MOUNT ZION — Reduce, reuse and recycle: Those are the three Rs children are being taught, and they are especially important to Brownie Troop 3558 in Mount Zion.
The group of about 15 Scouts recently refurbished two Herald & Review newspaper boxes that hadn’t been used in quite a while to make mini free libraries.
“You can take a book and you can leave a book,” said Jenny Oost, co-leader of the troop, explaining how the free mini library works.
The Scouts' first mini library is next to the gazebo on the north side of the McGaughey Elementary School in Mount Zion. The troop has plans for another box in Corman Park on Salem School Road, Decatur.
The project is allowing the girls to earn a Scout badge and give back to the community. Along with being the primary artists in preparing the mini libraries, the girls were encouraged to collect books throughout the summer.
Ella Himanga, 8, helped decorate the boxes along with her fellow Brownies. She appreciates the mini library, because she also likes books, she said.
Ella was willing to donate books, but had a hard time parting with her favorites.
“All of the books I have I want to keep,” she said.
Many of the Brownies had attended McGaughey Elementary School, making the project a little more personal, as well.
“This is an ownership of something here (at the school),” Jen Himanga, co-leader said. “The girls put decals wherever they wanted. They decorated it like third-graders.”
Lucy Koehn, 9, one of the Brownies who decorated the boxes, said the mini libraries will be good for those who visit the area for something other than school.
“When kids are at baseball games, they can read,” she said. “Games can get boring.”
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Lucy’s mother, Christine Koehn, is a teacher at the school and has watched families spend time in the area hiking the nearby trail, playing on the playground equipment or the watching the ball games.
“There are so many neighborhood kids that ride their bikes or play on the playground,” Koehn said. “It’s amazing how many moms are out here with strollers.”
The troop has been involved in other projects in the past, including helping out in nursing homes, sorting food at the Northeast Community Fund and collecting items for clothing or food drives.
“At this age, the parents kind of have to help,” Himanga said.
Lucy has been involved in other community projects, but said she found the mini libraries more enjoyable.
“It’s been funner, because it is more hands-on stuff to do, not just bagging potatoes,” she said.
The leaders discussed how they would build such a box for a mini library. All ideas required adult help. When Oost found an old newspaper box, she brought the idea of reusing the box to the troop.
“We pulled together ideas on what to do with it,” she said. “They understand community service, but this one clicked.”
The box had important features ideal for a mini library. The door was at an appropriate height for children. It was made of sturdy metal, having already proven its strength in the elements. Maybe best of all, the girls could decorate it their way.
“The girls were able to be more involved with this one,” Himanga said.
During the grand opening on Thursday of the McGaughey mini library, the girls registered their contribution under LittleFreeLibrary.org at a cost of about $35 per box.
The box can now be found by anyone visiting the area, and the Scouts will receive a plaque informing visitors of their official registration.
“If anybody who wanted to search Little Free Library, this one will come up,” Koehn said. “People new to the area or just wanted to know exactly where it was, can find it.”
Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR