NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. by: John Gerow (RVO) – It is not uncommon for children to have dreams of making the world a better place. What is uncommon, though, is when a child has the strength of character, the endurance, and the family and community support to move an idea from the realm of dreams into the light of day. New Bethlehem is home to one such uncommon child; 13-year-old Emily Truitt.
Emily’s vision for making the world a better place is to create a quiet place, in honor of America’s military veterans, where people can go to “catch their breaths” and take a breather from the hectic pace of modern life. Her “Victory Garden” will be a calm place for anyone who needs it. She described it as being a “quiet place where people can focus on the moment and escape the outside world.”
When asked about the inspiration for this project Emily said, “I saw that veteran families were struggling. I wanted to build them a place where they could relax and calm down.” The struggle of veteran families is not a nebulous, theoretical concept to Emily, it is something that she lives with every day. Emily’s mom, Jessie, a 9-year military veteran, deals with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as a result of her service to the country. Watching her mother’s struggle has given Emily a rare insight into the difficulties that many of our veterans’ deal with.
Emily envisions the Victory Garden to be a paved patio surrounding a raised flower bed for the flags of the United States, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the MIA/POW flag. She sees red, white and blue flowers to symbolize honor, service, sacrifice, and healing. There will be a pedestal on each corner and benches along three sides of the patio. While most memorials dedicated to our warriors tend to be solemn places that focus on the sacrifices, Emily is hoping that the New Bethlehem Victory Garden will focus on hope and healing and will have an open, welcoming atmosphere.
Part of Emily’s Victory Garden project is raising the funds necessary to build the memorial. Emily needs to raise $30,000. The money will be used to build the project. Just several months into it, Emily is about 25% of the way to her goal. In March, she hosted a very successful spaghetti dinner as a fundraiser and is spending this “fair week” selling beach-themed clothes and home décor at the Redbank Valley Community Center on Broad Street. Her “Boardwalk on Broad Street” is a truly unique fundraiser for the area.
Emily is being assisted by an advisory board made up of local residents. Emily’s board includes Liz & Ev Botelho, Rich Schillings, Leeann Ishman, Lynne Tharan, Cindy Morgan, Gordon Barrows, and Ty Hopper. Emily also credited the men and women of The Moose as being “in her corner” for the project.
Former area resident, Michelle Rutkowski, who operates several shops on the Boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey, donated a truckload of her overstocked clothes, beach shoes, and décor items for Emily to sell as a fundraiser. Michelle donated the inventory in memory of her grandfather, long time area denizen Mr. Gene Rutkowski. Michelle’s generous donation came just in time; the Community Center was going to be closed during the Clarion County Fair before the “Boardwalk on Broad Street” idea came together.
Emily has undertaken this effort as her Girl Scout Silver Award project. The Silver Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout Cadette can achieve. It is open to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. Emily will have to complete her project by the end of September 2020. The “Boardwalk on Broad Street” fundraiser will continue through Saturday, July 27.
Emily is there from 8 am until 6 pm. She’d love to show you some great beachwear and talk about her project – Stop by and see her! For more information on the Victory Garden project, or to find out how you can help, please contact Emily through her mom, at 814.229.6652 or by email at [email protected] You can follow the project online at www.gsvictorygarden.com.
Redbank Valley School District provides education services for the 165 square mile area of New Bethlehem and Hawthorn boroughs, and the townships of Mahoning, Madison, Porter, and Redbank of both Clarion and Armstrong counties.
The Redbank Valley School Board meetings the first Monday of every month at 7pm at the High School Library.
For more information about the Redbank Valley School District, please call 814.275.2426 or visit RedbankValley.org/pg/biz/redbank-valley-school-district