NEW BETHLEHEM – A personal connection to the military is the driving force for one Redbank Valley High School student in her effort to earn her Silver Award through Girl Scouts.
For her Silver Award project, Emily Truitt of New Bethlehem has proposed constructing a Victory Garden next to Moose Lodge No. 366 in New Bethlehem, honoring veterans from all branches of the United States Armed Forces.
“My mom was in the military for nine years and has had some hard times as a result,” Truitt said last week of why she she decided to focus her project on honoring military members. “I wanted people to have a place where they could go to relax and not have to worry about what’s going on in their lives.”
Truitt, a seventh-grader at RVHS, is a member of Redbank Valley Girl Scout Troop 26805.
As the second award earned by Girl Scout cadets on their journey to the highest ranking Gold Award, Silver Award projects utilize a cadet’s leadership to implement a change in a person’s mindset or in the community, troop leader and Truitt’s mother Jessie Truitt explained. Projects must be completed individually or in a small group between sixth and eighth grades, and require cadets to log at least 50 hours of individual leadership.
“No one can help with the leadership skills,” Jessie Truitt said, noting that cadets are solely responsible for developing the project, making a plan and putting it in motion, building a team and hosting team meetings throughout the process. “It’s a pretty involved process.”
When the time came to select her own project, Emily Truitt said it didn’t take her long to notice that the local community was lacking a veterans’ memorial. After researching some designs and checking out some possible locations, she said the empty lot next to the Moose Lodge, located along Broad Street, seemed like the perfect spot.
“The Moose has been very helpful,” she said. “They have been accommodating with everything.”
With a military theme as its base, plans for the Victory Garden include a 32-foot-by-20-foot cement patio with an eight-foot-by-20-foot raised flower garden in the center, containing three flags — the United States Flag, the Pennsylvania State Flag and the POW/MIA Flag. Five benches, honoring the five military branches, surround the flower garden, and three of the garden’s four corners will be adorned with pedestals hosting military-related statues.
The garden will also be handicap accessible, Emily Truitt noted.
“I wanted to be sure the garden was accessible to everyone,” she said.
Although it still serves as a veterans’ tribute, Truitt said that she wanted her Victory Garden to veer away from the somber feeling of most memorials and emit a more positive, uplifting environment.
“It’s important to me that people can go there to relax,” she said.
In addition, Truitt said she has compiled a team of several local business owners and community members — including Rich Shilling, Liz and Ev Botelho of Botelho Monuments, Gordon Barrows of TechReady Professionals, Ted Wells of the Moose Lodge, Cindy Morgan of the American Legion Auxiliary, Lee Ann Ishman and Chuck Truitt — to assist with the project.
“Each person plays a different role,” Truitt noted.
Since Truitt will receive no monetary help from the Girl Scouts to complete her project, she said that construction for the Victory Garden will be funded with the sale of personalized bricks that will cover the ground around the flowerbed.
Anyone from individuals, businesses, organizations, clubs and other groups can purchase a brick in honor of anyone and engrave up to three lines of text per brick.
Each brick will be sold for $125, and there is space in the garden for a total of 300 bricks.
“The brick sale is open to everyone,” Truitt said, explaining that she has set a fundraising goal of $30,000 for the project. She also plans to have enough money to start a reserve fund to help with the garden’s future upkeep. “We’ll have to do a lot of fundraising.”
Brick sales will launch Nov. 1, and Truitt will be on hand, with samples, from 3:15 to 6 p.m. at the Redbank Valley Public Library to officially kick-off the fundraiser.
The community will be able to keep track of Truitt’s fundraising efforts with the help of a goal thermometer located at the garden’s future site.
If all goes according to plan, Truitt hopes to break ground on the Victory Garden this spring.
“I’m looking forward to see my idea grow and become a real life garden along Broad Street,” Truitt said. “But I need the community’s help to make this happen.”
Brick orders or other donations should be mailed to Emily Truitt, 612 Lafayette Street, New Bethlehem, PA 16242. Checks should be made out to GSWPA 26805. All donations are tax deductible.
For more information on purchasing a brick or making a donation, call Jessie Truitt at (814) 229-6652.