As the members of Girl Scout Junior Troop 142 gathered around their completed book garden June 9 at the Roger Carter Community Center, there were oohs and aahs as well as sounds of dismay and surprise.
"There's a spider."
"There's bird poop on it!"
For the past year, 14 members of the troop worked on creating the book garden as their project to earn the Girl Scout Bronze Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout Junior can earn.
The process started last June, when the troop discussed possible ideas for a project.
"Everybody had to come together," said Michaela Muffoletto, a troop leader. "We had to get 14 fourth-graders to make a decision."
The book garden is an outside structure that holds two shelves of books behind a glass door. Anyone is welcome to take a book or leave a book. Twelve girls created the book garden for Roger Carter while two other girls created one in Laurel, in the Women, Infants and Children center at North Laurel Community Center.
"It was hard to choose what to do," said Jacinda McNeal, 11. "We were all arguing about it and where to put it."
"A large group went to talk with the director [of Roger Carter] to see if whether or not it would be beneficial and if they thought there would be enough support for it," Muffoletto said. "We took a vote and it won by overwhelming majority."
A kit was ordered to build the book nook, but was lost in the mail. The company then sent a completed structure that the girls painted.
"It took a long time to figure out the quotes to use and to figure out how to put them on the box," said Abby Smith, 10.
Some members created the support post for the box. The staff at Roger Carter put the pieces together and mounted it outside the front doors.
At Friday's dedication ceremony, the girls arrived with boxes loaded with books for all ages, from babies to teens and adults, to fill the box.
"They collected 10 boxes of books from the community, neighborhood schools, all over," Muffoletto said. "We assembled them and tagged them."
Each book the Junior Scouts add to the box has a sticker stating that book originated at Roger Carter and was donated by Girl Scout Troop #142. Anyone, however, is able to leave a book at the free library. To the girls' surprise, the book garden already had books in it when they arrived and several customers had already visited, including Susan Wallis, of Ellicott City.
"What a wonderful way to help our whole community," Wallis told the girls, clutching a book she had taken. "Thank you so much."
"I saw it the other day. It's a wonderful thing," Wallis said. "It's so happy and colorful. It really draws you in."
Montrez Brown, facility coordinator at Roger Carter, said the book library went up on May 31 and that people were immediately drawn to it.
"People just saw it and used it," Brown said. "A partnership with the Girl Scout is very beneficial to us. The free library brings people to the center and adds aesthetically to the building. It is pleasing to the eye."
After the girls read a brief statement about the project and posed for photos, they were off to celebrate with swimming and food in the center.
"It was really fun and hard work," said Kaitlyn Cheung, 11. "We had to use a lot of team work. Without all of us, we would not have been successful. We had to do it as a team."
The following girls helped with the Roger Carter book garden;
Samantha Muffoletto, Katie Weeks, Grace Potter, Jacinda McNeal, Jeniah Terry, Kaitlyn Cheung, Eshal Ahmad, Emily Ho, Pooja Dahiwadkar, Abby Smith, Caroline Petrilla and Natalie Machiran.
Sydney Brian and Ella Krabitz created a book nook for Women, Infants and Children in Laurel.