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West Linn twins go for Girl Scout silver now, gold later

Aileen and Grace Converse are working hard on projects to make Clark Street better

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Aileen and Grace look remarkably alike. They are also remarkable in their intelligence, talent and public spiritedness. They are great role models for Girl Scouts.The Converse sisters don’t want to change the world. At least not yet.

Right now the identical twins just want to change their neighborhood on Clark Street in West Linn. Afterward they plan to change Oregon, which is pretty good for a couple of 13 year olds.

After all, Aileen and Grace Converse are Girl Scouts.

“We’re Girl Scouts,” said their mother Lorraine Converse. “We can get it done.”

Grace reminded her mother, “Girl Scouts do not have magical powers.”

This may be, however, a case of mother knowing best.

Because they are such good Girl Scouts, Grace and Aileen are going for the top in scouting honors. Ultimately they plan on earning the Gold Award, the highest honor given by the Girl Scouts of America. Meanwhile, they are staying super-humanly busy by earning the Silver Award. Aileen is making impoverished children of the Northwest the target of her good work, while Grace is seeking to have Oregon native plants blooming up and down Clark Street.

“Twenty-three percent of the children in the Northwest are impoverished,” Aileen said. “We can do better than that.”

Aileen is doing her part to turn the tide on this sad situation by collecting huge amounts of baby supplies, and she is targeting not only her neighbors on Clark Street but everyone in West Linn. Although she describes herself as shy, Aileen has already proven herself as an outstanding speaker.

“I like helping kids,” Aileen explained. “I’m training to be a PA (programing assistant) for the Girl Scouts.”

Good things happen to those who try hard. While going door to door in an effort to collect baby stuff, Aileen encountered one neighbor who said, “Go to my garage.”

“I thought ‘Maybe is this a suspicious character.’ “ Aileen said. But she went back to the garage anyway and saw a big box of baby clothing. “Jackpot!” she said.

While Aileen is attending to the children, Grace is attending to the ecology of her neighborhood by promoting the planting of Oregon native plants in the parkways on Clark Street. She is not happy with the response so far, so she is working hard to line up plant planters and volunteers for her special event this weekend. Like her sister, Grace is a great communicator. Her sales pitch is superb.

“Native plants are drought tolerant,” Grace said. “You just water them once a week and they’re bullet proof. A nuclear bomb couldn’t uproot them. If our parkways are allowed to go fallow, the soil will erode when it rains. If native plants are planted they’ll supply our native wildlife. One little plant will have an impact all the way up the food chain.”

Right now, Grace has only three volunteers — “they’re sitting right here” — but she has a wonderful incentive planned to draw donations and volunteers. She is holding an ice cream party right in the driveway of her home on Saturday at noon.

The Converse girls are not just thinking of the present and earning their Silver Awards, they are thinking of the effect their projects will have in the future.

“The baby supply project of Northwest Children’s Outreach has reached 250,000 children,” Aileen said. “It’s wonderful. I hope someone will take over this project. I would like the city council to take it over next year and work to keep it going. I’m trying to get some organizations to make baby supply drives.”

“I’m challenging the city of West Linn to have an annual Go Native campaign to promote planting native plants,” Grace said. “We also need small businesses to donate plants, soil, compost and more.”

Lorraine hopes her optimism will tide her girls over.

“They have a grand vision and hope for the future,” she said.

To meet the Converse twins is to be amazed by them. In most ways they are every-day, charming 13-year-old girls who are looking forward to going to high school this fall. But they are different in that they already have vision and goals and have the ability to accomplish them. The girls are this way largely because mother Lorraine and father Tyler have raised them this way. Lorraine was an English major in college and she home schooled the twins until they were 10 years old. Instead of allowing them to watch lots of videos and television, she handed them lots of books. It paid off big.

“Mom had us read aloud from books,” Grace said, “and we read a lot.”

How many eighth grade girls can vividly discuss novels like “The Old Man and the Sea,” “Of Mice and Men” and “The Great Gatsby?” Aileen and Grace can. But they don’t love every book mother gives them. Like “Catcher in the Rye.”

“That guy swears every sentence,” Grace complained.

Defending herself, Lorraine said, “You have to read all kinds of books. You’ll be going out into the world.”

The interesting life of the Converse girls includes fencing (the family recently hosted some champion fencers from Mexico) and music. Aileen plays the double bass, Grace plays the cello and they both want to learn to play the ukulele. Grace recently had a chicken-training project that culminated with a graduation ceremony for five chickens. Throw in sewing, crocheting, gardening and cooking, and you get a good idea of what Aileen and Grace are all about.

What they really love, though, are being Girl Scouts. They are proud members of Troop 40529. Aileen has already picked out her Gold Award project, which is introducing a program to require Clackamas County medics to be aware of Adrenal Insufficiency Syndrome and carry a supply of the medication, Solu Cortef, on all first-responder rigs, rather than waiting to administer the drug at a hospital, when it may be too late. This condition caused the death of one of Lorraine’s cousin, Annie Lee Sullivan, when she was just 8 years old. The Converse family memorializes Annie every year by baking “Cupcakes for Annie” and taking them to emergency technicians at fire stations and hospitals.

Surprisingly, Grace does not have her own Gold Award project picked out yet. But doubtlessly it will be something that will improve mankind.

To sign up for Grace Converse’s native plant project, go to the website solv.org, where she is listed as coordinator.

To contribute to Aileen Converse’s baby supply project, you can drop off items at the West Linn Public Library, the Rosemont Middle School Library and Starbucks at two locations, Salamo Drive and Willamette Drive. Persons interest in helping the girls can go to facebook.com/gs40259westlinn

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