This article can be found published on the Southern Chester County Weeklies‘ website.
Jess Oehler is no stranger to helping out in her community.
She has spent the last few years helping the homeless in the Philadelphia area by donating food and, shortly after, she stumbled across “Teens for Jeans” and started a donation drive at Unionville High School to give jeans to needy teenagers in the area.
Now, as part of her project to earn the Gold Award, the highest award given in Girl Scouts, Oehler helped the Chadds Ford Elementary School by renovating and creating games for the annual Fall Festival, previously known as the May Fair.
“It is a minimum 80-hour project that is to benefit some type of community service that benefits not just one person, but a group,” said Valerie Oehler, her mother. “The big thing is it must be sustainable. Whatever the project, it has to carry on after the Girl Scout is done with it.”
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Oehler, a graduate of Chadds Ford, was approached by the former PTO chair of the fair.
“(The chair) knew me and knew Jessica was a Girl Scout and had just finished her Silver (Award) and knew the Gold was a big project,” Valerie Oehler said. “She told us these games were old and worn out and weathered. They needed to all be fixed and renovated and (the PTO) would love for Jessie to build a new game – whatever game she wants.”
The Fall Festival is a 65-year-old tradition started by Betsy Wyeth and has become the second largest fundraiser for Chadds Ford Elementary over that time. Last year alone, roughly 600 people attended the event.
Through the money raised at the Festival, along with other fundraisers, the PTO has been able provide smartboards, iPads, teaching aids and library books, just to name a few things.
“As a high schooler, (Jess) has volunteered at the May Fair and she even noticed how badly in shape the games were,” Valerie Oehler said. “When we did have this discussion with the chair person, my daughter thought this would be good because these were the same games she played with when she was at Chadds Ford Elementary. She thought it was neat to help them out.”
The project, which involved renovating seven games along with designing and building a new one, took her 72 hours, with 10 additional hours of leadership, over two years and she solicited the help of nine volunteers made up of students and adults.
When all was said and done, the games looked brand new. The actual new game Oehler built was a wooden ring toss.
Even Sen. Dominic Pileggi and Rep. Stephen Barrar have taken notice.
“She’s getting recognition letters now from the Congressman and Senator with letters of Citations for accomplishing her goals,” Valerie Oehler said.
The accolades will continue to roll in for Oehler when she attends one of the first PTO meetings in the fall, where they plan to thank her for all she did for the Festival. Then, in the spring, she reaches her ultimate award.
“The big Girl Scout reception is in April where she gets on stage and gets honored as accomplishing her goals,” Valerie Oehler said.