BROCKWAY — As sisters, Brockway residents Grace Preston, 14, and Dessie Preston, 12, naturally do a lot of things together. But recently, they shared in an extra special ceremony to honor their achievements in the field of Girl Scouting. Grace received the Girl Scout Silver Award, while her sister Dessie received the Girl Scout Bronze Award.

The Bronze Award is the highest award a Junior Girl Scout can earn and requires a minimum of 20 hours of service to one’s community. The Silver Award is the highest honor a Cadette Girl Scout can achieve and requires a minimum of 50 hours of service.

Both Grace and Dessie have been Girl Scouts since they were in kindergarten, starting out as Daisies. They are “indie girls,” or Independent Girl Scouts who do not belong to a particular troop. Both girls have been Scouts since kindergarten and started as members of troops in the Brockway Neighborhood. In fact, their mother, Sandy Preston, was Grace’s first Girl Scout leader. But circumstances and a busy family schedule (they have a third sister who is also a Girl Scout) including music lessons, karate, soccer and church activities made it more feasible for the older girls to become independent Scouts and work at their own pace and on their own schedule.

For her bronze award, Dessie wanted to do something to support foster children. Being adopted from foster care herself, this cause was near and dear to Dessie’s heart. She was assisted in her project by her younger sister, Sarah Joy, also a former foster child. Together the girls made campfire starters and sold them to raise funds. They purchased backpacks and stocked them with a clean change of clothes, including a package of socks and underwear, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a comfort item. Younger children received a stuffed animal. Backpacks for older kids and teens included a fleece blanket. Dessie said at her ceremony, “I wanted to make sure every kid could wake up their first day in a foster home and have their own clothes. Nobody should have to carry their belongings in a grocery bag, so we wanted to give them backpacks.” Dessie labeled the backpacks by size and gender and attached a personalized note of encouragement for the child who would receive it. Dessie donated the backpacks to Children’s Aid Society of Clearfield. She and her sister hope to continue their effort and provide more backpacks in the future. Dessie expressed gratitude to the friends and family members who support her project and donated money or materials to make it possible.

For Grace’s Silver Award project, she wanted to do something to help animals in need. This cause is also near and dear to Grace’s heart. Since she was 8 years old, Grace has run her own business called “Grace’s Goodies.” She makes and sells homemade dog treats, dog and cat toys, and other pet products and donates the proceeds of her business to shelter animals. Over the past six years, she has donated over $10,000 to animal organizations around our area. Grace sought the help of Jefferson County Humane Officer Debbie McAndrew, who served as her advisor for the Silver Award. McAndrew shared with Grace the need for holding kennels to use for animals who needed to be held for a short time, such as after hours when municipal offices are closed, or who need to be quarantined from other shelter animals temporarily. McAndrew works closely with Willow Run Sanctuary for Animals in Coolspring, so that site was chosen as the location for the holding kennels. Grace used funds from her business to purchase some materials and searched the internet for items that people were willing to donate. She helped to tear down, relocate and rebuild two dog kennels and a metal storage shed for animals supplies. She helped two locate two doghouses and purchased heated buckets to be used in the kennels. A ribbon-cutting was held on the Willow Run property upon completion of the holding kennels. Grace expressed gratitude to McAndrew and Margo Stefanic, founder of Willow Run, as well as her father for his technical guidance and her friends and family and customers for supporting her project.

The girls were presented with their awards at a ceremony held at their church, Brockway Christian & Missionary Alliance. Their mother, who serves as their advisor, led the girls in a flag ceremony and their father, Steve Preston, presented them with their pins and certificates.

The Preston girls are already looking to the future. Now that Dessie has advanced to Cadette, she is looking for a project to complete for her Silver Award. Then the two girls plan to work together to earn their Gold Award.

Both the girls attend DuBois Christian School, where Dessie is in 6th grade and Grace is a freshman. Grace’s future plans are to attend culinary school and business school and open her own bakery. Dessie would like to be a special education teacher.

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