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Local Girl Scout’s project helps children go places through reading

Laurie Everett • Updated Aug 9, 2013 at 4:19 PM

She sold Girl Scout cookies like gangbusters, virtually tripling her cookie sales over the years to 2,000 boxes by sixth-grade.

Emma Eck’s mother, Jennifer, said her daughter was “so shy and quiet in the first-grade.” Emma’s involvement with Girl Scout Troop 1322 helped her blossom so much that recently she garnered her Girl Scout Silver Award with a project that will likely touch thousands of young readers through the years.

When she was 13 years old, Emma attended vacation Bible school at First Baptist Church in Nashville. She saw a bus of children leave and asked where they were going. She was told to Fannie Battle day camp in east Nashville. She found out this home was for at-risk children.

“I wondered what kind of library was there for these children,” said Emma, who loves to read.

Before Emma moved to Mt. Juliet, she lived in Brentwood for a while. There is an “extraordinary” library there, said Jennifer.

“It has cute and creative places,” said Jennifer, who is Troop 1322’s leader.  “Emma wanted those children to have the same thing. She loves the library and wants other children to as well.”

Emma was 13 years old when she visited Fannie Battle day camp with the intent to check out what kind of library was there and perhaps spruce it up a bit for her Silver Award community project.  She saw space in an old church there. She said there were a lot of donations of books for the children, but no real furnishings or place to sit and get lost in a book like she likes to do.

“At first I was thinking about bean-bag chairs and books, and then it morphed into something very different,” she said.

One of Emma’s favorite books is “Swiss Family Robinson,” and when it was all over, the children at the home were able to step into that island role with a unique reading area designed by Emma. She readily admits she didn’t do it alone. She tapped into about $900 saved from selling cookies, but several people in the community donated time, energy, expertise and material to create two “fantastical” trees and a tree house, steps, balcony and enough seats for five children. The trees reach toward the ceiling and have nooks and crannies and even real-looking animals.  Jennifer said Kevin Hale with Artisan Industry in Columbia turned Emma’s vision into reality and designed the space and helped construct the trees and loft.  Others donated work on electricity and scaffolding.

“There’s a mural, too,” said Emma.

Kenna Powell Eaton painted the mural.

A ribbon cutting took place last month. It took over a year to make the project come to fruition.  Emma said she’s proud, but mostly grateful the children will have a place to go and read in comfort.

“It made me happy to see all those smiling faces,” said Emma. “I hope they are inspired to do great things.”

The year prior, Emma’s project dealt with combating bullying. She’s got great plans for her Gold Award project she will tackle soon as she takes classes as a freshman at Mt. Juliet High School.

“I’m still bouncing around ideas,” she said. “I’d love to go to China and do a presentation about what it’s like to be a student in America.”

Meanwhile, she’s back at the school books. She wants to be a robotics engineer.

“And an actress,” she said.

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