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Teen earns Girl Scout gold with children’s garden

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Girl Scout Megan Stafford is pictured Nov. 3 in the children's prayer garden she designed and built at Ben Davis Christian Church in Indianapolis. The project earned her Girl Scouting's highest honor, the Gold Award. PHOTO BY JOE SABA
Girl Scout Megan Stafford is pictured Nov. 3 in the children's prayer garden she designed and built at Ben Davis Christian Church in Indianapolis. The project earned her Girl Scouting's highest honor, the Gold Award. PHOTO BY JOE SABA

In a corner of the property at Ben Davis Christian Church, a small sanctuary has been established where children can pray.

Child-sized benches give them a quiet place to sit. Small bushes beautify the previously unoccupied area. Prayer posts provide a focal point for the children, and a place where Sunday school teachers can lead devotionals.

A book provides devotional studies for all ages.

The church’s new prayer garden is the vision of one of its members, Megan Stafford. The 17-year-old Bargersville teen designed and constructed the tranquil space for children as part of her final project in Girl Scouts.

Her work has earned her the Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting.

“I did it to help my church, to help the kids. But it’s nice to have the award; it’ll help me later in life,” she said.

Stafford has been a Girl Scout since she was in first grade. She credits the organization with creating a close-knit group of friends and developing aspects of her personality that otherwise might have never been tapped.

“It’s helped me to be more of a leader. I’m more vocal, more willing to speak out on things,” she said.

Helping hand

Name: Megan Stafford

Age: 17

Home: Bargersville

School: Senior at Center Grove High School

Parents: Laura and James Stafford

Future plans: Attend Ball State University in fall 2014 to study English

Stafford volunteers with the children’s ministry at Ben Davis Christian Church, which is where she first realized that they were lacking an area specifically for children. That played in nicely with her search for a large-scale community project for Girl Scouts.

“I wanted to make a place where they could learn about Christ on their level, at their own pace,” she said.

Over the next three months, Stafford worked on a design and estimated costs. She presented her idea to the Girls Scouts of Central Indiana council to ensure it would meet the criteria for the Gold Award. The award recognizes leadership and impact on the surrounding community, and Stafford’s prayer garden fell into that category.

She also took the idea to the church leaders to gain their approval. The garden would be a wonderful addition to the exterior children’s play area, said Tony Johnson, associate minister at Ben Davis Christian Church.

“Megan, and her family in particular, have worked years and years in our children’s ministry,” he said. “It was a natural fit for her that it should be here, and that she had this vision for reaching kids for Jesus.”

Stafford received help from a landscape architect and general contractor in planning the garden. Working with family friends and supporters, she raised the $630 necessary to buy supplies.

Lowe’s Home Improvement offered her 20 percent off all her lumber, mulch, plants and other purchases, which helped.

With the plans in place, Stafford and about 15 fellow Girl Scouts spent a work day in June creating the garden. They removed clumps of crabgrass and dug holes for the bushes.

They cordoned off the boundary, put landscaping fabric down and covered it with rubber mulching that would protect kids if they fell down.

To keep the trinity posts upright, they poured concrete around the base. Two benches, which Stafford had put together in advance, were arranged in a semi-circle around the trinity posts.

“She did a beautiful job. Her vision came to fruition, and now it’s a wonderful part of our children’s ministry,” Johnson said.

A senior at Center Grove High School, Stafford plans to attend Ball State University to pursue a degree in English.

This will be the last year she will be active in Girl Scouts. She’ll graduate to adult Scout and will help with camp and other activities in the future.

“I won’t be able to do as much, but I can still be a part of it,” she said.

But even if she starts to scale back her involvement in Girl Scouts, she realizes the prayer garden will be a lasting legacy for herself and her church.

“It was exciting to see it done. It was received by everyone else a lot better than I thought it was. I didn’t realize how excited everyone else would be to see it done,” she said.

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