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Coastsider Natalie Dean stands in front of the community garden she revitalized in part to earn the Girl Scout Silver Award. Photo courtesy of Jenny Stevens

Natalie Dean, a member of the Coastside Girl Scout Troop 61960, was recently presented with the Girl Scout Silver Award. The honor is the highest award that a Girl Scout can earn and requires the scout to complete a Take Action Project that identifies and works to solve a community issue. 

Dean, who is now a ninthgrader at Mercy High School, chose hunger, and began working to renovate a community garden at her former middle school. She targeted an existing garden space located behing the school’s annex building that had been left unattended for years. The space, while clearly intended to be a community garden, was filled with garbage, weeds, overgrown ivy, rotting wood and more junk. Dean’s mission was clear: to completely clear the garden and then construct a new garden that would yield low-maintenance, high-quality food for both parish and community members. 

“I completely redid a community garden at All Souls Catholic School,” said Dean. “I tore up the AstroTurf they had in there as well as a couple of bushes and an old watering system that they never used. 

“I made planter boxes and put in some plants that I bought,” she continued. “I also put in a new section of gates as well as a wind blocker. It’s completely redone.” 

Dean decided to revitalize the garden due to the diverse socioeconomic makeup of both the parish and school. According to an emailed statement from troop leader Jenny Stevens, the All Souls Parish and All Souls Catholic School community consists of a wide range of ethnic, cultural, and economic backgrounds. The community relies on the Archdiocese of San Francisco and nonprofit grants to help sustain it. The school includes an on-site cafeteria available to all students, and it provides subsidized meals to qualifying students. The school also receives grants to help subsidize meals to the after-school program. 

“I thought that it would be something nice to do for the school and the community,” said Dean. “Some people don’t have the resources necessary to have a nice garden. Now, through the school and the community, they will be able to enjoy this garden.” 

Many of the vegetable, fruit, and herb plants are perennials, meaning that if they are properly cultivated, they can grow and produce for years. 

“All edible, except for the flowers. They are all native plants, all hummingbird and bee friendly,” she said. “I picked the plants that would use very little water and that would be high-yielding crops that would produce a lot of food for a very small area.” 

Dean, who has been a member of Girl Scouts for a decade, feels good about the completion of her project. 

“I am happy that I got to make something and leave it behind for the other kids,” she said. “The shape of the garden would have gotten a lot worse, so I feel good that I could put something there that is useful to the community and to the other kids.”

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