Christina Antonini built a business before she started college, but charity, not entrepreneurial drive, motivated the 18-year-old freshman at Towson University.
The Edgewater resident spent her teenage years designing, financing, building and outfitting a boutique and job-training center at a rehabilitation center for women in Crownsville.
The project, which began seven years ago as an effort to earn the Girl Scouts' highest honor, has made Antonini one of 10 national winners of the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. The Severn School graduate, who plans to pursue a degree in nursing, will receive $2,500 to apply to her education.
"I am not sure yet how I will use the prize," she said. "But it will go toward my education."
The prize, established in 2001 by author T.A. Barron in honor of his mother, shines a light on young people whose efforts help their communities.
Antonini's project began with an idea to add a thrift shop to Chrysalis House, a residential facility that houses as many as 45 woman, who stay about six months in a recovery program. The concept grew from a shed into the 1,700-square-foot, two-story Butterfly Boutique, a building that cost about $300,000, most of it in donated materials and services.
The boutique, which sells gently used designer clothing and trendy household items, has thrived since it opened more than a year ago, said Lorene Lake, director of Chrysalis.
"So far, it has been a revenue source for us," Lake said. "It is also a great connector to the community, which gives us donations and shops here. Several of our clients fulfill their community service orders by working in the shop."
Chrysalis is still organizing a job-training program that will take advantage of the second-story space in the red-roofed building, which is an architectural match to the residential center.
"I look out my office window now at this cute building that grew from the ground up," Lake said. "I am so impressed with what has been accomplished.
Antonini led a team of her fellow Girl Scouts, first in fundraising, and then she saw the project through from groundbreaking to turning over the key.
"She hung drywall, laid tile, landscaped and painted," said her mother, Linda Antonini, who is a Scout leader.
As a final touch, Christina Antonini painted a mural for the Butterfly Boutique at Chrysalis House. She took her inspiration from the shop's name and created a multihued drawing that showed the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. The evolution of an unattractive insect into a beautiful creature is emblematic of the transformation women go through at the facility, she said.
"The caterpillar is the dark stages," she said. "The chrysalis is when the women are rebuilding their lives, and the butterfly is when they come out of the house."