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Girl scout gets to the root issue

Plants 27 trees for local nonprofit center

Posted: November 4, 2008 10:40 p.m.
Updated: November 5, 2008 4:30 a.m.

Planting trees was a "golden activity" for Emily Elam, a local Girl Scout and senior at Valencia High School.

Elam and a team of volunteers planted 27 pepper trees on Oct 18 at The Gentle Barn, a local nonprofit animal sanctuary and host for at-risk and special-needs children.

Since April, Elam has been tirelessly working toward her Gold Award, the Girl Scout's highest achievement. Her final assignment was to come up with a community service project where she worked a minimum of 65 hours.

"I chose The Gentle Barn (for the project) because I'm very passionate about special needs children as well as animals," Elam said. "I personally was affected by fires about two years ago, so when I found out that the fires had burnt down all their trees and they still needed trees on top of that for shade it really hit home for me. They seem like such an awesome organization."

Single-handedly, she obtained the 27 pepper trees.

"I went around to Girl Scout troops as well as businesses and I asked them to donate a tree in honor of a certain animal or for the tree to be used as shade," Elam said.

She also recruited nearly 100 volunteers to help plant the trees.

"I got some football players to come, as well as my friends, and I also had Girl Scout troops and their families and my family come," Elam said. "It was the most amazing day of my life so far. I'd been working so hard on the project, and I was really nervous because I didn't know what the weather was going to be like. I didn't know if all the people that said they were going to show up would show up. But it just went so smoothly and I'm so grateful to God for that."

Elam's tree-planting endeavor earned her recognition as the first Girl Scout in her service unit to receive the Gold Award.

"Ever since I was in second grade they always said, ‘Oh you're going to get your Gold Award when you're older' and I always thought it was so far away," Elam said. "But then when it came up, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can get my gold award.' It feels so good to have that, because I've been looking forward to it since second grade."

"Emily's project will have a huge impact on The Gentle Barn," said Jay Weiner, director of development. "As the trees mature, they will provide a protective barrier against the wind and much needed shade for the animals. The trees will also help fight soil erosion and beautify the sanctuary."

The Gentle Barn is home to 60 animals including horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, dogs and cats that were rescued from severe neglect and abuse.

The organization also hosts at-risk, inner city, and special needs children in the Santa Clarita Valley through its special programs.

"The immediate benefit is that Emily's project brought the community together with the shared goal of revitalizing The Gentle Barn after the fire damage of November 2007," Weiner said.

"I'm not a superhero, I was just trying to help," Elam said. "I like to give. It makes me happy to see others happy."


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