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Claremont Girl Scouts support migrant children at Fairplex

Girl Scout Troop 5604 stocks the back of their car with goods and supplies

Over the past year, we have heard stories of migrant children and young adults being housed in various detention facilities across our nation. On May 1, ABC7 reported that approximately 250 unaccompanied migrant children arrived at the Pomona Fairplex, a temporary location for the immigrant minors as they wait to be reunited with their parents.
While the separation of families is a topic that hits close to home for those with children, it also struck the heartstrings of the fourth- and fifth-graders of Girl Scout Troop 5604 at Sycamore Elementary School. About six weeks ago, the girls learned that children just like them were being housed in Pomona—and with few to no personal belongings.
“It’s something that’s been discussed on a national level and it is actually happening right in our backyard,” Jennifer Groscup, a troop leader at the school said. “And we can really do something to help those kids.”
Ms. Groscup said over the past year the girls thought about how they would earn the Bronze Award—a major service award at the fourth-and fifth- grade levels—and they decided to start a donation drive for the migrant children.
“Basically as soon as the girls found out about them, they knew they wanted to help,” Susan McWilliams Barndt, another troop leader at Sycamore said.
“It really hits home for them what it would be like to be in a place without your parents, where you don’t speak the language, where the food is not familiar. Where you…probably experienced some pretty horrible things to get here and you might not know where you’re going next. We had a lot of girls in tears just thinking about that,” Ms. McWilliams Barndt added.
Before the elementary school let out for summer break, the troop held an in-person drive for two weeks to collect items the Fairplex had requested in the past, including art supplies, children’s clothing and personal hygiene kits. But even when the school year ended, the Scouts’ drive continued.
The troop created an online Amazon wish list to which anyone can donate to help make life as easy and normal as possible for the children. The list includes toothpaste, bulk bundles of deodorant, shampoo, tampons, new clothing and school supplies such as paper and colored pencils.
“We had a couple of our Girl Scouts think really seriously about what they would want…if they were in the situation that the kids are in at the Fairplex,” Ms. McWilliams Barndt said. “They feel a kind of sense, a real, emotional connection to the kids who are at Fairplex, even though they know they don’t really understand these kids’ stories all the way up and down. But they are deeply, emotionally invested.”
In addition to the products requested by the Fairplex and other donation centers, the girls unanimously agreed they wanted to go further and add additional items to their wish list.
“We added something to our list that we didn’t see on that [Fairplex] one which was stuffed animals,” Girl Scout Charlie Rapp said. Charlie, who is also the daughter of Ms. Groscup, said the girls also added board games like Monopoly and Scrabble to their list so the children could have fun together.
“They also did on their own, bilingual notes to the kids at the Fairplex,” Ms. McWilliams Barndt said. “They got a couple of parents of the troop to speak Spanish and to teach them [Fairplex children] to say what they wanted to say both in Spanish and in English. So, they [Girl Scouts] did a huge note writing campaign among themselves as well.”
When asked how she felt about helping children just like her, fourth grade Girl Scout Marjorie McWilliams Barndt said, “I think it feels really good because I really like doing stuff like this and I really like the cause we’re doing.”
According to Ms. Groscup and Ms. McWilliams Barndt, donations so far have been remarkable. They said the community’s reception to the Amazon list and the school drive have been abundant to the point that they and other leaders have to unload supplies at donation centers at least twice a week, otherwise they would be overwhelmed with boxes.
“If we had set an actual, specific goal, we would have far exceeded it by now,” Ms. Groscup explained.
To support the Girl Scout Troop 5604’s drive, you can visit their Amazon wish list at: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/8M17LGGA953W. Checks, prepaid debit and gift cards are also acceptable. Donations will continue to be accepted until the end of June; however, Ms. Groscup anticipates having to make a few more trips in July to drop off supplies.
“We are nearby and we can help them. As long as those children are here, they are a part of our community. And we might not see them, we might not interact with them but they are here,” Ms. McWilliams Barndt said. “Whether those children end up staying in this area, going to other places in the United States or going back to their home countries, I’d like them to have at least some memory of this place as being the place where people were trying to help more than they were looking the other way.”

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

 

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