Girl Scouts Help Replenish Long Beach Library

This story began as a tragedy, on the day Hurricane Katrina's flood waters soaked the Long Beach Library.

"So basically everything in here was lost," said Children's Librarian Renee Rayburn. "I cried after it was over with.  I have to be honest. It was very sad."

The plot changed when four Girl Scouts from Massachusetts heard about the devastation. They wanted to help to restore the Children's Wing, which opened just two years before the storm. So each girl took on a personal project.

Garima Giri asked people to read books on a CD and make folder covers for them. Julie Folsom collected computer equipment, and found a mover. Rachel Watsky led the effort to catalog 11,000 donated books. And her twin sister, Elizabeth, found furniture and recruited artists to help brighten up the room.

"We're giving them more than just books.  We're giving them a place where they can rest, and look like it might have before," said Elizabeth Watsky. "So it's like creating a home, I guess."

When asked if they were impressed with the results, the girls responded in unison, "Yeah!"

"When we first got here, it was empty and the shelves weren't up," Garima Giri said. "And now there are books on the shelves and everything's coming together."

"We're all amazed at how much people were willing to give for people they didn't even know," said Julie Folsom. "It was amazing to see everybody come and work together."

The 17-year-old scouts hope this project will help them earn the coveted "Gold Award." They had to show leadership, help a community in need, and dedicate at least 65 hours of service.

"They've earned this Gold Award 16 times over," Rayburn said. "They've truly earned this award. They've done so much."

The girls have left their mark on Long Beach. This is definitely a tale with a happy ending.

"I'm pretty happy with the result," said Lizzie Watsky. "I'm looking forward to seeing all the kids faces when they're like, 'Oh my God. Look at all the stuff!' That should be great. I feel pretty accomplished with this."

"We all had to learn what creating a library meant," said Rachel Watsky. "We also learned about Mississippi and coming down here was really sort of a big learning experience."

The girl scouts will hold an open house this August at their hometown library to share their experiences and encourage more people to donate or volunteer here in South Mississippi. They hope to receive their "Gold Award" certificate and pin in October.