Scouts keep busy with community projects during pandemic

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The restrictive nature of the pandemic has not stopped Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts from continuing to help the Hopkinton community.

They have found plenty of ways to keep engaged, whether spreading awareness about the dangers of adolescent vaping, delivering flyers for the upcoming Project Just Because food drive or setting up a website to accumulate volunteer opportunities from various organizations.

After hearing comments from their friends and siblings about vaping, Girl Scouts Agnes Agosto, Hannah Connors and Lauren Strechay decided to focus on spreading awareness of vaping dangers to adolescents for their Silver Award project.

The rising freshmen originally planned to reach out to Hopkinton High School and Middle School health teachers, local pediatricians and other professionals to ask them about the dangers vaping poses to adolescents.

Following their research, they were going to hold a “Hidden in Plain Sight” event in early May to communicate to adults how unsuspecting these vaping devices can appear: often indistinguishable from cell phones, pencil sharpeners, USB drives and other common items.

“Vaping has become a huge problem for teens nationwide, and [as of early July] over 68 deaths have been confirmed in 30 states,” Girl Scout Troop 65294 Leader Carolyn Johnson said in a statement.

Due to the pandemic, the team changed its plans to work on an informative website titled “Protect Your Lungs.” It includes a pamphlet and public service announcement (PSA) explaining vaping, vape pens and the harmful substances involved, and a survey to test knowledge and recognition of vaping devices.

Johnson put the survey on social media, to an unexpected response level. Within a month of its posting more than 400 people had participated. Not one person got a perfect score identifying vape devices among everyday items.

“It was crazy the amount of responses that they got,” Johnson said. “When you think about how they had to change what their direction was, in hindsight … it worked out well in the end for them I think in terms of their reach.”

The pamphlet, developed through the Scouts’ partnership with Youth and Family Services and the Hopkinton Organizing for Prevention group, is being printed for display in local pediatricians offices at some point in the future.

While originally meant to feature in the middle school’s wellness program beginning this year, the PSA instead played at the June 26 drive-in movie event at the middle school.

“Personally, I had a number of people send me notes with pictures because I didn’t go to the actual drive-in movie just saying what a great PSA it was,” Johnson said.

Earning the Silver Award requires 50 hours of work per Cadette on a subject the team determines. Agosto, Connors and Stretchay began working on their project in June of last year.

“I was honestly surprised at the number of people that we were able to reach through our website and survey,” Agosto said. “I think that we were able to impact more people through our online format. If someone told me at the beginning of this whole project that over 400 people would respond to a survey we made, I wouldn’t believe them.”

Peters supports Project Just Because

Meanwhile, among the Hopkinton Life Scouts, Andrew Peters pursues his Eagle Scout Award volunteering for Project Just Because. The Troop 4 Scout spends much of his time delivering flyers advertising the virtual food drive that began July 11, part of the nonprofit’s food pantry and Gluten Free Food Bank.

Project Just Because faces increasing demands for food and essential items like cleaning supplies, toiletries and paper goods.

“I’m hoping that if there’s about 7,000 houses in Hopkinton, I can have at least 1,000 of those houses donate,” Peters, a rising sophomore at Hopkinton High School, said of his main goal. “If everyone gives a pound of food, then I can get about 1,000 pounds of food.”

He encourages people to donate on the PJB website via personal check, PayPal, Amazon Wishlist or Amazon eGift card. Individuals also can mail personal checks to PJB at 109 South St. in Hopkinton.

Peters says his project can receive direct donations on the website under “AndrewPetersEagleProject” in the memo section for PayPal.

Murchie helps nonprofits solicit volunteers

HHS junior Megan Murchie is pursuing the Girl Scouts Gold Award (the equivalent of the Boy Scouts Eagle Award).

Murchie has participated in Girl Scouts since kindergarten, and she partnered with the Community Communications Group to design a website that centralizes local volunteer opportunities available for easy signup.

HopkintonCares.org went live on July 1. Within a week of its debut Murchie had 10 nonprofits signed up out of the 50 she and HCAM station manager Jim Cozzens contacted.

“It was really good,” Murchie said. “We — me and Mr. Cozzens — worked together to make this email and I really appreciated all the support they gave, the nonprofits gave, and the appreciation they had for this new project.”

She also credited her content advisor, Jim Montalto, for helping her with the website design process.

Murchie hopes in the future to expand her reach, adding more nonprofits outside of Hopkinton to the website.

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