Stepping up for teens in need

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    Local Girl Scouts from Wall Township, Belmar and beyond helped donate nearly 700 pairs of socks to the Covenant House. (MARK R. SULLIVAN/THE COAST STAR)

    WALL TOWNSHIP — Local Girl Scout Troops in the area came together through the struggles of the pandemic to make an impactful donation to a local charity organization.

    Throughout the month of March, Girl Scouts collected over 650 pairs of socks to donate to the Covenant House youth homeless shelter and services in Asbury Park.

    The massive donation shocked sock-drive organizer and Wall Township social worker Denise Wegeman, who wanted to give the girls a hopeful project to complete during the slow days of the pandemic. Ms.Wegeman, who does lots of work in the community with organizations and also acts as the Girl Scouts’ anti-bullying coordinator at its summer camps, thought the socks were an easy, accessible item for a drive.

    She also thought it would be a great opportunity for the girls to learn more about the struggles of teenage homelessness.

    “I wanted to do an outreach in our area because the kids are having such a hard time in the pandemic connecting with others and being hopeful, and so I thought it’d be a great opportunity to reach out and have them learn more about teen homelessness, as well as do something to help more individuals, especially during this pandemic,” Ms. Wegeman said. 

    She created a March Madness-themed competition for the girls [and any interested boys] to help inspire them. Weekly gift card prizes, provided by the businesses at Premiere Suites, kept the socks rolling in as they were dropped off at her office.

    “I tried to make it more of a competition. For whoever got the socks in quickest, we’d have a drawing each week that the girls could win a gift card for. They’d drop [the socks] off with their troop number and then we’d keep the tallies for the troops that entered that week and we chose one each week,” she said.

    Ms. Wegeman said the sock drive began with the Covenant House in mind, which is for young adults aged 18 to 21 struggling with issues like homelessness. She thought socks would be a great idea, as they are typically the most requested clothing item from homeless organizations. When she called to tell Covenant House, the representatives were very supportive. 

    Later when she called back with the final tally, Ms. Wegeman said they were “floored.”

    “When I first called, I called the Asbury location and told them we wanted to do this with socks, and they said ‘yeah, that’s a great idea,’” she said. “When I called them back to tell them how many pairs of socks there were, they were floored and asked ‘do you mind sharing these with our other locations?’ ”

    Now the girls’ donations will impact Covenant House locations across the state of New Jersey. The socks will be delivered to locations most in need. 

    The first-place winner, Belmar Troop 481, donated 375 pairs of socks and was awarded with a pizza party and outdoor boating activity at the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore Camp Sacajawea in Farmingdale. 

    The second- and third-place winners, Wall Troop 1832 with 108 pairs and Wall Troop 1454 with 60 pairs, were awarded gift cards to local retailers, sponsored by Premier Executive Suites, plus an invitation to attend the boating activity at Camp Sacajawea.  

    “Our Girl Scout community is extremely active and always willing to step up to help others. I am so amazed and proud of these young women and their devoted leaders who continuously find ways to enrich the lives of those around them,” said Nancy Peterson, Community Leader for Wall, Brielle, Manasquan, Spring Lake, Belmar and Neptune Girl Scouts. 

    Ms. Peterson was able to find a badge for the Girl Scouts’ uniforms to commemorate their efforts as well.

    “The girls took ownership of this service project by ensuring teens in need had the simple necessities, such as socks. They learned the importance of giving back to an untapped community and as a result made a positive impact,” Ms. Peterson said. “It was exciting for the girls to select such a variety of socks for older kids and feeling a proud sense of accomplishment knowing they were helping others.”

    “The girls’ overwhelming contributions have shown true leadership and commitment which is a reflection of our Girl Scout mission,” she said. “The response by our community to support young women striving to develop into future leaders is absolutely astounding.”

    Equally as impressive as the donation itself was the girls’ attitude throughout the sock drive and the awareness they gained about the work they did and impact it makes.

    Ms. Wegeman said, “[The girls] actually thanked me for putting this together. They were so gracious and so excited and some already asked if we can do it next year which really tells me they thought a lot of the project and wanted to help others … They were so humble and eager to help.”

    “I think it was a win-win. I was touched by the number of socks donated and how the girls took it to heart and participated.”

    For information about the Girl Scouts or on how to join, volunteer, partner or donate, visit gsfun.org or call 800-785-2090.

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