Girl Scout Wins Gold Award for Helping at KCMO Domestic Violence Shelter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Avery McKenna enjoys being a Girl Scout with Troop 1899.

“I love spending time outdoors, I love leadership activities, I also love doing service,” Avery said.

She was a Girl Scout since entering kindergarten as a daisy.

Over the years, she’s earned patches and other forms of recognition for her hard work, but none are more important than the highest honor, the Gold Award, which only 6% of Girl Scouts get.

This summer, Avery spent more than 100 hours working for his award on a specific project, sowing seeds to help victims of domestic violence living in Newhouse.

“I saw the possibility of a garden, I saw the possibility of sensory walls and a beautiful used space outdoors,” she said.

Brittany Leathers, Director of Educational Innovation at New houseclaims that the refuge is the oldest in the urban core.

“We don’t just serve women and children, and that’s what makes us special,” Leathers said. “We are a domestic violence shelter for people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations – anyone who is escaping a sense of domestic violence in their home.”

Newhouse offers an on-site school as well as an early learning centre. Leathers says providing free child care services to customers can more easily “focus on themselves.”

Now, thanks to Avery, the shelter also offers a garden and sensory walls.

“It’s just been our backyard that nobody really uses because there just wasn’t the time and effort to be able to nurture it and make it a welcoming place,” Leathers said.

But when Avery got down to business, she was able to put down roots for families in need.

“It’s three tiers – there are cherries, blueberries, tomatoes, potatoes, as well as several different kinds of flowers,” Avery said. “Sensory walls on their fence, little boards that have things they can hit and move and make noise and really engage all of their senses.”

According to Leathers, her project can help customers, especially children, move on.

“You’re stuck with a group of people that you meet and leave a very traumatic situation, and coming to a place where you don’t know anyone can often add another layer of trauma to their situation,” Leathers said. “It kind of allows them to escape reality, to sit down for a while and have fun.”

Working on the project and meeting clients, Avery feels she had “an impact for them, that I was teaching them and they would take ownership of the garden and their space.”

And from what Leathers has seen so far, the fruits of Avery’s labors are already flourishing.

“Our ultimate goal is to continue to cultivate the garden and enable our children to learn to water gardens, pick fresh fruit and be able to eat fresh fruit and vegetables,” Leathers said.

Reflecting on the completion of her project, Avery says she is happy to have helped.

“Domestic violence was really an issue that I didn’t know much about before embarking on this project,” she said. “I think I’m so much better for it that comes out of it. I got to see an issue that I didn’t really know was present in our community, and I helped make a lasting impact for many people who live there.