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MAKING A MARK: Former Chesapeake Girl Scout creates community garden

The Girl Scouts do a lot of good-- even after their journey in the network. Former Girl Scout Kiara Baxter made a sustainable impact on her community.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Girl Scouts are encouraged to help wherever they are needed. 19-year-old Kiara Baxter had an idea, and it grew and grew.

Baxter designed and built a community garden in 2018 called "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." She partnered with Healthy Chesapeake for the project--a nonprofit that provides access to nutritious food and other health and wellness opportunities. 

"I know from the past, working with the community and people who didn't have food, that they weren't getting healthy food," said Baxter. "If I were to create that option, it would be different from what they've had before and better."

The wheelchair-accessible garden has provided hundreds of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to families in need during the pandemic. "I knew it would help people, but I didn't really think that it would be such a necessity," said Baxter. 

"The amount of people that really needed this food, and now needed it because they weren't able to go and get healthy food from other places."

Now a freshman at Virginia Tech, Baxter was a Girl Scout in Chesapeake for 13 years. For combating food insecurity, she was one of ten teen activists named a 2020 National Gold Award Girl Scout--becoming an ambassador for the organization and earning $20,000 in scholarships.

"It was just the feeling of accomplishment that I was doing something to help people live a better life and have the opportunity for the things that I have that not everyone else does," said Baxter.

As the world adjusts to a new normal, Baxter said it is important to find solutions to problems that will benefit communities for years to come. "It's not just going to be my one garden that's going to save food insecurity, because it's a national problem," said Baxter. "But my garden could bring attention to how it's helping the community. And then that, in turn, will inspire others to do the same thing."

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Community Garden is located at Messiah United Methodist Church in Chesapeake. Food from the garden helps local pantries.