Service project offers chance to ‘face challenges and grow’

By Faith Boyum

Staff Writer

Alayna Finnan planned and implemented the remodeling of a room at the House Compassion in Rochester for her Stars & Stripes service project. (Photo courtesy of Jill Finnan)

Unlike many other American Heritage Girls, it did not take Alayna Finnan long to select her Stars & Stripes project.

Equivalent to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout rank, the Stars & Stripes award required Finnan, who is a student at RCTC, to plan and implement a service project that benefitted a local organization.

These projects require much planning and attention to detail that must be included in extensive paperwork. These and other stipulations on Stars & Stripes projects are designed to stretch a person in many ways. They help American Heritage Girls develop leadership skills that will help prepare them for the real world.

“At the time, I was thinking of doing Stars & Stripes,” she said, and surprisingly, it fell right into her lap. AHG Troop 100 coordinator Tarese Quelle, who has connections to House of Compassion, an organization located in downtown Rochester, was aware that they had a need for a construction-related project and that Finnan was interested in earning the Stars & Stripes Award.

“Alayna’s project was especially dear to my heart because it was for the ministry that my husband works for, the Hands of Compassion (otherwise known as the House of Compassion),” said Quelle, the troop coordinator.

House of Compassion, which is an organization similar to the Ronald McDonald House, provides a place for out-of-town medical patients to stay while they come to the Mayo Clinic for appointments. However, the organization had a need for someone willing to take on their construction project, so Finnan remodeled a room in the gutted basement of the group’s building and transformed it into a bedroom, fulfilling both a community need and the requirements for her project.

“The timing of it was amazing. House of Compassion needed this room completed at the exact time that Alayna needed to find a project,” said her mother, Jill Finnan.

The project itself took about six weeks, or six Saturdays, to complete, but the actual workdays were only a piece of the whole process. The necessary paperwork took much longer to complete. For each of the workdays, multiple people volunteered to help, including AHG troop members, family, friends and members of Finnan’s youth group. Even with this help, there were challenges along the way.

“I’m super quiet,” said Finnan, so it took more courage to direct people, make phone calls and solicit help.

For example, she asked a quilting club if they would be willing to donate a quilt to use as a bedspread for the bedroom to cut down on the financial costs. It also meant practice in speaking in front of a group of people she did not know very well. Another challenge was balancing her homework and the work on the project, since she also is enrolled in classes at RCTC. She would have scheduled workdays on consecutive days, completing the project sooner, except that she needed to work around school and homework.

These difficulties and other challenges of a Stars & Stripes project are something that others can empathize with and are present in many other circumstances. But some of these experiences are well worth the hard work.

“Each project is as individual as each girl. I believe that God puts challenges in each project to grow each girl, and everyone is different,” said her mother, Jill. “No matter what the project, girls will face challenges and grow.”

Quelle, the troop coordinator, agrees.

“I know the organization it takes to be responsible for a lot of people and the details one must know to be successful. It’s no wonder that the Stars and Stripes Award is good for college applications and résumés,” she said.

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