Girl Scout builds arbor at Hope Garden


Ashley Sander

Ashley Sander is joining an elite group of Girl Scouts to earn the group’s highest honor, the Gold Award.

More important, her project to earn that award will ultimately help provide fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need.

Sander, 17, built an arbor at the Hope Garden in Jasper.

“We built an arbor, so that we can plant vegetables that grow on vines,” she said. “The vines will grow up on the arbor and produce food for families.”

The Hope Garden was established in 2016 by the Memorial Hospital Foundation and the Purdue Extension to fight food insecurity in the hospital’s service area — Dubois, Spencer, Pike, Daviess and Martin counties. The goal of the garden, which sits on land near the Memorial Hospital Lodge, 2590 S. Newton St., is to provide a community agricultural space on which food is grown for the food-insecure population. Food-insecure families have trouble obtaining healthy foods — such as not having easy access to a grocery store that sells fresh fruit and vegetables — but don’t necessarily qualify for government assistance.

Ashley, who has helped at the garden, knew that organizers wanted to add an arbor. She saw that being a perfect project to earn her Gold Award.

“So we decided that we would try it,” she said. “And it worked.”

To earn a Gold Award, a Girl Scout must complete two booklets, which are called journeys, and then create a plan about what project they want to do. The project must: Make a lasting difference in the local community, region or beyond; Put the Girl Scout Promise and Law into action; Include provisions to ensure sustainability; Identify national and/global links to the girl’s selected issue; and inspire others.

The new arbor at the Hope Garden

Ashley had to get the project approved by the Girl Scout Council in Evansville. She will have to go back to the council to do a final presentation for the award.

Ashley enlisted the help of her family, including her parents, Mark and Tonya Sander. “I’ve never built one,” she said. “But my dad and some of his brothers are really good with this kind of stuff.” She also got help from JOJ Sander Inc. in Ireland and Grand Rental in Jasper, she said.

After creating a plan, they started building the arbor in August and finished at the end of October. The arbor is made from barn beams that were re-purposed from an old barn that had been torn down. An organic sealant was applied to help preserve these beams.

Ashley is a senior at Jasper High School and has been in the Girl Scouts for 13 years. She is a member of Girl Scout Troop 243 and has earned dozens of scout badges over those years. Her mom was a Girl Scout and has served as a scout leader.

Earning a Gold Award was not something Ashley really thought about doing. “I didn’t think about it until I got older and heard other people talking about it,” she said. “Not many scouts do this anymore. But I thought I could do it.”

The Gold Award is awarded to fewer than 6% of Girl Scouts annually, according to information provided by the Girls Scouts of the United States of America.

Now that the arbor is installed, Ashley hopes it will help provide food to many people.

“There are a lot of families in our area that aren’t able to have good nutrition,” she said. “There are many ways we can help them. But you have to take the time to help them.”

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