When organizers launched Girl Scout Troop 721 at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Waxhaw last December, they were certain of one thing: They wanted a troop that would focus on missions.

On Saturday, at the small church nestled amid the soybean fields of Union County, the troop delivered 54 book bags and a stash of school supplies to the Union County Department of Social Services. The bags will go to some of the estimated 65 children in the county’s foster care system.

“What we’re trying to teach the girls is how to put back into the community, how to be a blessing to others, how to appreciate what they have,” said Debra Forrest, one of the troop leaders.

For Union County DSS, the gift could not have come at a better time. Stung by budget cuts, the agency has had to eliminate staff and programs.

Gloria Haney, the agency’s volunteer coordinator, came to Mt. Pisgah to accept the gifts. With less money to spend, DSS has eliminated a program that used to buy birthday gifts for children in foster homes, she told the girls. Haney said she’s now recruiting volunteers, asking each to spend $30 to sponsor a foster child’s birthday.

“Don’t always take for granted that notebooks, pencils and paper are easy to buy,” told the scouts during a brief presentation in the church sanctuary. “Some families have to choose between school supplies and paying the bills. The book bags you’ve given will help a lot of children.”

Troop 721 is Union County’s first and only African American Girl Scout troop, Forrest said. The girls sold about 1,500 boxes of cookies this year and used the proceeds to buy the book bags. Forrest said they also collected donations from church members.

Alexus Deese, 11, a student at Parkwood Middle School, said the girls decided among themselves which project they would support.

“It makes me feel good that we can help others get book bags,” she said.

Forrest said the troop will soon begin looking for its next mission project.

Photo Below: Members of Girl Scout Troop 721 load book bags into the trunk of Union County Department of Social Services volunteer services coordinator Gloria Haney, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009. (Photo: Qcitymetro.com)

Photo Below: Members of Girl Scout Troop 721 pose with some of the book bags donated to children in the Union County foster care system, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009. (Photo: Qcitymetro.com)

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