The members of Girl Scout Troop 254 stepped up their Christmas giving this year with a donation of 129 blankets for those in need.
The troop, which includes cadets in sixth and seventh grade, spent the last month gathering blankets and sleeping bags from donors at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School and Kenai Middle School to donate to the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s Na’ini Family and Social Services this winter, as part of the department’s own blanket drive.
Amid a sudden blanket of snow Tuesday, the girls and their families dropped off their donations at the center, the staff greeting them cheerfully and helping carry in blankets as the pile climbed toward the ceiling. Some of the blankets will be taken to the Project Homeless Connect event in Soldotna in January 2018 and others will be distributed based on need to the clients at the center.
Scout leader Michelle Ostrowski said the troop had been talking about doing a drive of some kind this fall when they heard about the tribe’s drive.
“We didn’t know that it was part of Project Homeless Connect (at first), but we figured that out along the way,” she said.
The girls made flyers to distribute around the schools to ask for donations. They were also working on their gratitude and character badges this fall, so it fit into their program, Ostrowski said. The troop might continue the drive next year as part of their service work, but they weren’t sure yet, she said.
The troop is a busy one. They also spent time last year working on assembling “birthday bags” for the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, gathering supplies and volunteers to assemble bags complete with items like birthday cake and balloons. One of the cadets, 7th-grader Aleea Faulkner, said she was also planning a project on her own to donate socks to the homeless at Project Homeless Connect. The other troop members are helping to create personalized tags to include with the socks, Ostrowski said.
The Kenaitze staff had been working on their own blanket drive since October and had gathered about 75 blankets, said Roberta Turner, the tribe’s director of human services.
The tribe’s social assistance program can provide basic necessities like a supply of food from the food cache or blankets, Turner said. The intake form has a blank space that asks what the person needs. Within the last few months, the tribe has had seven people come in and say they were homeless, she said.
“(Supplies) go as people come in,” she said. “Some people say they live in tents.”
The tribe has limited grant funds to purchase cold weather gear that go quickly, so the donations help supplement that, Turner said. They’re continuing to accept donations up until the day of Project Homeless Connect, she said.
Project Homeless Connect brings together social service agencies, charities and businesses to provide free services for the homeless on the Kenai Peninsula. Held at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, in past years people have been able to get massages, haircuts, social services advising and even veterinary services, among other offerings. Coordinated by the Kenai Peninsula Continuum of Care, a group of agencies that serve the homeless, the event is scheduled for Jan. 24, 2018.