A Girl Scout troop has been working on projects to benefit both the Healdsburg and Windsor communities for years.
Belying their ages of 12 and 13, the girls have been working on projects for seven years, the time Windsor Girl Scout Troop 11302 has been together.
In 2015, as they sought to create a fitting project, two of the girls, Ava Gonzales and Tricia McMahon, both students at St. John’s School in Healdsburg, consulted with the Rev. Sean Rogers about a project. Rogers originally proposed a gift-wrapping service for the holidays that year, but the girls wanted something more “sustainable.”
The troop wanted a project that would have a lasting impact on the community.
Rogers then shared his dream of having a life-sized manger at the church through the holiday season. The troop had seven weeks to build it.
“Father Sean wanted to bring Jesus into the community,” Gonzales said.
Rising to the challenge, the girls began raising money and seeking in-kind donations for the project. Every business they approached responded affirmatively, troop leader Jennifer Wall said in an email.
After gathering together the wood and other necessary material, the girls got to work. They measured, hammered, nailed and sealed the manger.
Gonzales, McMahon and their fellow scouts, Sophia Williams, Landen Smith, Alyssa Schmid and Miel Schaffer, each put in more than 20 hours on the project. The manger was first installed just after Thanksgiving that year and has taken its place at the front of the church each year since.
The figurines representing the holy family, the three wise men and the shepherds were purchased thanks to a donation by Annemarie Bucher, who made it in memory of her late husband, Joe Bucher, who died that November.
Annemarie Bucher, who attended the unveiling, continues to be involved the project. She stores the whole manger scene between Christmas seasons.
The manger scene is placed each year with little fanfare. However, Rogers mentions it at mass, where he reminds parishioners the Baby Jesus figure will not be part of the scene until Christmas Eve.
Rogers said the community immediately came together to support the project.
“Community response has been great,” he said. “It’s a highlight of the season. It gives people a place to stop and reflect on the season. It’s a public display of the Christmas miracle.”
Four of the six Girl Scouts involved in the manger remain in the troop, and are busy creating new projects. The 15-member Windsor troop includes girls from Cloverdale, Windsor, Healdsburg and Santa Rosa.
Last year, they all earned Presidential Volunteer Service Awards with the Girl Scouts. They’re on track again this year to win awards.
The girls credit Wall, calling her an “encouraging leader.”
Their recent projects include a bee habitat and hummingbird garden at the Windsor Museum and a painted rock garden near the Windsor Town Green.
In 2020, the troop plans to visit the birthplace of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Georgia, so they’ll be raising money for the trip.
The nativity will remain in place through Jan. 6, on the northwest side of the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 208 Matheson St., in Healdsburg.