Girl Scout Uses Her Gold Award Project To Help Families Rebuild After House Fires

Samantha Copeland kept her smartphone working overtime as she led and coordinated with other people on her Girl Scout Gold Award project, Psalm 91:1 Care Packages. (Photo courtesy of Charles Bolinger, Communications Assistant.)

Samantha Copeland knows first-hand what it is like to lose her family’s home in a fire then struggle to find necessities for the first 24-48 hours afterward. For her Girl Scout Gold Award project, Psalm 91:1 Care Packages, she wants to make sure no one else in her area endures the same issues after future house fires.
The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest national award that a Girl Scout Senior or Ambassador, girls in grades 9-12, can earn.

Copeland, a graduate of Ft. Zumwalt South High School, recalled what happened to her family in the hours immediately after the blaze as they scrounged for the basics. After she and her family returned to stability, Samantha thought about the fire and what other families would need after a similar disaster. Personal items like hairbrushes, shampoos, soaps, toilet paper and deodorants top the list, as well as baby and children’s items like diapers, coloring books and school supplies.

She began interviewing area fire district personnel and those from non-profit organizations that offer products and services to help people in need. Her interviews led her to discover that there wasn’t a consistent or dependable service to help these victims. One family might receive some items while another one might not. Copeland vowed to change that.

“Through these interviews, I realized it’s not about what isn’t provided, but how we can provide more than what is already given and how we can make sure all families obtain what is needed when times seem so chaotic,” Copeland explained.

Via donations from family members, friends, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and many others, Copeland gathered the needed supplies for her care packages. Partnering with several fire districts allows her care packages to be on site, so all families receive one at the time of the incident.

In the spring of 2013, circumstances put her project to an early test. Before she took her bags to fire districts, the O’Fallon Fire Protection District responded to a house fire in which the home was declared a total loss. One of the fire captains contacted Copeland to ask if she had any care packages available. She responded, quickly assembling one and taking it to a fire station.

She received a message from the captain the following day: “Well done! The family received your package today and the lady was brought to tears. This has been a real comfort for a family in need. Thank you for what you do and I hope you continue your work.”

Earning the Girl Scout Gold Award requires a suggested 80 hours of planning and implementing a challenging, large-scale project that is innovative, engages others and has a lasting impact on its targeted community with an emphasis on sustainability.

To keep the project going after graduation, Copeland converted it into a non-profit organization, with her mother taking full ownership of it. She and many others will continue to gather community donations and give care packages to fire department and fire district personnel, who will distribute them to families in need.

“Through this project, I realized I can’t ever achieve anything by myself,” she said. “A leader may be the best of the best but they don’t become great until they learn to rely on others to achieve their dreams. After this project, I’m not nearly as intimidated about presenting my ideas to others if I feel passionate about what I’m doing.”

Earning the Girl Scout Gold Award puts girls among an exceptional group of women who have used their knowledge and leadership skills to make a difference in the world. Some of the Gold Awardee benefits are:

  • A Girl Scout who has earned her Gold Award and enlists in the US armed forces, immediately rises one level in rank.
  • Colleges and universities recognize the achievements and leadership abilities of Girl Scout Gold Award recipients by offering scholarship programs.
  • Achievements of the Girl Scout Gold Award recipients are acknowledged by many government and non-profit organizations.

Less than one percent of all Girl Scouts earn the Girl Scout Gold Award. With talent, passion, commitment and determination, they can make changes in their communities and impact people around the world. This year, 40 girls in eastern Missouri earned Gold Awards. They were recognized at a reception at Maritz in Fenton in June.