Denver Newsroom, Jun 22, 2021 / 18:00 pm
A Catholic teen in Colorado is hoping to earn the Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, by serving at a Catholic home for single mothers.
Since 2019, Ciara Marie Leal has organized countless donation drives for Mary’s Homes of Hope, a Catholic ministry to women who have experienced homelessness, based in a Denver suburb. She also helped design a website for the organization.
Statistics show that in Colorado, nearly 6% of households with children under the age of 18 are led by a single mother.
However, Leal’s inspiration for her project was more personal. Her own sister is raising two children as a single mother.
“I was close with her when I was younger, but once I got older we kind of drifted apart,” Leal said of her sister. “In 2019, she started coming back into my life, and I noticed the struggles that she’s had as a single mother, who doesn’t have any support or resources.”
Years earlier, Leal had done similar work with Catholic Charities of Denver’s Marisol Homes and Gabriel House – ministries for single mothers and young families – to earn her Bronze Award with the Girl Scouts of America.
She learned about Mary’s Homes of Hope through Lynn Reid, OFS, who previously worked at Marisol Homes and Gabriel House.
Leal held several interviews with Reid, and began organizing donation drives in late 2019 and early 2020. Leal had to suspend her donation drives when the coronavirus pandemic started, but she wanted to find a way to continue spreading the word about Mary’s Homes of Hope’s mission.
“That’s when I started thinking of the idea of a website, because I needed the message of Mary’s Homes of Hope to basically get out there, to the media and to the world,” Leal said.
Leal said the project has revitalized her Catholic faith. She held her donation drives at her parish, and spoke with countless parishioners about Mary’s Homes of Hope.
“Once I reached high school, I kind of drifted away from my faith and I really needed a stepping stone to bring me back into my faith,” Leal said. “That’s where my Gold Award plays in, in that it brought me back into my faith, to serve God and help his children in need.”
She has also grown closer to her sister through the project.
“Once she realized that I was doing this as my Gold Award, she was so happy because she doesn’t want other single mothers and women to face what she has faced in the past,” Leal said of her sister.
Leal will deliver her final presentation for the Gold Award in mid-July. She is now a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts, and will no longer be eligible for further awards or badges. She said she is grateful for the 13 years she spent in Girl Scouts.
“It definitely has shaped how I see the world,” she said. “It’s taught me goal setting, math and money management, business, ethics, people skills and other basic life needs that I need to work on throughout my development and growth.”
“It has given me so many opportunities that I’m very grateful for.”
To donate to Leal’s drive for Mary’s Homes of Hope, visit https://www.maryshomesofhope.com/ and click the donation tab.