By Mara Certic
Discussions about today’s youth often range from test scores to crime rates and drug abuse, and fail to touch on the many ways young people are looking to give back to their communities.
But on the East End of Long Island, large groups of children and teenagers are working hard to come up with new ways to provide services for and improve their neighborhoods and towns, and are raising more money along the way.
Sag Harbor’s Girl Scout Troop 152 actually broke down into smaller groups in order to choose whom to help for its Bronze Award project. The nine girls, who are mostly fifth-graders, decided to do something for Mashashimuet Park after committees met with the park board, library board and members of the Sag Harbor Fire Department.
“The girls voted on the park,” said Scout Leader Jen Glass. “They wanted to give back to the park and would like to see some new stuff; that equipment’s been there since I was a child and I’m 44.” she said on Tuesday.
The troop has decided to raise their money by starting a buy-a-brick program Ms. Glass explained. Bricks will be placed in a new walkway on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike-side of the park.
“It’ll open up into a patio and we’ll lay the bricks we sell there in that area,” she said. “And then the park will continue to raise funds and can expand the sidewalk.” The bricks cost $50 apiece and can fit up to three lines of text with 18 to 20 characters per line.
Troop 152 is trying to do all of the brick-selling by May, in order to install the bricks before the end of the school year. The Girl Scouts will then use the money earned selling bricks to purchase a new piece of play equipment for the park.
The girls are also working with local artist Chris Nielson to design a new welcome sign for the park.
One of the scouts has created order forms for those interested in purchasing bricks, which are available at mashashimuetpark.com.
“It’s where these girls have enjoyed their time and they’re getting older now so they just want to give back,” Ms. Glass said.
For the past four years, as part of an effort spearheaded by Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, the Town of Southampton has been helping those who want to give back by offering small grants to youth groups or individuals who need financial support to perform a community service.
Last week, the town board and the town’s Youth Bureau awarded almost $3,000 in grants to 11 different applicants.
“Some of the ideas that the kids are proposing are really interesting and different,” said Nancy Lynott, the bureau’s director. “We have kids of all ages. That’s another thing I really like about it,” she said.
Three siblings in the Westhampton Beach School District won a grant for their community service project called Builders and Books, which provides bookshelves full of age-appropriate-books to kids in need.
“[Our mom] is the Reading Coordinator at Tuckahoe School in Southampton,” One of those children, Emilee Downs, 14, in an email last week, explained that their mother is the reading coordinator at Tuckahoe School in Southampton. “She told us how some of her students were in need of books to read and that some of them weren’t able to get to the public library because they didn’t have transportation or their parents work a lot,” she wrote.
So Emilee and her brother Zach, 18, and sister Ally, 12, started organizing book drives and asked construction companies to donate bookshelves. The teens then curate the selection, choosing books they think specific children would like the most, and they’re delivered to homes in the Tuckahoe and Westhampton Beach school districts. This school year, they have already given out nine bookshelves, each one stocked with anywhere from 200 to 400 books.
This grant will allow them to deliver 11 more fully stocked bookshelves.
“It’s really a great feeling to see how excited the families are to receive them,” Emilee wrote. “At one house, the two little boys were smiling and laughing and jumping up and down like it was Christmas.”