By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Tristen Tritt and Penelope Simmons will probably never meet the children who benefit from their Girl Scout projects.

And that’s OK with them.

Tritt is in her eighth year as a Girl Scout; Simmons her seventh. The girls, both eighth-graders, belong to Troop 50042.

This spring they are finishing up projects to earn their Silver Awards, the second highest achievement a Girl Scout can earn.

They each chose a project that could improve their community, and then they invested 50 hours planning and completing their projects.

Anna’s Wish

Tritt, 13, chose to support Anna’s Wish, a project by CASA that provides duffle bags full of supplies to children who enter the foster care system.

CASA stands for Court-Appointed Special Advocates. A CASA is a trained volunteer appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children.

Anna’s Wish developed from an essay written by Anna, a 9-year-old in Ontario who was adopted. Her idea for building a better world was to provide every foster child a backpack or suitcase for their belongings instead of stuffing everything into a garbage bag.

She wrote: “Putting your clothes in a garbage bag is a very uncomfortable position, I know this because it happened to me and I did not like it when I moved from home to home.”

Anna also wanted to give every foster child a book or toy, and a stuffed animal because “kids don’t always want to hug strangers.”

CASA turned her essay into the Anna’s Wish program. A duffle bag embroidered with “AW” is given to a child entering foster care. The bag is packed with a blanket, stuffed animal, book, and age-appropriate items such as shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, and personal hygiene items. Bags for babies include diapers, wipes and a bottle.

The bag then goes with the child when he or she moves.

“Our goal is to always have bags on hand ready to go to make sure they have what they need,” said Mary Collard, executive director of CASA of Eastern Oregon.

For her Silver Award project, Tristen had several collection drives at stores in Baker City to secure donations. She also collected items from family, friends and businesses such as Marvin Wood Products and Rite Aid.

“We got lots of bathroom necessities,” Tritt said.

On Friday, she helped pack 25 duffle bags, each for a different age and had items left over to fill more bags.

There are currently 45 children in foster care in Baker County.

Each Anna’s Wish bag costs about $30 — $16 for the duffle, and $15 worth of supplies. Anyone wishing to sponsor a bag for Anna’s Wish can donate at the CASA office in Baker City, email info@casaeo.org, or call 541-403-1375.

Little Free Library

Simmons, 14, chose a project related to her love of reading — building a Little Free Library and installing it at Brooklyn Primary School.

“When I was a kid, I loved to read,” she said. (She still does.)

With the help of her dad, Jeron, Simmons built a wooden library.

“I actually earned my woodworking badge doing it,” Simmons said.

Simmons’ sister-in-law, Bethany Parker, helped her paint the exterior with characters and quotes from Dr. Seuss books.

“I love Dr. Seuss,” Simmons said. “I love the fun way he does lettering and characters.”

She and her dad installed the library on Friday in front of Brooklyn. It is already stocked with a variety of books for children, and Simmons has $100 from Marvin Wood Products that will help buy books.

“We’re saving that to restock with new ones kids might like,” Simmons said.

The idea of a Little Free Library is simple: Take a book and share a book. Simmons added her library to the national map on the website littlefreelibrary.org.

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