Nicole Sanders didn?t let her age or the prospect of hard work keep her from accomplishing her goal to make the Marion County Courthouse a more attractive place.
The 15-year-old high school freshman at Peabody-Burns High School recently completed a landscaping project on the southwest corner of the courthouse in Marion, and last week was instrumental in establishing an annual Marion County Community Service Day each April.
Both ventures grew out of Nicole?s desire to earn a Silver Award through the Girl Scout?s Cadette program.
?It?s the highest award a Cadette can earn, and this is my last year in Cadettes?I?m moving up to Seniors,? she said.
Tina Spencer, who is Nicole?s Girl Scouts troop leader in Peabody as well as county clerk, said, ?We haven?t had a Silver Award winner in Peabody for many years, and I don?t know about elsewhere in Marion County. It is a big deal.?
The idea to landscape around the historic courthouse was initially a group project, Nicole said.
?There were three of us actually going to do the project, but two of them backed out,? she said. ?I was eager.?
With the help of her adviser, Liz Harder, Nicole?s first job was to develop a project plan, then have it approved by the county commissioners.
?We had to go price plants, we had to go measure the area and check out which plants would be good in that area,? Nicole said.
She presented her plan to the commissioners at their Sept. 9 meeting.
?I was nervous,? Nicole admitted.
Her plan included planting perennial flowers, planting flowers that bloom at different times of the year, choosing colorful plants that attract butterflies and humming birds, choosing plants that are easy to grow, installing a drip-irrigation system to make watering easy, using plant fabric to keep weeds down, and using rocks and mulch to keep mud from splattering the building.
Nicole committed herself to invest 50 hours of personal labor, and submitted a budget of $1,900 to cover expenses.
The commissioners suggested Nicole might save money through efforts such as having the county?s road and bridge department haul in needed topsoil.
That said, they approved her plan.
?I was excited,? Nicole said.
She also was under some time pressure. The application process for the Silver Award required that her project be completed and the paperwork turned in by Sept. 30.
Nicole and a small team of volunteer assistants went to work as schedules allowed.
?There were some times we worked on Saturdays, and a few times on Wednesday evenings,? Nicole said.
In addition to Harder and Spencer, on-site volunteers included Nicole?s mother, Janine Foth; Spen?cer?s daughter, Sarah; and even Com?missioner Dan Holub, who donated a good portion of the supplies for the drip system, and showed Nicole how to install it.
Foth said she was pleased with the way Nicole followed through on the project.
?We kind of stuck to ?once you make the commitment to do it, you have to finish it,?? she said. ?But she never really did go through a ?I don?t want to go, I don?t want to work on this? phase.?
?I think it happened too fast for her she didn?t have a chance to do it.?
Foth also credited Nicole?s troop leader.
?Tina had a lot to do with that, keeping (Nicole) encouraged. She kept her so motivated, we really didn?t have to.?
When Nicole presented a project-ending video to the commissioners at their Sept. 30 meeting, they added their affirmation?especially when they saw that her project finished nearly $1,000 under budget, thanks in part to several donations that reduced expenses.
At the end of her presentation, Nicole introduced her idea to establish a county-wide cleanup day. After some discussion, the commissioners approved a proclamation making the last Friday in April ?Marion County Community Service Day,? with the intent of seeing students and adults participating.
When it was time to sign the official proclamation, Commission Chair Randy Dallke invited Nicole to add her signatures to theirs, formally making her a part of Marion County history.
Despite her project being mentioned in local newspapers, Nicole said her efforts have gone largely unnoticed by her classmates at school?and she doesn?t mind.
?The teachers of the school have (noticed),? she said. ?They?re just saying good job. They?re proud of me.?
Nicole said the courthouse project could have additional stages.
?Maybe in the spring we?ll go back and do the other side with spring plants so we?ll have more variety of plants,? she said.
This month Nicole has transitioned from Cadette to Senior Girl Scouts.
?There?s a Gold Award, which is the highest award that an actual Girl Scout can earn,? she said. ?We?ll be working on the gold.?