By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Members of Girl Scout Troop 11023 recently donated $200 and 132 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to an orphanage in Haiti. The girls had decided to use part of the money they raised in their recent cookie sale to help others. On hand to receive the check and cases of cookies was Cherylann Gengel of Holden, a founder of the Be Like Brit Foundation.
Gengel and her husband Len started the charity in memory of their 19-year-old daughter Britney Gengel, who was killed in the earthquake of 2010 while she was on a student mission from Florida’s Lynn University.
Her parents wanted to create a permanent memorial to honor their daughter and her commitment to the children who live in such devastating poverty. Today, an orphanage built by the foundation houses 66 students, 33 girls and 33 boys. ‘Be Like Brit’ provides the children with shelter, food, clean water, schooling, and medical and dental care in a loving environment.
“The orphans don’t have moms or dads,” Gengel explained. “They can’t afford to go to school. Before living in the orphanage, the kids usually ate only once every two days.”
When Gengel arrived at the Floral Street School to meet with the troop, the girls had prepared questions and conducted a round table discussion. They learned that the foundation has over 8,000 people who have donated their time and/or money to support the cause. Be Like Brit has an office in Worcester, where the staff coordinates fundraising and donations to its wish list, sends supplies to Haiti, manages the website, and organizes the twice-monthly volunteer trips by “Britsionarys,” the name coined to describe the hundreds of volunteers from all over the world who visit and volunteer at the B-shaped facility in the Caribbean.
The Girl Scouts wanted to learn more about the daily routine.
“The kids are all in bed by 7:30 or 8 p.m. during the week,” Gengel told them. “They can stay up later on Fridays for the weekly dance. They get up early, at 5:30 a.m. In school they speak Creole and learn French and English.”
When one of the Scouts asked what else they could do to help, Gengel answered: “Tell other people; watch us on Facebook. Look at the wish list online. We always need basic supplies, and the list changes as we receive donations.”
The girls were eager to answer Gengel’s questions about how they raised the donation money and being Girl Scouts. The girls were proud to tell her that their troop sold over 3,500 boxes of cookies.
Girl Scout Sylvia Dempsey said, “I like being able to help others. The children in Haiti were [going to] have a better life, and they were going to be taken care of.”
Becca Russo said, “I like teaching others how to do stuff. Last year we helped the kids in kindergarten make cards.”
Added Samantha Azzarone: “I like supporting causes, and I like the badges that we do. I’ve done eight badges.”
The troop is made up of fourth graders and meets every Monday after school with leaders Michelle Herlihy, Diana Campos and Debra Dempsey. They plan to continue their work with the Be Like Brit organization.