Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” United Way volunteers answered that question by helping to beautify a campsite for the Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida, a proud United Way-funded agency.
After raising $3,337 through the sale of Girl Scout cookies, the site for Camp Mahachee was purchased from the Arthur Curtis James estate in 1945. Mahachee was dedicated for the use of the Girl Scouts on Nov. 7, 1948. The name Mahachee is a Seminole Indian word which means “growing” or “progressing.”
Camp Mahachee received a much-needed makeover recently thanks to more than 100 volunteers. The 11-acre campsite nestled in the hammocks off of Old Cutler is the skill-building site for the Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida. Volunteers painted four cabins and treated and repainted more than 40 metal awnings. Any maintenance on the site depends upon funds and volunteer groups.
And an interesting turn of events occurred while everyone was in the giving spirit: Christina Pappas, a United Way Young Leader and Women United member, unknowingly helped give a facelift to a Girl Scouts cabin her family’s company, The Keyes Company, sponsored in 1948.
“We have a lot of documentation of how much my grandfather was involved with United Way… and how Keyes was so involved in our local community once he was president, but we don’t have a ton of history from when Ken Keyes [the company founder] was around,” says Pappas. “Whenever we find interesting history, it’s just so amazing to see. I’ve always known Ken Keyes had a great love for his community, but to see it right in front of me was exciting. My grandfather was very involved with the boy scouts, but we didn’t know the tie with the girl scouts. It was really cool.”
Her mother actually camped in Camp Mahachee, so the ties to the camp ran deeper in her family than she realized. “I was really deeply humbled to be a part of something with such a great history,” Pappas says.
And in the end, her family ties were just a serendipitous connection that made her volunteer day all the more memorable. “One of the things I love about United Way is that it allows me to get down and dirty,” says Pappas. “I wanted to be able to put in sweat equity as well. Whenever there’s a volunteer project that makes me feel like I’m able to give back to the community, it’s super important to me. It grounds me.”
The cabins are used by Girl Scout troops to be able to stay overnight and have a full campground experience with the guidance of trained adult troops. The campsite is a destination for girls to learn from nature and how to preserve it.
A special thanks to Assurant, Bank of America and The Jose Milton Foundation, who served as sponsors for the renovation project.