Local News

Girl Scouts preserve history in sidewalk project

— History came full circle Thursday for generations of Girl Scouts, and it all started with a decrepit sidewalk by the Girl Scout House in downtown Sebring.

After about 40 hours of painstaking work since February, four Troop 773 Girl Scouts - Mikyla Berish, Zoe Stanley, Casey Pollard and Torie Allen - re-etched on a new concrete path more than 60 names of former Girls Scouts and Girl Scout leaders that had once been penciled in on a sidewalk the county is now tearing up.

Most of the names are from 1947 to ‘48 and were likely written in when concrete was being poured on the old sidewalk, said Marie Stanley, Zoe Stanley’s mother.

That sidewalk has since gotten decrepit and needed to be replaced.

When the troop heard about the county’s plan, they turned it into a Silver Award project for the four cadettes, an ambitious undertaking that started with identifying the names of the women, hopefully tracking them down and then re-etching the names on the new walkway.

The Silver Award, which requires a minimum of 50 hours of work by each participating Scout, will culminate in a dedication ceremony of the Honor Sidewalk, sometime in the fall, when they are also hoping to recognize some of the women or their families.

“It’s been a lot of work,” said Torie Allen.”It’s been very nice.”

Mayor John Shoop who was invited to write his name said it was a neat project.

“It’s preserving history. It’s a huge undertaking,” he said.

Thursday, the four girls were joined by current Girl Scouts, also from other troops, who came to etch their John Hancocks.

Girl Scouts Elizabeth Rosario, Molly Leatherman and Jazsmine Ganaban, said they were tickled with the idea of writing their names.

“People are going to walk and say, ‘Who is that?’ Is that someone important?’” Ganaban said.

Also being re-installed Thursday was a time capsule that has been opened and reburied since 1939 and will be nestled in the middle of the new walkway with a plaque showing its history.

The time capsule, which has memorabilia from 1939 to today, is scheduled to be reopened in 25 years.

“It’s exciting that in 25 years my daughter will be able to bring her daughter,” smiled Stanley.

Troop leader Danyle Berish said she was pleased with the progress they’ve made, adding the girls have worked very hard.

About 10 to 12 of the former Girl Scouts or their families whose names were on the old sidewalk contacted the troop when they heard about the project.

“They gave us so many stories,” Berish laughed.

In an email, Pat Jackson Lukens, who now lives in Colorado, remembers them putting their names and hand prints in the sidewalk at the log house.

“Mrs. Josh Spooner was our leader. I was in the same troop as Joan Higgins Hartt whose name was on the list. She lives in Avon Park now,” she wrote. “I loved being a scout. We did many activities, earned lots of badges, did lots of good things in the community and had lots of fun.”

Spooner lived in Sebring through 1953 when she graduated from Sebring High School. She went to the University of Colorado and then taught elementary school in Denver, Colo. She got married and raised three children.

“I wish you good luck in finding all the people on your list. ...I think this is a great project that you are doing. It is nice to know that you are preserving the history of our scouting days,” she added.

The troop has set up a Facebook page - Highlands 773 Silver Award - where the girls are posting their updates, along with pictures. They can also be emailed at girlscouttroop773@gmail.com

For now, the girls and their families are happy they undertook the project.

“We were not anticipating it,” Berish said. “Then the county came to us and asked if we could help. We said. ‘Oh!Oh! Let’s see what we can do.”

“It’s history,” Stanley added. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”