SUMMIT AND MILLBURN, NJ — When 18-year-old Gold Award Girl Scout Emily A. went on a trip to San Francisco a few years ago, she was surprised to see the number of homeless people living on the street.
After her eye-opening visit, the Millburn teen decided to make it her mission to help combat homelessness in her home state by focusing her Gold Award Take Action Project on the issue, and implemented “Help for the Homeless.”
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Emily has partnered with Bridges Outreach in Summit, a volunteer-driven organization that fights to end homeless in New Jersey and New York, to assemble kits containing essential items to donate to low-income communities throughout the two states.
The kits include soap, shampoo, deodorant, socks and even lunch.
In total, Emily has been able to collect 7,000 travel sized toiletries, 600 pairs of socks, and 500 sustainable lunches.
“I was surprised to learn that some leading causes of homelessness are poverty and the lack of affordable housing due to gentrification in urban areas,” Emily said. “I decided to pursue my passion and coordinate with this worthy local organization that could help me distribute the items I have gathered.”
Bridges Outreach Executive Director Richard Uniacke said the organization is very grateful for Emily’s support and advocacy.
“In our effort to sustainably end chronic homelessness in our region, we need to cultivate a movement of people who are unwilling to accept that people living on the streets of our cities and towns is a normal part of life,” he said. “This combination of direct support and crucial advocacy are essential to our mission. We are grateful for Emily and all she’s done.”
But Emily’s goal isn’t just to help those currently suffering from homelessness; it’s to raise awareness about the growing number of homeless individuals across the New York metropolitan area.
In 2019, there were more than 8,000 homeless men, women, and children across New Jersey, according to the state’s most recent Point-In-Time Count.
This is why, along with assembling kits, Emily has made several presentations surrounding this issue and started a public Instagram account to document her journey. Follow along @help_for_the_homeless_gs.
“Through my lectures, I hope that my audience has become more sensitive and will engage in initiatives to help those in need,” Emily added.
As a member of Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey (GSHNJ) Troop 20205 for the past seven years, Emily has learned that to be a Girl Scout, you need more than just passion. Girl Scouts need to have the commitment to take action to make a change.
“My project wasn’t easy to arrange at times but when I thought about the importance of the project and how people needed my help, I was always able to get back on track,” she said.
Emily’s educational efforts have already paid off, as the management team at Morgan Stanley in Short Hills, has agreed to continue to coordinate a sustainable lunch-making event every year.
“Gold Award Girl Scouts are the dreamers and the doers and Emily has certainly embodied our values through her project,” said GSHNJ CEO Natasha Hemmings. “Through her presentations and lectures, Emily has been able to create a sustainable project that will help the homeless in her community for years to come.”
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