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Girl Scouts earn award by gathering books for shelters, migrant camps and African library
by: Ray Pitz, Natalie Farci, left, and Kristen Colwell display some of the nearly 2,000 books they’ve collected as part of a their Silver Award Girl Scout project. The books have been donated to area women’s shelters and a migrant camp. Leftover books will benefit a new library in Africa.

Two Cedar Mill Girl Scouts have collected not only enough books to fill shelves at area women's shelters and migrant camps, but also enough to help out a new library in Africa.

Since May, Kristen Colwell and Natalie Farci, both members of Girl Scout Troop No. 645, have collected an estimated 2,000 books as part of a 40-hour service project needed to earn their Silver Award.

Farci, a sophomore at Catlin Gabel School who lives in the North Bethany area, said determining what project to tackle wasn't terribly difficult.

'We're both into books and have been since we were kids,' she said.

'We both think it's important for kids to have materials to read,' added Colwell, a Cedar Mill resident who is a sophomore at Jesuit High School.

Market drop-off

At the beginning of the project, each of the girls spent about two hours walking around their respective neighborhoods distributing fliers and later trying to collect books door-to-door.

'That didn't seem to work out so well,' Farci said of the door-to-door collection.

Colwell said she received only three bags of books from going to about 75 houses.

Instead, the pair began an e-mailing campaign and solicited books via telephone.

'The personal touch worked better,' Colwell pointed out.

Dina Gross, the coordinator of the Cedar Mill Farmers' Market, also allowed the girls to collect books at the weekly event.

'They worked very hard and they came up with the idea and how to do it,' said Gross. 'Coming up with the drop-off at the farmer's market is a great idea.'

So far, the girls have donated children's books to St. Joseph's Shelter in Mount Angel, Campo Azul (a migrant camp in Scholls), Rose Haven Shelter in downtown Portland and the West Women's Shelter in Portland.

'The shelters have been very helpful and thankful to us,' said Farci.

More than a library

No stranger to benevolent drives, Colwell previously collected toys for Campo Azul, receiving enough donated items to fill her friend's attic with everything from dolls to a large ball pit.

What surprised both girls was just how much interest there was, with donations that included not only children's books but those geared toward teens and adults as well.

'I didn't think we'd get this many,' said Farci, surveying the boxes of books in her garage.

And the reading material continues to roll in with someone recently donating 10 small boxes of chapter books, said Farci.

While the majority of books are in good shape, there has been the occasional math book with answers already written in or musical books with dead batteries. Although the math books couldn't be salvaged, the girls did their best to revive the musical books.

'We only replaced the ones with triple A (batteries),' said Colwell, pointing out they had no budget for such a project.

'Some people gave us VHS (tapes) and three DVDs,' said Colwell. 'I don't think they understood what we were trying to do but it's the thought that counts I guess.'

Huge addition

While the pair has to have their Silver Award project completed in the next week, the girls will continue to distribute books to the shelters and plan on contacting the Hillsboro Head Start program to see if they want any of the books.

In addition, left over books will go to a teacher acquaintance of Gross' who's trying to begin a small library in Mauritania, a poor country in West Africa.

'These books will be a huge addition,' said Gross, who plans to leave the collection basket at the market for as long as the girls want.