Heart of (Girl Scout) Gold
Local High School Senior Gets Creative to Help Homeless
By Jessica Laskey
When Rio Americano High School senior Anna Chriss received the Girl Scout Gold Award this year for The Anna Chriss Homeless Care Package Project, it was not only an acknowledgment of a job well done in the eyes of the Girl Scouts of America—less than 5 percent of Girl Scouts receive the award—but also a celebration of years of hard work that started when Chriss was only 11 years old.
“Sitting in the passenger seat of my parents’ car headed Downtown to Sacramento Ballet for Wednesday night practice, I would ask my mom about the people milling around our local Loaves and Fishes,” Chriss recalls.
“I remember her kind explanation that the people in question are less fortunate than we are and have fewer resources than we do. This was a simple answer, but it was enough to get me thinking about what I could do to improve their situation.”
Chriss compiled a list of supplies that she thought might be appreciated, and enlisted the help of her seventh-grade classmates to donate items and put together care packages that she delivered on Thanksgiving Day.
Thus began an annual tradition for the conscientious Chriss. Every fall, she encourages the community to help her gather food—including chips and candy—hygiene supplies and water for her to personally deliver to the local homeless.
“When you’re homeless, you usually just get the necessities,” Chriss says. “Chips and candy are the happiness aspect. I want to help people feel a little happier inside.”
Five years into the project, Chriss began to think about the possibility of applying for the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting that recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through projects that have a sustainable impact in their communities and beyond.
“It was a huge transition for me,” says Chriss, who’s been a Girl Scout for 11 years. “At first, the reaction of the people—the change I saw in them, the happiness and overwhelming joy—is what fulfilled me. But as I got older and saw how people treat other people, the stigma against homelessness became very present. As Sacramento’s homeless population continues to grow and people are having more and more issues, most of those seem to stem from a negative viewpoint.”
Because the Gold Award project must have an educational aspect, Chriss decided to augment her project’s mission to include an informative component to alter the negative stigma. She researched the causes of homelessness and shared the information far and wide—with her family, her classmates, her Girl Scout Troop and beyond—to make her community that much more informed and compassionate.
“If you share the research and change the way people look at homelessness, hopefully it will create a ripple effect,” Chriss says.
To get involved with The Anna Chriss Homeless Care Package Project, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (916) 488-4676.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at email@example.com.