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A golden opportunity: Girl Scout project provides area youths with Ôsomewhere special to call their ownÕ

By August 31, 2010

Enterprise staff writer

There was just no getting around it: As a gathering place for WoodlandÕs kids, the youth room at the Yolo Family Resource Center on Court Street left much to be desired.

ÒIt looked like a drab, dingy office,Ó noted Davis High School senior Devon Rooney.

With its bland walls, clunky, cluttered office furniture and a stained, tread-worn carpet that had clearly seen better days, the youth room wasnÕt the most inviting space in the world. The room serves kids ages 10 through 18 who come for clubs like art, newspaper and cooking, as well as for leadership programs, all under the auspices of the Woodland Coalition for Youth.

ÒIt is a safe place for kids to go after school and enjoy a variety of activities,Ó Rooney said.

And Rooney thought those kids deserved better; so the aspiring interior decorator decided to make it happen.

By the time she was through with it earlier this month, the youth room had been transformed into a beach-themed getaway, with lots of comfortable seating, attractive wall-coverings and funky art in place and new flooring on the way. In short, that drab office space had become an inviting, kid-friendly gathering space. And Rooney had earned her Girl Scout Gold Award in the process.

ÒIÕm super proud of her,Ó said mom Julie Rooney, who is also her daughterÕs Girl Scout leader.

The Gold Award, she pointed out, is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, comparable to the Eagle Scout Award for boys. Very few Girl Scouts earn the award, and itÕs not hard to see why.

ÒBy the time you hit your junior year of high school,Ó Julie Rooney said, ÒthereÕs tons of school work, plus your sports, and other interests, and itÕs so hard to fit it in. IÕm just really proud of her.Ó

And the folks at YFRC are thrilled.

ÒWeÕre so honored to be the beneficiaries of her good deeds,Ó said Lamar Heystek, YFRCÕs coordinator of youth programs. ÒWeÕre very pleased with her work.Ó

Rooney has actually made a habit out of giving local youth fun and functional meeting spaces. A couple of years ago, she made over the old teen center at the Third and B streets, earning her Silver Award at the time.

ÒI enjoy doing room makeovers,Ó she said.

She also knew sheÕd like to do another one for her Gold Award.

ÒI heard that the YFRC had a youth room that could use some work,Ó she explained. ÒI met with the executive director and Lamar Heystek to learn about who used the room and what needed to be done. The youth room is used regularly. They had some specific needs, like a locking cabinet for art supplies and snacks. They also wanted a large folding art table and chairs that could be put away when they needed a larger space for other activities.Ó

Cumbersome furniture had been a problem, according to Izabelle Ponce de Simmons, youth engagement leader for the Woodland Coalition for Youth.

ÒIt was so heavy, we couldnÕt move it,Ó she said.

Not only that, in the few short months the coalition had been using the YRFC facility, the youth room Òhad become a place that was collecting junk,Ó Ponce de Simmons said.

But no more.

Earlier this summer Rooney sent a donation solicitation letter to family, friends and area businesses Ñ many of whom donated to her teen center project. All told, some $600 in donations came in.

YFRC staff came up with the wish list for the room, including new flooring, the locking storage cabinet and folding tables. Rooney secured all of that, and then some. She decided to go with a beach theme, and showed up at YFRC on a Friday with beachy wall coverings, Adirondack chairs, lanterns, tropical plants and more.

ÒMy idea was that everybody likes the beach, so I wanted to create a fun beach theme and give the youth room a new name, calling it ÔThe Beach,Õ Ó Rooney said.

Inspiration came from all sorts of places.

ÒMy friendÕs mom is an interior designer and she redid my friendÕs sisterÕs room in a beach theme,Ó Rooney explained, Òso I got some ideas from that, like the chairs.Ó

Shopping around with her mom brought more inspiration.

ÒIt was a lot of fun just going around looking at things,Ó Julie Rooney said.

And there to help make it all happen were her mom, dad Patrick and friend Madison Barlow, putting the furniture together, hanging the lanterns, hauling in a storage cabinet, gradually pulling off the transformation.

Rooney had put more than 65 hours of work into the effort heading into the actual makeover, and said many folks helped along the way.

ÒI have appreciated the donations and words of encouragement I have received from so many people in the community,Ó she said, citing her mom in particular, as well as Heystek.

She also received numerous monetary donations, as well as a substantial labor donation from Davis handyman Gene Boyd, who this weekend will install wood laminate floors donated by the West Sacramento LoweÕs. The flooring will replace stained carpeting full of holes.

All in all, itÕs a transformation befitting an HGTV room makeover.

ÒIÕm excited to create a space that hopefully the kids will enjoy and appreciate,Ó Rooney said. ÒThese kids deserve somewhere special to call their own.Ó

And now they have it, thanks to Devon Rooney.

Ñ Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at (530) 747-8051 or [email protected] Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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