the whole situation," she said.
Falkenhan decided to sell T-shirts she had had designed in her husband's memory for the Irish Festival held annually at the Timonium Fairgrounds. She said she raised $1,400 which she donated to the troop for the garden. "I wanted to show them how a much we appreciate them," Falkenhan said.
She spoke about her husband at a later meeting, answering the girls' questions about his favorite flower and color.
The Falkenhans, Gladys and her sons Christian, 18, who just became a volunteer at Lutherville, and Garrett, 9, plan to attend the dedication. "We're very excited," she said.
His wife "seemed to really miss him," said Leanna Hubbard, 11, who said Gladys Falkenhan's visit inspired the Girl Scouts. "She had a lot of stories about them. Some of them were funny and some of them were memories."
The girls decided to plant daffodils, Falkenhan's favorite flower, and to place an eagle in the garden in his honor to reflect his heroism and his patriotism, according to Smith.
Completion of the project has earned the girls the Bronze Award, Girl Scouting's third highest honor, given to Junior Girl Scouts. Each of the girls had to complete 40 hours of community service to earn the award.
"It's a pretty big undertaking," Beilman said. In fact, it took nearly two years to complete all the steps toward the award, she said. "It took a lot of energy and work and commitment on the girls' part."
Along the way, the girls said, they learned a few things about working together.
"I learned to work as a team to get the work done," said Colleen Heuser, 11.
"It takes time to do a big project like this," added Mary Beth Novotny, 11. "If you work together, it's a lot easier."
There were rewards, Maddy Geiner, 11, said. "I liked hanging out and we wanted to earn our reward," she said.
"It was for a good cause," said Katie Bartram, 11. "You get a good feeling when you step back and look at it."
The Mark Falkenhan Memorial Garden will be unveiled Saturday, June 21, with ceremonies beginning at 11 a.m. The firehouse is located at 1609 Bellona Ave. For information, call 410-887-7778.