It was August 2000. I was in between full time jobs and trying to cobble together employment before the new graduate school year started, when I heard about an opportunity to pilot a two-week program in archaeology called Girls Dig It! with Girls Inc. in Lynn, Massachusetts. It was a fantastic experience. The girls were interested and willing to learn. We played games and put together pottery, had lessons in mapping, math and artifact identification. In between, the social workers who supported the class kept the girls alert and engaged. They knew when a break was needed and how to get the girls to talk. I had a great time. But I couldn't forget where these girls were coming from. Lynn is a rough city. One day I overheard two of the girls talking. On their way home from the program the day before, they had turned a corner and run into a man pulling a gun on another man. No shots were fired, but the girls were scared. Even the next day they were still terrified. They had an experience unlike anything I had ever imagined and I felt grateful for the work Girls Inc. and their fantastic social workers were doing to keep these teens safe and supported in a difficult world.
That experience lead me to become a Big Sister with the Big Sister Association of Boston a few years later. I met my "Little" when she was 11 years old. Vivian is now 2 years out of college and looking at graduate school. She is a fantastic, motivated young woman and I am glad to be part of her life.
When I moved to Denver five years ago, I inquired at Big Sisters for volunteer opportunities, but my back and forth schedule made it impossible to commit to regular volunteering.
So, I was excited when I looked on the Girls Inc. of Denver website last month and saw "bean bags" on their wish list. I contacted them and was told that the social workers use the bags for a number of different games and activities. They usually use about six bags at a time and the bags are six-inches square. They needed a dozen. I volunteered.
I wanted to make the bags special, so I thought about embroidering the Girls Inc. logo on them, but 12 logos seemed daunting.
Then I remembered their motto: "Inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold." Here's what I ended up making: six patterned bags and two bags each embroidered with "smart", "strong", or "bold". I expect that the social workers will be able to do some interesting things with them. For example, the girls could stand in a circle and toss the bags. Whoever winds up with an embroidered bag could then state why they are strong, smart or bold. Or if the girls know each other, they could say why the person they are tossing the bag to is strong, smart, or bold. I hope it works well for them.
To make the bags easy to keep track of, I also made two carrying cases. The tutorial for these cases came from Truly Myrtle. It is a fantastic tutorial, because it provides instructions on figuring out dimensions to make whatever size boxy bag you may need. I followed the instructions and, as you can see, the bean bags fit perfectly.
I'm so glad I looked on their website. I'll have to keep checking in with my favorite charities to see how I can contribute in the future. In the meantime, may all girls get the support that they need to be strong, smart, and bold.