For Ashley Minks, a local Girl Scout from the Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, helping the homeless population stems from volunteer experience during her childhood.
“As a younger kid, I volunteered quite a bit at St. Vincent de Paul. I helped make sack lunches and helped prepare and serve meals to people experiencing homelessness,” said Minks.
“I was also part of Family Promise through my church at the time, which helps homeless and low-income families achieve independence. I spent time preparing meals, and with the program participants, and played with the children while their parents gained skills to earn employment.”
Minks’ passion for giving back to local families also encouraged her to attend a mission trip with City Service Mission to Washington D.C., where she volunteered with children in Anacostia, a low-income suburb.
After dedicating much of her childhood to serving the homeless, Minks turned her passion into inspiration for her Gold Award.
“The homeless population is often ignored and hushed away by society like it doesn’t exist,” said Minks. “I really wanted to do more, and it inspired me to dedicate my Gold Award to helping those in need.”
The Gold Award, considered the most difficult to earn, allows Girl Scouts to take action in their communities by tackling an issue and implementing measurable and sustainable change.
“For my Gold Award project, Caring for the Homeless, I connected with La Mesa Ministries,” said Minks.
“It started as a donation drive mainly at Gilbert High School, where I collected winter essentials before expanding to items for all seasons as well as business casual clothing.”
After finding success with her clothing drive, Minks expanded her project to include content creation for La Mesa Ministries’ social media account and producing materials to grow the children’s ministries.
She created biblical activities “that could teach children experiencing homelessness about the Bible by earning prizes and developed a binder of future lessons.” “I wanted to create something that gave the children a chance to break focus on the challenges they are facing every day.”
In just the first week of creating the La Mesa Ministries Facebook page, Minks reached almost 200 people through the posts and was able to sustain and grow the audience by the end of the first month.
“The social media profiles are kept active by a staff member at La Mesa now, and people are continuing to view the messages,” said Minks, whose Facebook page has 300 fans.
Minks spent almost three hours every Tuesday at La Mesa Ministries for several months to complete her project; totaling over 100 hours in the end.
“The Gold Award and the opportunities it gave me truly reinforced the idea that I could do anything because it’s a project relying solely on me,” said Minks.
“Everything was up to me to complete, and I was able to finish it, bring attention to the issue of homelessness and the incredible work of La Mesa Ministries.”
After graduating from Gilbert High School spring 2018, Minks now attends the University of Arizona as a double major, studying pre-neuro and cognitive science with math with a goal of becoming a physician.
“Prior to college, I had some hesitation about what I really wanted to do,” said Minks. “Completing this project really solidified how much I care about helping others, and that I want to continue helping people as a physician.”
Minks credits Girl Scouts for encouraging her to be the best version of herself and teaching her the value of being able to use her knowledge to help others.
“Being a Girl Scout taught me that I’m capable of accomplishing anything,” said Minks.