“A book can make you feel better.”
That simple statement, spoken by sixth-grader Sidney Brewer, is the principle that guided a dozen local Girl Scouts in their latest endeavor. For their Bronze Award project, they wanted to give the gift of reading to their community.
So on Friday, the girls of Troop 1474, all sixth-graders at Cutchogue East Elementary School, unveiled their work after nine months of effort: two homemade bookshelves, one for Community Action Southold Town and one for Eastern Long Island Hospital.
“We wanted to put a smile on their faces,” said troop member Cassie Stevens about the recipients. “If you have a book, you can imagine your own world.”
The girls repeated a phrase several times during Friday’s presentation: “Above, beyond and over yonder.” And in following that phrase, they did more than construct shelves — they raised money to pay for the materials, gathered hundreds of books and decorated each shelf with their handprints to leave a memorable mark.
Between the two locations, the girls donated more than 1,700 books ready for use — exactly 1,756 books, the girls clarified with excitement — that they collected at school and from other troops.
About 1,000 of those books were given to CAST along with one of the wooden bookshelves. All of the books there are available for families in need to take at will, and the girls will continue to collect books and donate them so that the supply never runs out.
“We know that people go to CAST to get different things, and its bookshelf was actually falling apart, so we wanted to get them a new one,” said Maya Hamilton, another member.
The bookshelf was installed in the “sharing room” at CAST, according to executive director Linda Ruland, so its contents are free for anyone to claim as new possessions.
“The people that come here just can’t afford to get a book,” Ms. Ruland said. “For the children, it’s a wonderful gift to give them the gift of reading. The kids can come in, take a book home and actually keep it.”
At ELIH, the bookshelf sits in the second-floor solarium, where families can read. The girls gathered so many books, in fact, that some had to be placed in the emergency room since the bookshelf could not hold them all.
With their gift, the girls hope to offer a constructive distraction for anyone visiting the hospital, especially patients’ children.
“You don’t want to be worrying and worrying,” Maya said. “If you’re reading a book, you get lost in the book world and time goes fast.”
Twelve girls participated: Maya, Sidney, Cassie, Olivia Goerler, Mackenzie Conroy, Lucy Hasel, Cassidy Czujko, Kaitlin Elmore, Ariel Elmore, Samantha Hildesheim, Emily Nicholson and Lilly Fogarty.
To begin their project, the troop first fundraised all of the money necessary to buy the materials. Mattituck contractor Amos Meringer then served as their “building mentor” to help with construction. The girls themselves used all the tools, from power saws to hammers to sanders — with supervision, of course.
Nicole Brewer, the troop leader and Sidney’s mother, described the project as “fantastic chaos” that was both humbling and heartwarming.
“In the craziness of a full-time life, the best part of my month is hanging out with these girls,” she said. “They amaze me. I can’t wait to see what they do next.”